Steal Across the Sky by Nancy Kress

Steal Across the Sky, by Nancy Kress, is a sci-fi book about the effect an alien race, the Atoners, have upon humanity.  Showing up in the not-very-distant future, they state that they have committed a crime against humanity, and ask people from all over the world to submit applications for the opportunity to go to space in order to witness their crime. A few dozen people are chosen, and of them, only about six come back to Earth having actually witnessed the crime. The story focuses mainly on four characters and how they deal with the revelation. When they had returned from space, those who had witnessed the crime inform their governments and people of what they had witnessed, and this although leads to radical and terrorist groups springing up, for the most part, it does not greatly affect the society that the characters are living in or how it runs. Interspersed throughout the book are ads and, at some point, an email, that take the scope of the story away from just the characters and show the Atoners’ impact on (mainly) the U.S..

Personally, I found that the book started off strongly, and at first I was going to stop reading, but I wanted to find out what crime the Atoners had committed. Then, after I found out, I kept reading because the author didn’t reveal what remedial action the Atoners had promised to take for their crime until the very end of the book. The one thing that really bothered me about the book was that the author never revealed why the Atoners had come to Earth and committed their crime, but otherwise, I thought the plot was unique and well-written.

Book Review: Flash Point, by Nancy Kress

flash_point_coverFlash Point is a dystopian fiction set in a future United States after an economic collapse has left many people jobless and rioting. Amy Kent, a teenager supporting her sister and dying grandmother, signs up for a job on the reality TV show Who Knows People, Baby – You?, where viewers try to predict the reactions of six players to surprise crisis scenarios. Desperate for ratings, the television producers put the contestants in increasingly real danger.

Though the premise of this book is similar to The Hunger Games, it focuses more on the turbulent, poverty-stricken society it is set in, rather than survival. I enjoyed that the teenage players are chosen to fit stereotypes – the spoiled rich socialite, the nerdy strategist, the relatable everygirl – but by the end of the book, when they have decided to team up against the television executives, each one is revealed to be more than they seem. Though the characters’ goal is to expose the motives of one program rather than changing the world, they learn that no one can really predict the actions of others.

I would recommend this book to anyone 14+ years old (mostly for language), who enjoys dystopian fiction and interesting plot twists.

-Miranda C., 12th grade