Kress has adapted Yesterday’s Kin, her 2014 Nebula Award–winning novella into a trilogy and starts it off with a solid, riveting and fast-paced tale. The worldbuilding — mixing a contemporary New York City filled with protesters and human shortcomings with a sterile alien environment in the middle of the harbor — is a thing of beauty, even as humanity turns violent. Kress has nailed the foibles of all the characters; whether she’s channeling a middle-aged scientist or a 5-year-old boy, the storytelling is believable. You may want to look up as you read, for this is a plausible first-contact tale.
The alien spaceship has hovered over New York for two months, causing outrage and confusion, when a select group of scientists is invited aboard a self-contained biosphere called Embassy. Dubbed the Denebs, the aliens turn out to be humans taken from Earth more than 150,000 years ago. With a different evolutionary path, they achieved space travel, but they cannot breathe our air or walk our planet. They need our help and they come with a warning: the deadly cloud of spores that decimated them will pass through our solar system in 10 months and humanity is at risk. Or is it? Geneticist Marianne Jenner discovered the DNA that relates a select group of humans to World, and they want her to identify those people in hopes some will return with them. Marianne never told her son Noah he was adopted, but his blood tests positive for the Mitochondrial line the Worlders are looking for. Forsaking his sugarcane-addicted life on Earth, Noah’s departure is just one unforeseen act that leaves Marianne reeling. The spores reach Earth too soon and humanity must fight not only to survive, but to reach out to the stars. (TOR, Jul., 352 pp., $25.99)