The aliens appeared one day, built a base on the moon, and put an ad on the Internet:
"We are an alien race you may call the Atoners. Ten thousand years ago we wronged humanity profoundly. We cannot undo what has been done, but we wish humanity to understand it. Therefore we request 21 volunteers to visit seven planets to witness for us. We will convey each volunteer there and back in complete safety. Volunteers must speak English. Send requests for electronic applications to email@example.com."
At first, everyone thought it was a joke. But it wasn't.
This is the story of three of those volunteers and what they found on Kular A and Kular B.
©2009 Nancy Kress (P)2011 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
"Nebula and Hugo winner Kress presents a fascinating mystery in classic SF style...Kress' philosophical explorations will keep readers hooked and thoughtful." Publishers Weekly)
The story is, unlike many of he Sci-Fi genre, far more concerned about the people who travel than the tech, or the thing stoned-for. The story builds over the book in a way that led me to hope for a climax, but it didn't arrive.
Of the characters themselves, I didn't feel any great empathy with any of them, though there were some interesting sketches.
Overall, I can't recommend this one.
"Doesn't live up to potential"
The first half of the book is great. The mystery builds, and you find out what the great secret the Atoners have. Loved it.
The second half of the book just seems to flounder, never exploring the potential of the story. The Atoners take a background role and instead, we are back on earth exploring the daily lives of the witnesses and society as they deal with the news of what the Atoners have revealed. It's a great character study, but not really my cup of tea as far as sci-fi goes.
The narration is great and the story is not bad, just doesn't live up to the promise of the book's description, nor what I think it could have achieved. I gave it 3 stars.
"Good -- could have been great"
This book takes us to two faraway planets that are richly described with carefully crafted cultures, and that is the best part of the book. Once the humans figure out what the aliens are atoning for, the book changes focus to the fallout of that realization back on Earth. That half of the book seemed to be building toward a major event that never happened. I thought that maybe the end was contrived to enable a sequel, but there is none.
"Unlikable characters, good plot, excellent reading"
Narrator was awesome, but story became frustrating. Characters were generally unsympathetic. I kept waiting to like them, for them to change, but they largely didn't. Plot was definitely interesting and kept me engaged.
Great idea but the characters were flat the story was boring and main characters are unlike able
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