(Disclaimer: English is my second language, so I want to apologize in advance for there may be mistakes in the text below. If you find any, please let me know so that I can correct it. I'd really appreciate it. Thanks.)
Review Soundtrack: I suggest reading this review while listening to the First Movement of the Brandenburg Concerto No. 2, composed by Johann Sebastian Bach (Spotify, YouTube).
Much has been said about the novella being the perfect form for science fiction. I wouldn't know whether it is true or not, but lately I find myself gravitating more and more towards shorter stories and trying to avoid doorstopper novels and infinite sagas. Thus, I jumped at the chance of reading Yesterday's Kin, by Nancy Kress, whose After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall I quite enjoyed when I read it last year (my review, in Spanish).
In Yesterday's Kin, Kress addresses two of his favorite topics (genetic engineering and first contacts with aliens) with a story that has a definite classic SF flavor. The plot is quite straightforward and the prose is simple and direct, making the novella easy to read and enjoy. The focus here is on two main questions ("what do the aliens want?" and "will Earth be able to overcome the impending catastrophe?") that will keep you reading page after page.
The pace of the story is almost perfect, with the right revelations at the right moments and a final twist that is both satisfying and surprising. I also enjoyed very much the evolution of one of the characters, Noah, whose arc (no pun intended) is, possibly, the most interesting part of the novella and could even have been an independent story on its own.
Yesterday's Kin is not, however, without its flaws. There are some coincidences that are a bit hard to believe, especially those concerning the relevance of the Jenner family in several (seemingly unrelated) aspects of extreme importance. Also, as I mentioned above, the story is quite straightforward and the topics are approached in a very classical way, so the novella might be lacking in originality for some readers.
All in all, Yesterday's Kin is a very good SF novella and I recommend reading it. Kress delivers once again and I wouldn't be surprised to see this story in the awards shortlists next year. It is a solid, entertaining and interesting story. Not a small feat at all.
I don't want to end this review without mentioning that Tachyon Publications is doing an excellent job with all the novellas that they are publishing lately. Yesterday's Kin and the aforementioned After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall, both by Nancy Kress; We Are All Completely Fine, by Daryl Gregory (which I will be reviewing soon); Slow Bullets, by Alastair Reynolds, already announced for 2015... It is not that easy to find good SF novellas and I really hope Tachyon keeps them coming!