Title: After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall
Author: Nancy Kress
Genre: Science Fiction
Number of Pages: 189
After an ecological disaster kills of most of the earth’s humans, a group of survivors who live in a compound struggle to procreate and keep mankind going. The catch is that the compound has a time machine in it, which only functions intermittently and only allows the younger survivors to travel back in time. Pete is a fifteen-year-old survivor who is deformed (probably from inbreeding) and he and his fellow teenagers are abducting children from the past to supply their compound and continue their lineage.
Alternating chapters switch between Pete’s life in the ‘shell’ and an analyst in 2013 who is trying to discover a pattern in the recent string of child abductions. I really liked the storyline of this and even though I wasn’t overly fond of any of the characters (Pete was creepy and got under the reader’s skin and the analyst was somewhat bland and underdeveloped) the quick pace and clear concise language made it a very fast-paced read. I felt like the mini-chapters showing the environmental shifts preceding the apocalypse felt quasi-unnecessary- I get that the author was trying to world-build but after a while it was like meanwhile in Japan… something is happening.
I think that the environmental themes could have been developed without pausing the story every few chapters for a quick bulletin. Pete’s story was particularly strong in terms of development but I liked both his perspective and that of the analyst, Julie. Despite her character being a little bit bland her chapters were well-written and it was cool to see the juxtaposition of the two time frames existing almost seamlessly together. I’d never heard of this author before reading this book (I think I initially checked it out from the library because it was short) but I enjoyed her imaginative take on societal deterioration. It manages to stand out as a unique take on the ‘end times’ in a sea of post-apocalyptic stories.