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Nancy Kress
Tor Books, 384 pages

Nancy Kress
Nancy Kress was born in Buffalo, New York, in 1948. She went to college at State University of New York at Plattsburgh, receiving a degree in Elementary Education, and spent four years teaching the fourth grade. Her first sale was a story, "The Earth Dwellers," to Galaxy in 1976. Her first novel, The Prince of Morning Bells, appeared in 1981. Nancy Kress moved on to write copy for an advertising agency, wrote fiction part-time, raised her children, taught at SUNY Brockport, and earned an M.S. in Education and an M.A. in English. In 1990 she became a full-time writer. She lives in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Nancy Kress Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Nothing Human
SF Site Review: Crossfire
SF Site Review: Probability Space
SF Site Review: Maximum Light
SF Site Review: Savior
SF Site Review: Probability Moon
Interview: Nancy Kress
SF Site Review: David Brin's Out of Time: Yanked!
SF Site Review: Stinger
SF Site Review: Maximum Light
SF Site Review: Beaker's Dozen

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Greg L. Johnson

Crucible Fifty years after the events described in Crossfire, the colonists of Greentrees are preparing to celebrate the anniversary of their arrival. For two generations grown up amidst the peace and plenty of Greentrees, stories about the first colonists encounter with the warring aliens known as Vines and Furs and hints of troubles on Earth have become less important than either the problems of building a sustainable infrastructure or the concerns of youth dissatisfied with social structures handed down from a world they no longer remember.

But when a spaceship from Earth suddenly appears, followed by the reappearance of two characters from Crossfire who may have succeeded in collaborating with the Vines to attack the Furs, Nancy Kress has once again thrown her cast of characters into a situation where they need to make decisions regarding right and wrong, life and death. And many of them don't seem up to the task.

Kress is using a method here that she has put to good use in the past. Take a group of highly disparate individuals, give each a major character flaw, throw them into a plot which brings them face-to-face with tough choices, and then see who cracks. That this plot is built around solid extrapolation combined with just the right mix of real science and an artist's feel for the possibilities of the alien is what makes Crucible a first-rate science fiction novel, and shows that Kress is a hard science fiction writer at the top of her game.

While the plot resolution in Crucible requires that humans on Greentrees gain some understanding of the aliens, the real challenge for the colonists raised on the planet lies in understanding the humans from Earth. That problem is what sets Crucible apart from its predecessor. The Terrans have left from a planet devastated by a generation of ecological disaster and cut-throat warfare, they are politically manipulative in ways the colonists have never imagined. This focus on the human problem gives Crucible something Crossfire avoided: an identifiable villain. It also gives the story a little more action and a little less talk, not all bad in a sequel where several characters' motivations were well established in the previous volume.

Crucible provides a satisfying ending to the story begun in Crossfire. There's more to explore in this universe should Kress desire to do so, but there's enough of a conclusion here to leave things as they are. Nancy Kress is a writer whose solid career has taken a second upward leap with the writing of hard science fiction novels like the Probability Series and now Crossfire and Crucible. If you're a fan of quality SF, add them to your reading list.

Copyright © 2005 by Greg L. Johnson

Reviewer Greg L. Johnson is getting ready for the crossfire that is Winter in Minnesota. His reviews also appear in the The New York Review of Science Fiction.

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