Hugo Award Nominee for Best Novella (2013)
Nebula Award for Best Novella (2012)
Locus Award for SF Best Novella (2013)

Every time fifteen-year-old Pete travels back in time, he thinks he’s dead for just a moment. But he performs his job well during the brief time-portals provided by the alien Tesslies, and brings back children to replace the disappearing gene pool of the survivors, most of whom are deformed or sterile. In the present-day, mathematician Julie Kahn is developing a predictive model for the FBI to solve a seemingly unrelated series of kidnappings, and when she begins to piece together the results for several contract projects, Julie begins to uncover an event that will shape the future of mankind.

After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall weaves together three stories from different timelines that converge on Earth’s apocalypse. I am extremely surprised by how well Pete is conveyed as a naive, jealous, and impulsive teenager who is believable and garners my sympathy. Pete and the other 26 survivors live in a sterile environment that provides for their needs, but their life is claustrophobic, unstructured, and full of damaged and dying loved ones.

By contrast, Julie pulls order out of chaos of modern-day events, and makes life decisions with cool logic. Living in a huge city surrounded by people, Julie chooses a life of solitude, unraveling mysteries for hire and preparing to be a single mother. The story of humanity is the before and after, but during the fall is pure biochemistry, revealed in short, simple chapters interspersed throughout Pete and Julie’s stories.

Because Julie is a statistical mathematician and there are short chapters devoted to chemistry, biology, and geology, I am surprised by the facile ending. Although the final explanation is simple (it’s a novella after all), the excellent writing, pacing, characterization, and clear plotting result in well-crafted award-winner!

This short effortless read is extremely satisfying. Highly recommended for fans of imaginative post-apocalyptic scifi.

He’d never been good at learning such stuff, not like Jenna or Paolo. They were the smart ones. What Pete was good at was the Grab.

And hatred. He was terrific at hatred. So he gazed out at his tiny view of the vast dead world the Tesslies had killed, and thought about the beauty of the shore cottage where he had Grabbed the two children, and he hated.