Sea Change by Nancy Kress science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsSea Change by Nancy Kress science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsSea Change by Nancy Kress

Ever read a book and immediately wish that you’d been able to read it in school, rather than [insert inaccessible book of choice]? For me, Nancy Kress’s 2020 novella Sea Change, with its gutsy-yet-conflicted heroine and all-too-real near-future global catastrophes, is exactly the kind of book I wish I’d been handed way back when.

Renata Black is a lawyer, handling cases for citizens of the Quinault Nation in the Pacific Northwest. She’s cultivated friendships among them, especially in the wake of the Catastrophe of 2022, in which a biopharmed drug caused agricultural collapse across the planet, destroyed the global economy, and brought personal devastation to Renata’s family. Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) were banned in the aftermath of the Catastrophe, but there are underground groups who believe that GMOs can be safely implemented to enrich the quality of life for everyone on the planet, and one such group — known as “the Org” and identified by the Tiffany Teal paint they use to mark strategic items — is stealthily making inroads toward wide-scale success.

Nancy Kress

Nancy Kress

Caroline Denton, one of the Org’s best operatives, has contacts with scientists who are hard at work on products like carrots with enhanced nutritive properties, but a mole has infiltrated the Org and put everyone within their network at risk of being shut down by the government, or worse. Complicating matters further is that fact that Caroline and Renata are the same woman, information that could destroy far more lives than just her own if it were made public. So who’s the mole — and what’s their endgame?

Kress keeps the tension taut throughout Sea Change, planting red herrings so skillfully that I had no idea who was betraying whom until the big reveal. Renata/Caroline is a well-developed character: her heartbreak and her drive to make the world a better place for future generations, as well as those currently struggling to survive, are fully understandable and relatable. Though the concept of GMOs might seem daunting to some readers not well-versed on the subject or its long history of use in agriculture, Kress explains her characters’ positions well, and her extrapolations of how GMOs can be used safely and in moderation are sound.

I enjoyed Sea Change tremendously, not only for the strength of Kress’s character work but for the ways in which she tackles difficult subjects like environmental collapse, the fraught legal status of people living on reservations in America, grief and the different ways people cope with loss, and the often-surprising ways people express their hope for a better future. Sea Change is a short novel with a powerful impact, and I highly recommend it.

Published in May 2020. New from the Nebula Award winning author of Beggars in Spain: A riveting climate-change technothriller of espionage, conspiracy, and stakes so high they could lead to the destruction of humanity itself. Operative Renata Black has an unusual problem: an ordinary self-driving house. But this particular house, which is causing a traffic snarl, also has the Org’s teal paint on the windowsill. In 2022, GMOs were banned. A biopharmaceutical drug caused the Catastrophe: worldwide economic and agricultural collapse, and personal tragedy for lawyer Caroline Denton and her son. Ten years later, as Renata Black, she is a member of the Org, an underground group of scientists hunted by the feds. But the Org’s illegal research might just hold the key to rebuilding the worlds’ food supply. Now there’s a mole in the Org, and Renata is the only one who can find out who it is. Will there be time to reveal the solutions that the world has not been willing to face?


  • Jana Nyman

    JANA NYMAN, with us since January 2015, is a freelance copy-editor who has lived all over the United States, but now makes her home in Colorado with her dog and a Wookiee. Jana was exposed to science fiction and fantasy at an early age, watching Star Wars and Star Trek movie marathons with her family and reading works by Robert Heinlein and Ray Bradbury WAY before she was old enough to understand them; thus began a lifelong fascination with what it means to be human. Jana enjoys reading all kinds of books, but her particular favorites are fairy- and folktales (old and new), fantasy involving dragons or other mythological beasties, contemporary science fiction, and superhero fiction. Some of her favorite authors are James Tiptree, Jr., Madeleine L'Engle, Ann Leckie, N.K. Jemisin, and Seanan McGuire.