Although her three Nebulas and one Hugo Award have come from her short fiction, Nancy Kress' latest work might put her in line for the best novel award this year. In Nothing Human, the author has combined two of science fiction's most enduring themes: man's destruction of his planet and first alien contact. The result is a riveting and thoroughly engaging story.
In 1999, many women have become pregnant at an obscure clinic that specializes in in vitro fertilization. Fourteen years later, all the children from these births go into comas. As physicians and scientists try to find a cause for this anomaly, they discover strange growths in the olfactory areas of the brains of all the 13-year-olds.
When they awake, the first thing the children say is "The pribir are coming." They have the unique ability to smell information sent to them by an extraterrestrial delegation that has arrived to jump-start the evolutionary process.
The children are all invited to go aboard the alien ship, but most refuse to leave their families. Those who do, meet the two representatives of the pribir, Pete and Pam. The couple looks human, but it is obvious from their stoic natures and vast knowledge that they are not.
After several months of learning advanced genetics and other sciences from the pribir, the teens suddenly undergo uncontrollable sexual urges, with the result that, when they return to Earth, all of the girls are pregnant . . . with triplets.
The "pribir children," as they have been tagged, are faced with another surprise: Because of time dilution, during the months they have spent on the ship, 40 years have passed on Earth, and those four decades have been enough for biological warfare and the greenhouse effect to send the planet into an unstoppable downward spiral.
Nothing human can survive into the next century; however, genetically enhanced progeny of the pribir children would have a chance. But after all of the tampering with their genome, would this generation still be a part of the human race? It is left for this small group to decide what will become of humanity.
— Mark Graham, Rocky Mountain News, September 5, 2003