"Kin" Review

Bruce McAllister's "Kin" is a boy-meets-alien story that hits all the standard buttons of that form. The boy in question — Kim — approaches the alien for help; the alien first refuses but is later won over because it senses something special in the boy; the alien helps the boy and offers him the chance to travel the stars. What makes McAllister's version interesting and highly enjoyable is that the alien is a stone-cold assassin, and that the something special he recognizes in the boy are the nascent skills of an equally efficient killer. At the heart of the story is the interaction between Kim and the alien, whom the boy manipulates by playing on his cultural taboos and conventions, and for whom he feels equal measures of fascination, revulsion, and fear. McAllister could easily have fallen into the trap of making Kim sweet and uncomprehending — gee, Mister Alien, could you help me? — or unrealistically clever and calculating. Instead, he hits the perfect middle ground. Kim holds his own against the alien, but there's always a palpable sense of how close he is skirting to genuine danger, and, more importantly, of how incomplete his understanding of that danger is. One often hears readers complain that it is rare to encounter convincing aliens in fiction, but it's just as rare to encounter convincing — and interesting — children. In "Kin," McAllister manages both.

— Abigail Nussbaum's blog "Asking the Wrong Questions" for April 24, 2007

The 2007 Hugo Award: The Short Story Shortlist


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