Nano Comes to Clifford Falls: And Other Stories - Nancy Kress First, I want to thank my GRF Ben for his review, which prompted me to finally – finally – read Nancy Kress. She has been on my radar for years now but I’d never felt enough gumption to check her out, despite (perhaps, because of) the rave reviews.

Now that I’ve read her, I can see why she has such a fan base. She writes well; she writes intelligently; and despite the hard SF themes in most of the stories here, she pulls off the near-unheard-of feat in the genre of creating “people” in even the fluffiest of stories.

But…I’m not carried away by her. I’m definitely going to read more of her stuff in the coming year but she hasn’t jumped to the top of the reading list.

I’ll leave you to read Ben’s review for the usual insightful synopsis of the short stories collected here. Below, I’ll just comment on a few that made a lasting impression on me:

“Computer Virus” – This is a well written piece about AI but I’ve encountered the theme before - we’re the real killers. This is one of the better articulations, however.

“Shiva in Shadow” – This is a story about an expedition to the galactic core. The crew of the ship, two scientists and the captain who has to make sure they can work together without going insane, are downloaded to a probe that will do the actual research. What made the story interesting was how the crews (despite the fact that they were exactly the same personalities) reacted so differently – one mission ending in tragedy, the other in triumph.

“First Flight” – Easily the worst piece in the collection; even Kress dismisses it as an inane bit of fluff in her afterword.

“Wetlands Preserve” – Easily the best piece in the collection (IMO). The ending immediately reminded me of two things. The first is Ted Reynolds’ brilliant short story “Can These Bones Live?” which is collected in [b:Fifty Years of the Best Science Fiction from Analog|7813520|Fifty Years of the Best Science Fiction from Analog|Stanley Albert Schmidt||5883829], and which I would recommend without reservation. Here is the climax of the story, when the woman decides which race the Roanei should resurrect:

She would wish alive something the universe needed badly, something the Roanei could not comprehend. She would wish for humanity, but not for Man.

She thought, her withered cheeks wet with her last tears, “Roanei, I wish for the rebirth of the Toomeer, they who gave themselves to death that you yourselves might live.”

The second is Commander Adama’s valedictory speech in the pilot episode of Battlestar Galactica, which I quote in full below because it’s just so good:

The cost of wearing the uniform can be high, but.... Sometimes it's too high.

You know... we fought the Cylons to save ourselves from extinction, but we never answered the question... why?

Why are we as a people worth saving?

Look at us. We tell ourselves we're noble, intelligent creatures. Children of the Lords of Kobol. But we'll still let people go to bed hungry because it costs too much to feed the poor... we still commit murder for greed or spite or jealousy... and we visit all of our sins upon our children. We
refuse to take responsibility for what we've done.

Like we did with the Cylons. We decided to play god. Create life. And when that life turned against us, we comforted ourselves in the knowledge that it wasn't really our fault, not really. It was the Cylons that were flawed.

But the truth is... we're the flawed creation. We're the ones that tried to manufacture life and make it serve us.

But you don't play God and then wipe your hands of what you've created. Sooner or later... the day comes when you can't hide from what you've done anymore.

A day of reckoning.

“Wetlands Preserve” asks the same question, and I’ll leave you to read the story to find out how Kress answers it.

Overall recommendation – Read the book.