Nancy Kress. The Common Good. (Asimovs January 2014)

asimovs1401A disappointing story from Kress. It’s a YA story with a teenage protagonist, and it fairly breezes through in traditional YA style. Not only is young Zed (incorrectly called Zack in one paragraph!) a teen and therefore in need of having a lot of stuff spelt out to him, but he’s from the backwoods, so is even less aware of what is happening, so the reader of the story can have everything laid out quite simply.

What is happening is potentially interesting, but not ground-breaking. Aliens have invaded Earth and are living in domes (some 40 years since I read John Christopher’s tripods trilogy with this setup!). That invasion was supported by them turning up in orbit and removing all of humanity’s major urban capitals (with an ability to do so at the click of a virtual finger – the YA story enables things like this to happen without any question). And the crux of the story is an ethical dilemma, which is clearly spelt out – the aliens say they did this to save humanity from itself (due to climate change and overpopulation). So what this suffering of a lot of people worth it for the greater good of humanity as a whole.

And young Zack, as is oft the case, is a special young man, and is able to ‘far-see’ which enables him to solve some conundrums, and set humanity free from the yoke of its oppressors. For better or worse.

So if you’re a teacher of 12/13 year olds and want a story for them to read to address issues of climate change, then this is the story for you. But I wouldn’t personally see it as a story for Asimovs.

Interestingly this story is by way of a follow-up to ‘A Kindness of Strangers’ in Lou Anderss ‘Fast Forward 2’ from 2008 review here, which I noted was ‘Classic Kress’. Now that story had an adult protagonist, and the quick summary I provided then suggests that story featured adult concerns and actions, rather than teen concerns and actions.

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