After The Fall

What do you call a dystopian sci-fi novel with a glimmer of hope? Hope-topia? That’s it—I’m coining a new genre name: the Eco-Hopetopia.  After the Fall Before the Fall During the Fall by Nancy Kress is a prime example of this term.

We’ve all read our share of stories set in a post-apocalyptic dystopia, haven’t we? After the Fall is a little different, and compelling enough that I read it in one sitting.  There are two plots to this story—one that takes place in the immediate future (just Before the Fall), and one that takes place in the more distant future (After the Fall). The distant-future folks are living in what’s called a Shell, protecting them from a dead planet. They are very few, survivors left over from the apocalypse, and they are trying their best to repopulate the human race. They have been given technology by their keepers, the Tesslies, that gives them the ability to travel back in time to before the apocalypse, so they can Grab: supplies, clothing, food (besides the soy they grow) and babies to continue their small community. The very near-future plot involves an investigation into these baby-Grabs.

What’s strong about this book is the unusual time-travel aspect: only children can go through the Grab portals, we’re not sure what the technology is, and they only have ten minutes to Grab and be gone. The other major strength is the very short chapters wherein we get zoomed in, to the functioning of mutating bacteria just before the apocalypse. These particular chapters add to the tension and makes one want to know what happens next. I also appreciate the hyper-ecological message echoing throughout. Even though it gets a bit preachy, it’s a strong message and it works well within these two plots.

The thing is, I’m not sure if this is a YA novel or not. The main character in the future-plot is fifteen years old, but the discussions and experiences surrounding sex are…weird. Well I suppose it would be weird if you were one of a handful of the human race that was left. I don’t know, it just struck me as a bit jarring, almost out of character. Also, it’s a short book, which is good in a way, but when we get to the climax and end of the story, it does feel a bit rushed.

My only major beef with this otherwise compelling book is the moment where the two plots conjoin. I won’t tell you exactly what happens, as I don’t want to spoil anything for you, but I have to say that I didn’t buy it. I’ll leave it at that—go out and read this book and come back here and tell me if you agree.

Bottom line: I highly recommend this book. It comes out in March—seriously, go read it and come back and let’s talk about it with spoilers.

~Prof. Jenn