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Probability Space
Nancy Kress
Tor Books, 367 pages

Probability Space
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: 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

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Sun, Moon, and Space. The titles of the three novels in Nancy Kress's Probability series invoke the basics of physical reality. They are fitting titles for hard science fiction stories based on speculations concerning quantum physics and the probabilities that lie in the equations. That alone would make them worthwhile for most hardcore SF readers, but what made Probability Sun and Probability Moon stand out was the way Kress brought her characters face-to-face with the consequences of their decisions. Like them or not, the characters grew and changed with the choices they made. For that reason, Probability Sun and Probability Moon were two novels that worked on several layers at once, as speculation, adventure story, and character study. Probability Space continues the cutting-edge physics and the adventure story. But most of the characters have previously faced their moment of personal crisis, and now have few doubts as to which side they are on. There is less here in the way of emotional development for the characters. Because of that, Probability Space, while it is enjoyable and does a good job of wrapping up the story, does not quite reach to the same heights as its predecessors.

There is one character who does grow up during the course of the book. Amanda Capelo, daughter of Thomas Capelo, has become a teenager since the events of Probability Sun. When she witnesses her father being kidnapped, Amanda runs away into a world of politics and intrigue concerning the use of an alien artifact that could either save or destroy humanity in its long, possibly losing war against the Fallers. She also finds a little romance along the way. But Amanda's adventure runs parallel to the others, and she is off-stage when the main action occurs. Amanda's story, while in some ways the best parts of the book, in the end feels separated from the main narrative. That feeling, that the separate story lines are somewhat disconnected from each other is reinforced by a sub-plot involving a military coup, which provides us with the book's main human villain. But Admiral Pierce is featured even less than Amanda. As a character, he is more a problem to be dealt with than an understandable personality, and in a series in which the author has consistently fleshed out the motivations and backgrounds of even the most unsympathetic characters, such a faceless villain is a disappointment.

Still, there are plenty of good things here. We learn what has happened to the aliens living on World, the story itself moves along at a rapid pace, the characters find their way through many difficulties, and the secret to dealing with the alien technology is convincingly clever. Probability Space is a well-written space-adventure, which, because it focuses more on story than character, should satisfy readers of the Probability series who want to know how the story ends, but may disappoint those who'd like to know more about the people in the story.

Copyright © 2003 by Greg L. Johnson

Reviewer Greg L. Johnson lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where in the winter, it's probably cold. His reviews also appear in the The New York Review of Science Fiction.


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