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Showing that truth is stranger than fiction, Sylvain Neuvel weaves a scfi thriller reminiscent of Blake Crouch and Andy Weir, blending a fast moving, darkly satirical look at 1940s rocketry with an exploration of the amorality of progress and the nature of violence in A History of What Comes Next. Always run, never fight. Preserve the knowledge. Survive at all costs. Take the Showing that truth is stranger than fiction, Sylvain Neuvel weaves a scfi thriller reminiscent of Blake Crouch and Andy Weir, blending a fast moving, darkly satirical look at 1940s rocketry with an exploration of the amorality of progress and the nature of violence in A History of What Comes Next. Always run, never fight. Preserve the knowledge. Survive at all costs. Take them to the stars. Over 99 identical generations, Mia’s family has shaped human history to push them to the stars, making brutal, wrenching choices and sacrificing countless lives. Her turn comes at the dawn of the age of rocketry. Her mission: to lure Wernher Von Braun away from the Nazi party and into the American rocket program, and secure the future of the space race. But Mia’s family is not the only group pushing the levers of history: an even more ruthless enemy lurks behind the scenes. A darkly satirical first contact thriller, as seen through the eyes of the women who make progress possible and the men who are determined to stop them...


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Showing that truth is stranger than fiction, Sylvain Neuvel weaves a scfi thriller reminiscent of Blake Crouch and Andy Weir, blending a fast moving, darkly satirical look at 1940s rocketry with an exploration of the amorality of progress and the nature of violence in A History of What Comes Next. Always run, never fight. Preserve the knowledge. Survive at all costs. Take the Showing that truth is stranger than fiction, Sylvain Neuvel weaves a scfi thriller reminiscent of Blake Crouch and Andy Weir, blending a fast moving, darkly satirical look at 1940s rocketry with an exploration of the amorality of progress and the nature of violence in A History of What Comes Next. Always run, never fight. Preserve the knowledge. Survive at all costs. Take them to the stars. Over 99 identical generations, Mia’s family has shaped human history to push them to the stars, making brutal, wrenching choices and sacrificing countless lives. Her turn comes at the dawn of the age of rocketry. Her mission: to lure Wernher Von Braun away from the Nazi party and into the American rocket program, and secure the future of the space race. But Mia’s family is not the only group pushing the levers of history: an even more ruthless enemy lurks behind the scenes. A darkly satirical first contact thriller, as seen through the eyes of the women who make progress possible and the men who are determined to stop them...

30 review for A History of What Comes Next

  1. 4 out of 5

    Emily (Books with Emily Fox)

    (2.5?) This is my fifth book by the author but probably my least favorite (well maybe after the last book in the Themis Files series). The concept was interesting, the flashbacks to older generations were great but I found the writing too dry. I'm not a huge fan of historical fiction but I hoped the the rest would compensate, which it mostly did. I'm not sure it needed to be a series but I might still read the next book. (2.5?) This is my fifth book by the author but probably my least favorite (well maybe after the last book in the Themis Files series). The concept was interesting, the flashbacks to older generations were great but I found the writing too dry. I'm not a huge fan of historical fiction but I hoped the the rest would compensate, which it mostly did. I'm not sure it needed to be a series but I might still read the next book.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Emily May

    He found himself directing research on a small ballistic missile for the army. His rockets are light-years behind von Braun’s, but few people understand mathematics the way Hsue-Shen does. We have been bouncing ideas off each other for almost a decade, and I just wrote to him about my CO2 conundrum. I hate to say it, but I think this book might exist on a level of nerd I'm incapable of reaching. You can tell Neuvel put a lot of research and heart into his latest project, but I do wonder just h He found himself directing research on a small ballistic missile for the army. His rockets are light-years behind von Braun’s, but few people understand mathematics the way Hsue-Shen does. We have been bouncing ideas off each other for almost a decade, and I just wrote to him about my CO2 conundrum. I hate to say it, but I think this book might exist on a level of nerd I'm incapable of reaching. You can tell Neuvel put a lot of research and heart into his latest project, but I do wonder just how big the audience is for a book like this. I'm sure there are people out there looking for a convoluted sci-fi about the Soviet side of the space race if powerful aliens were aiding them in an attempt to get humanity off the planet before it all goes to shit, while simultaneously being hunted by Trackers (I mean, I think that's the general plot), but how many there are... who can say? I've been stopping and starting this book for months and, in this, my final successful (sort of) attempt to finish it, I realized it had nothing to do with my own personal book slump and everything to do with the fact that this story is just not for me. I say "sort of" because I will readily admit that there was some skim-reading in the last quarter. I'm sorry. I did try not to. The book is heavy on the scientific and technological details, which is a big snooze for me. The aliens - the Kibsu - seemed interesting at first, because they all work in mother-daughter pairs, with Mia and her mother being the Ninety-Nine (I'm not explaining this very well because it's hard to explain, and possibly I don't fully understand it). This has been going on for centuries. But I did not find we were ever encouraged to warm to any of the characters. If I was supposed to connect emotionally with Mia, it never happened. I was always kept at a distance. Neuvel uses real people as characters - Wernher von Braun and Sergei Korolev. Just as in our own history, both have a major part to play in the advancement of space flight, though here we see Mia and her mother, Sarah, aiding them in escaping Nazi Germany so they can assist the Soviets in the space race. It's a creative premise, to be sure, but without characters I cared about, I felt little attachment to the events of the narrative. It was also - for me, who is not a scientific genius - quite confusing. There was a lot I didn't understand. I felt, too, that the book moved painfully slowly. This is quite surprising, really, as Neuvel returns throughout to the same style he used in the Sleeping Giants trilogy, which I loved, having the story unfold through dialogue. Where in his previous books, this kept things dynamic and exciting, I found these sections dragged here. There are a couple of people I know who I may recommend this to. Hardcore space buffs who care more about techie details than they do about feeling something for the characters. If that sounds like you, I would check this one out. For myself, I think I'll just wait to see what Neuvel writes after this series.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lala BooksandLala

    The topic was intriguing and I typically enjoy the pairing of real world with science fiction; the inexorable relationship between the space race and the war being an especially strong lure. Sadly the narration style lacked the emotional depth I hoped for and I found it really dragged overall. Full review on my youtube channel- thanks to TOR for the opportunity to read it early.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Nataliya

    I thought I would be a perfect match for this book. I loved Sylvain Neuvel’s Sleeping Giants trilogy and I’m a bit of a space nerd — so Neuvel’s book about space race should have been a treat. But unfortunately, this one fell a bit flat. This book is about the Kibsu — superpowered aliens which have gone though a hundred generations of Mother-Daughter pairs, whose sole goal is to help human civilization develop space flight and eventually get off the planet — to ensure our eventual survival. In th I thought I would be a perfect match for this book. I loved Sylvain Neuvel’s Sleeping Giants trilogy and I’m a bit of a space nerd — so Neuvel’s book about space race should have been a treat. But unfortunately, this one fell a bit flat. This book is about the Kibsu — superpowered aliens which have gone though a hundred generations of Mother-Daughter pairs, whose sole goal is to help human civilization develop space flight and eventually get off the planet — to ensure our eventual survival. In that pursuit they stop at nothing to preserve their knowledge and the secret of their existence — even if it means bloodshed in the name of the greater goal. They are relentlessly pursued by mysterious Trackers who seem even more bloodthirsty and a bit unhinged. In pursuit of the space flight development, Sarah and Mia (our current 100th mother-daughter pair) must help smuggle German rocket-builders - namely Werner von Braun - from Nazi Germany and then aid the Soviets - namely Sergei Korolev - to pull ahead in the space race, as this space race competition can bring the spacefaring goal closer to fulfillment. “The world is doomed, and we must get people off of it. That’s what’s important. Not this war, not the first one or the next one. Not the woman in the river. Our fight is against gravity, and von Braun can help us win it.” Left: Wernher von Braun. Right: Sergei Korolev. The premise is great, and I can get behind it even if I have quite strong reservations about using actual historical figures of the relatively recent past as book characters, ascribing them character traits and affairs and marriages with fictional characters that make me feel a bit uncomfortable (those are real people with real descendants, so taking liberty with their lives is questionable at best), and their discoveries should be theirs and not ascribed to supernaturally intelligent outworldly beings — but that’s just my reservations, and your mileage may vary. I did appreciate the efforts to show the Soviet part of the space race, the part that for many Westerners is not well-known. I think to most Western readers the name of von Braun would be more familiar than that of Korolev, so this book fills in the gaps (although if you choose to not look up those people and their works right after their first appearances, you might not appreciate it as much as you would have otherwise). Although Neuvel does give us some facts, a deeper look would only be beneficial to the readers - both at the historical figures and the details of their work. “He and most of his colleagues were arrested during the Great Purge. They said he was slowing down work at the research institute. Stalin labeled them “members of an anti-Soviet counterrevolutionary organization.” Korolev was tortured for days until he “confessed.” The charges against him were eventually reduced to sabotage. He got a new trial. Only he didn’t know. He was already on his way to the gulag. He went to a gold-mine prison with six hundred people. Six months later, when they found him, there weren’t even two hundred of them left. Now he has to work for the people who did that to him.” The real problem for me was the stylistic execution, however. The book is largely written in dialogue - between our protagonist Mia and her mother, Mia and von Braun, Mia and Korolev, Mia and a few other characters - with a few chapters narrated journal-style by Mia’s mother and occasional interludes showing us the snippets of mostly violent lives of the Kibsu through our history, which were actually quite interesting and I wish had comprised a larger part of the book. But dialogue-based Mia’s story, interrupted only by her internal reactions to that dialogue, is the bulk of the book, and it’s the style that just did not work for me. I found that after a while my attention was starting to wander. Plus Mia’s inner voice asides were not endearing her to me — she seemed very teen-like, even in her adult years, very exasperated and often whiny and quite judgmental, petty and offputting ((view spoiler)[“Of all the people who could judge me, this one’s a fucking criminal! He’s a decorated genius criminal, but still.” — is what she thinks of Korolev, even when perfectly aware that he is the victim of the Purges under fabricated accusations (hide spoiler)] ). See example below, which is how she sounds quite often - and even if it’s justified by the circumstances, it’s tiring to read about: “—Mother, what is going on? You do the accounting, you buy people, you get the Russians to build V-2s. Why me? Why not you? Why do I have to do all this?” My other gripes came from not quite understanding how many of the plot points would work, even when superpowered beings are involved. I mean, how do the Kibsu so easily move to both sides of the Iron Curtain without any suspicion? How are they able to ingratiate themselves so quickly even with the Soviet government? How are they able to so easily manipulate Party leaders? It’s mentioned that they have ways, but it’s never explained, and since those bits are done in dialogue, Neuvel never really ends up addressing the logistics, making it seem like those Hollywood movie scenes where in one scene the protagonist makes a decision, and in the other scene (after some off-screen manipulations, we assume) the grandiose plans are seamlessly in motion. “—I hate to be the bearer of bad news, Nina—can I call you Nina?—but no one is going to put me in charge of anything. I am! I’m going to put him in charge because… Because I want to. Also because Stalin doesn’t pay his people and I found someone at the Politburo who owes a shit ton of money to the Russian mafia.” Also, all the talk about the Russian mafia in the 1940s and 1950s seemed just a bit off. The pacing was a bit off, too - maybe because it’s the first entry in the series, but it feels like not much happens for over half of the book, despite the scenes filled with action (filtered through dialogue at times) and bloodshed. Stylistic and narrative choices made it not so easy to follow coherently, and left many parts barely sketched out and therefore less impactful. It was just too easy to feel very detached from the characters in this book, despite the first-person narration and viewpoint. I knew, for instance, that Mia cared about her girlfriend and her dog and even her husband — but the way the narrative was told, it was very hard to feel any connection to them. In the end, despite spending the whole book with Sarah and Mia, I felt like I still had no idea who they were as persons. I wish I could connect with even one character for this book to become more enjoyable. I mean, I felt more connected to Neuvel after reading his author notes in the end (and those are indeed interesting) than to any of the people we spent the whole book with. Overall, I think it was an excellent premise (human space race as the culmination of millennia-long alien project!!!) that was served poorly by the gimmicky execution. The dialogue / journal entries style does not work well for this book. For a better Neuvel book, check out Sleeping Giants instead. Now, if the next books goes easier on dialogue and instead is written more like the flashback Kibsu chapters, I may still check it out. (And Tadiana, we’ll find a more satisfying buddy read in the future, I’m sure!) 2.5 stars. ————— Thanks to Netgalley for providing ARC for review.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽

    A soft 3 stars for this alternative history novella focused on the space race post-WWII, with a SF twist to it. ... plus (view spoiler)[ALIENS (hide spoiler)] . Final review, first posted on FantasyLiterature.com (along with my co-reviewer Bill's review): In A History of What Comes Next, Sylvain Neuvel recasts history with a science fictional element, inserting a chain of mysterious mother-daughter teams who manipulate key events and powerful men through the ages to try to get the human race to re A soft 3 stars for this alternative history novella focused on the space race post-WWII, with a SF twist to it. ... plus (view spoiler)[ALIENS (hide spoiler)] . Final review, first posted on FantasyLiterature.com (along with my co-reviewer Bill's review): In A History of What Comes Next, Sylvain Neuvel recasts history with a science fictional element, inserting a chain of mysterious mother-daughter teams who manipulate key events and powerful men through the ages to try to get the human race to reach toward the stars. Other than taking humans to space, “before Evil comes and kills them all,” the purpose of these women, the Kibsu, is pretty murky, even to themselves; most of their original knowledge, including about their own origins, has been lost. But they have an apparently inviolable rule that there can never be more than three Kibsu living at one time … and that many, not for long. And they know that they need to avoid drawing attention to themselves — difficult to do when they have some unusual physical and mental attributes, including that each daughter looks like a clone of her mother. They especially need to evade an equally shadowy group of men they call the Trackers, who are mercilessly hunting the Kibsu and killing them. The main plotline follows two of the Kibsu women, Sarah and her daughter Mia. In 1945, Mia, who is then nineteen, is tasked by her mother with helping German rocket engineer Wernher von Braun to escape from Nazi Germany and get him into the hands of the Americans, to help them develop their rocketry science and bring humanity closer to space travel. Neuvel delves into the details of von Braun’s escapades during the waning days of World War II, helped along by Mia, who masquerades as his niece. This part of the plot takes almost a third of the book, too long for my taste, though it’s broken up by flashbacks that tell above lives of some of Mia’s Kibsu ancestors in ancient and medieval times. After the war ends, Mia and Sarah make their way to the USSR and elsewhere, all in the service of their ultimate goal of fostering space travel. As Mia falls in love with Billie, a black girl living in Moscow, she has more difficulty accepting the Kibsu rules passed down to her and the way she’s expected to live her life. Neuvel has an interesting gimmick here, following actual history, particularly the early days of the space race, quite closely, but weaving the Kibsu into it — which sheds new light on every historical event, and highlights the way women have been treated as secondary citizens through much of history. Personally, I also learned a lot about WWII and postwar rocketry history, and about monsters like Lavrentiy Beria, the influential Soviet politician who moonlighted as a sexual predator and (very likely) murderer. But WWII history isn’t my primary literary interest, so my interest flagged after a while, especially since the science fiction aspects relating to the Kibsu and the Tracker are disclosed only in small dribbles, and the flashes of humor that helped to make the THEMIS FILES books so appealing are absent here. The flashbacks were the most intriguing parts of A History of What Comes Next, but there are only a very limited number of those. There are also a few chapters from the Tracker point of view, which tend to raise more questions than answers. Both groups, the Kibsu and the Tracker, are ruthless killers in pursuit of their goals, so it’s hard to really sympathize with anyone here. Complete answers about these people are never given, and the novel ends with the overall plot entirely unresolved. I was deeply disappointed at the time I finished the book (I really should have taken better notice of the “#1 in a new series” blurb). Neuvel also uses a quirky method of showing dialogue between characters, shades of the style he used in Sleeping Giants, but it fit better and made more sense there than it does here. With the benefit of a little distance since I finished reading it, I’ve grown more forgiving of this book’s shortcomings, and more impressed with the amount of historic research Neuvel put into A History of What Comes Next. I don’t expect to ever love this series as much as I did the THEMIS FILES trilogy, but I’m quite curious about seeing where Neuvel goes with the next book in this new series. Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the ARC. And thanks to Nataliya for the buddy read. We’ll have to try it again with a better book. :) Initial post: I’ve got the ARC from NetGalley, cheers! This is the author of the Sleeping Giants trilogy, so my hopes are very high.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Faith

    This book is about a mother-daughter team from an alien race whose mission is to take humans to the stars (for reasons unclear). It basically rehashes the space race as if it were engineered by these aliens. The story in this book begins with the Nazi era, but there have been many generations of these identical aliens, going back centuries, and some are described in flashbacks. They are being pursued, for hazy reasons, by some all male counterparts. Unfortunately, the women have to find males in This book is about a mother-daughter team from an alien race whose mission is to take humans to the stars (for reasons unclear). It basically rehashes the space race as if it were engineered by these aliens. The story in this book begins with the Nazi era, but there have been many generations of these identical aliens, going back centuries, and some are described in flashbacks. They are being pursued, for hazy reasons, by some all male counterparts. Unfortunately, the women have to find males in order to produce more female offspring and the men must find females to produce more males. This seems inefficient, but it does introduce a few more characters to the book. The blurb says that the book is fast moving. I think it is more accurate to describe it as short. It doesn’t really move anywhere and is very repetitive. The duo tries to influence scientists, they encounter obstacles, they kill their way out of difficult situations, run away leaving dead bodies in their wake and change their identities. This happens repeatedly. The story ends somewhat abruptly in 1961. At that point, no one has gone to the stars, and the mother’s research on climate change has barely begun. At the end of the audiobook there was a section on suggested further reading from the author. Many of the people and events described in the book were real and the author seems to have had a good time doing research. The author gave no indication of how many books are projected for this series. You might want to wait until he finishes it before reading this book, because book one leaves way too many unanswered questions and wasn’t very satisfying. 3.5 stars

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kristen Beverly

    I absolutely loved Sylvain Neuvel’s Sleeping Giants, so I’ve been super excited to dive into this one. I think it’s perfect for fans of The Man in the High Castle. It stars powerful women that are racing to change the course of history by shaping the international space race. Little do they know, other dark forces are at play and will stop at nothing to make their wanted outcome part of history. It’s a deep exploration of how progress often comes at the expense of humans and brutal violence. It I absolutely loved Sylvain Neuvel’s Sleeping Giants, so I’ve been super excited to dive into this one. I think it’s perfect for fans of The Man in the High Castle. It stars powerful women that are racing to change the course of history by shaping the international space race. Little do they know, other dark forces are at play and will stop at nothing to make their wanted outcome part of history. It’s a deep exploration of how progress often comes at the expense of humans and brutal violence. It was a really fascinating and quick read that is a reimagining of history, based in fact. If you haven’t read Sleeping Giants yet, I highly recommend you start now while waiting for this one to come out in February!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jerecho

    What comes next??? ... Try Mars... I'm going to sleep... What comes next??? ... Try Mars... I'm going to sleep...

  9. 4 out of 5

    Mara

    I'm somewhere between 2.5 and 3 stars... I really enjoyed THE TEST by this author, so I was excited to try a different SF series form him. Alas, while I think the premise of this one is really interesting (a matriarchal line of aliens who have infiltrated Earth to enable humans achieving space travel), the writing style did not jive with me. The individual sentences were beautifully written, but they didn't flow together in a way that I enjoyed. I would still try more from this author, but I'll I'm somewhere between 2.5 and 3 stars... I really enjoyed THE TEST by this author, so I was excited to try a different SF series form him. Alas, while I think the premise of this one is really interesting (a matriarchal line of aliens who have infiltrated Earth to enable humans achieving space travel), the writing style did not jive with me. The individual sentences were beautifully written, but they didn't flow together in a way that I enjoyed. I would still try more from this author, but I'll pass on this series

  10. 5 out of 5

    Iryna *Book and Sword*

    Sylvain Neuvel is writing another sci-fi trilogy? I’m ready!! I’m ready! I’m READY!! My WEBSITE My INSTAGRAM My WORDPRESS BLOG Sylvain Neuvel is writing another sci-fi trilogy? I’m ready!! I’m ready! I’m READY!! My WEBSITE My INSTAGRAM My WORDPRESS BLOG

  11. 4 out of 5

    Mogsy (MMOGC)

    3.5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2021/02/15/... A strange yet intriguing version of the space race is retold in this first installment of Sylvain Neuvel’s Take Them to the Stars trilogy, an alternate history following the lives of several generations of women from a family of otherworldly beings. Sara and Mia are the latest members in a long line of Kibsu, an all-female society whose ancient origins are believed to go way back beyond the dawn of human civilization. Si 3.5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2021/02/15/... A strange yet intriguing version of the space race is retold in this first installment of Sylvain Neuvel’s Take Them to the Stars trilogy, an alternate history following the lives of several generations of women from a family of otherworldly beings. Sara and Mia are the latest members in a long line of Kibsu, an all-female society whose ancient origins are believed to go way back beyond the dawn of human civilization. Since then, a team consisting of a mother and her daughter, identical in their genetic makeup, has existed with the sole purpose to shape and influence humanity with the end goal of helping them reach the stars, else an evil which has been hunting them for millennia will catch up and kill them all. The ninety-ninth generation, Mia finds herself traveling to Germany in the mid-1940s on a secret mission to recruit aerospace engineer Wernher von Braun as part of Operation Paperclip, an American program to secure the space race. Soon after though, her mother Sara fears that the age-old enemies of the Kibsu, known as the Trackers, are dangerously close to discovering their location, forcing them to flee to Moscow. There, the pair begin a new undertaking to aid the Russian space program, hoping that this would also send the United States scrambling to develop their own rockets. Time, however, is running out in more ways than one. Humanity is close to making a breakthrough, but the Trackers are also hot on the women’s trail. Furthermore, Sara knows that a new generation must be created if their mission is to continue, but there can never be more than two Kibsu for long. While Mia understands what needs to be done, her heart breaks at the idea of giving up everything for duty, not to mention she is not yet ready to lose her mother. It’s an interesting premise, to be sure. That said, if you’re the kind of reader who prefers their stories with clear, logical plot progression and convincing explanations, A History of What Comes Next will probably not be your cup of tea. To start, if you were reading my summary and wondered what the motives of the Kibsu might be, you’re sadly not going to get much more beyond what I’ve already outlined. As for their origins, the whys and hows are foggy at best, and not even the many flashbacks sprinkled throughout the narrative were able to provide much clarity. Ultimately, one gets the sense you’re not supposed to ask too many questions, since the characters themselves are unsure of the answers. On a positive note though, the ideas in this book were very unique. Neuvel incorporates real events, writing about everything from the post-WWII period to the tail end of the space race with an eye towards detail, a point which should win a lot of favor with historical fiction fans. At the same time, he’s also weaving in the supernatural and other speculative elements which fantasy and science fiction fans should eat right up. Of course, given that the overlap between these two groups is going to be much narrower, the question is whether this novel will find an audience, and here’s where I think things get a little trickier. As well, I can see the story’s format being an obstacle for some, for not only does the book’s structure employ multiple perspectives with flashbacks, the writing style is also somewhat reminiscent of the author’s Themis Files trilogy, unfolding mostly in dialogue. It’s a gutsy move, since so much could go wrong, and I confess that during my experimentation with different formats for this novel, I found that the style made for a very poor audiobook experience even with a full cast doing the different voices. Even when reading in print, the prose simply felt too broken up, and because a lot of times we were limited to dialogue, I often felt I was missing out on a ton of context due to a lack of description. In the end, I am torn. The ideas here were great, and I loved the blend of history and SFF, but the book would have been a richer, fuller experience for me had it been told in a more conventional style. This was a niche read, one that will probably struggle to find wide appeal, though on the other hand, I believe those whom it speaks to will absolutely adore it. There’s definitely potential here, a chance for this trilogy to grow and become so much more. I guess we shall see with the sequel.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Iulia

    Hmmph... I don't know what to make of this book. I did enjoy some parts, and I'm intrigued as to where the sequel would go, but I didn't love the writing and, at times, I felt underwhelmed and annoyed. The focus on the space race and the science aspects of the narrative sort of redeemed it, though, and managed to distract me from how much I didn't like any of the characters. Hmmph... I don't know what to make of this book. I did enjoy some parts, and I'm intrigued as to where the sequel would go, but I didn't love the writing and, at times, I felt underwhelmed and annoyed. The focus on the space race and the science aspects of the narrative sort of redeemed it, though, and managed to distract me from how much I didn't like any of the characters.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    This book is tough to rate - parts of it were super intriguing while others just didn't hold my attention. Mia and her mother are the Kibsu, aliens who've worked for generations to help humans reach the stars. Always a mother and daughter pair. Always on the run from the Hunter. While the novel shifts in time, showing us earlier generations of Kibsu and their subtle machinations to get human technology upto speed. Most of the story focuses on Sarah and Mia. Mia's mission is to lure Wernher Von Bra This book is tough to rate - parts of it were super intriguing while others just didn't hold my attention. Mia and her mother are the Kibsu, aliens who've worked for generations to help humans reach the stars. Always a mother and daughter pair. Always on the run from the Hunter. While the novel shifts in time, showing us earlier generations of Kibsu and their subtle machinations to get human technology upto speed. Most of the story focuses on Sarah and Mia. Mia's mission is to lure Wernher Von Braun away from the Nazi party and into the American rocket program, and secure the future of the space race. They're both involved in lots of WWII and Soviet Russia subterfuge and manipulation. I wanted more information about the Kibsu and the Hunters - since this is the first book, maybe those answers come later. The characters are compelling and complex. Neuvel reveals their history one small morsel at a time, making the reader crave more. I loved all of his notes at the end, particularly the possible etymology of the word Amazon.

  14. 5 out of 5

    La Crosse County Library

    While this book is undoubtedly science fiction, it defies being pinned down so easily, incorporating elements of historical fiction, mystery, political intrigue, and even the supernatural. Having previously read Neuvel's "Themis Files" trilogy (2016-2018), I can attest to the author's resistance to telling stories in the traditional way. This tradition is carried on in A History of What Comes Next (2021), the first book in Neuvel's "Take Them To the Stars" series. From the get-go, I enjoyed the p While this book is undoubtedly science fiction, it defies being pinned down so easily, incorporating elements of historical fiction, mystery, political intrigue, and even the supernatural. Having previously read Neuvel's "Themis Files" trilogy (2016-2018), I can attest to the author's resistance to telling stories in the traditional way. This tradition is carried on in A History of What Comes Next (2021), the first book in Neuvel's "Take Them To the Stars" series. From the get-go, I enjoyed the premise: countless generations of identical mother-daughter teams' behind-the-scenes orchestration of the international space race. Take them to the stars is their central objective. They push to transform humanity into a spacefaring species lest evil--the mysterious "Tracker"--traps them before they can escape Earth. They only have vague notions of who they are, where they came from, and why they've sought to advance technological progress at any cost. That knowledge was lost long ago, so all that remains is a code of survival above all else centered around the directive take them to the stars and what they call themselves: the Kibsu. The first book introduces us to "The Ninety-Nine," mother Sarah and her daughter, Mia (e.g. the 99th generation of the Kibsu mother-daughter teams). It's the end of WWII, and Mia's mission is to recruit German rocket scientists on behalf of the US government's Operation Paperclip, chief among them Werner von Braun. From Germany, the pair "go where the rockets are," from the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan, and by the book's end, America, where Mia takes up a computer position with NASA. (Yes, the computers of Hidden Figures (2016) fame, the women who helped get a man to the Moon.) As in his previous works, Neuvel reverts to his storytelling-by-dialogue method. For readers unused to his writing style, A History of What Comes Next may be confusing and disorienting when paired with the narrative shifts that go on throughout the book, meant to give context for the events of the "present" (1945-1961). Even for me, it got a bit much at times, which is why I gave it four, rather than five, stars. (view spoiler)[(Sidebar: This narration style may indicate the Kibsu perceive time in a circular rather than linear fashion, like the aliens in the movie Arrival (2016) or the wormhole-dwelling lifeforms in the TV series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993-1999). Okay, I'll stop my nerdy speculation, before it turns into one of my trademark tangents!) (hide spoiler)] I will also concede that this writing style can make character development a bit more challenging, but not impossible. (view spoiler)[While Sarah and Mia are genetically the same, (hide spoiler)] I felt Neuvel was able to start fleshing out both of them into unique individuals, and I can't wait for the sequel to see where it all goes. If you can get past these flaws, A History of What Comes Next is a well-researched, rewarding story about the double-edged sword of progress, women scientists, and humanity's boundless penchant for exploration and discovery. -Cora Similar/related reads and movies: At the end of A History of What Comes Next there is an afterword/further reading list compiled by the author that I think is worth the read! The "Themis Files" series by Sylvain Neuvel; first book: Sleeping Giants (2016) A great introduction to Neuvel's works. Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race (2016) The movie, by the same name, released in 2016, is also awesome! Both taught me a great deal about the space race I did not know. Arrival (2016) A fascinating sci-fi movie; sadly, there isn't a book version I'm aware of. A movie that shows the potential differences in perspective between us and extraterrestrials. (See the spoiler.) "The Lady Astronaut Universe" series by Mary Robinette Kowal; first book: The Calculating Stars (2018) Awesome historical/science fiction that also features characters based on the computers of Hidden Figures. Find this book and other titles within our catalog.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Lou

    A History of What Comes Next is the first instalment in the fact-meets-fiction Take Them to the Stars trilogy of novellas, primarily set against the backdrop of World War II Europe. Showing that truth is stranger than fiction, Sylvain Neuvel weaves a sci-fi thriller that blends a fast moving, darkly satirical look at 1940s rocketry with an exploration of the amorality of progress and the nature of violence. It begins in 1945, and follows Mia Freed and her mother, Sarah, who are the ninety-ninth A History of What Comes Next is the first instalment in the fact-meets-fiction Take Them to the Stars trilogy of novellas, primarily set against the backdrop of World War II Europe. Showing that truth is stranger than fiction, Sylvain Neuvel weaves a sci-fi thriller that blends a fast moving, darkly satirical look at 1940s rocketry with an exploration of the amorality of progress and the nature of violence. It begins in 1945, and follows Mia Freed and her mother, Sarah, who are the ninety-ninth generation of Kibsu women — at the dawn of the space age. Kibsu are powerful and intelligent beings that are each genetically identical and whose origins go back 3,200 years to ancient Mesopotamia. They always consist of a badass mother and daughter pairing with their overarching mission being to “take [humanity] to the stars before Evil comes and kills them all.” Mia's family has helped shape human history to push them to the stars, making brutal, wrenching choices and sacrificing countless lives. Mia returns to Germany, a country her mother fled from back in 1932, in order to fulfil their prophecy which comes at the dawn of the age of rocketry. Her sole objective is to convince prominent aerospace engineer Wernher von Braun, a pioneer of rocket technology, to switch allegiance and come to America, join the Allied cause and partake in Operation Paperclip, a clandestine U.S. government program to poach and recruit Nazi scientists to advance America's chances in the space race. It's imperative the he's exfiltrated as soon as possible to lessen the chances of the Russians discovering him and his priceless knowledge. Sarah is employed by the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), an ancestor of the CIA. Her purpose is to infiltrate the scientists working with the Nazis to bring them over to the Allied side and thereby control the creation of the potential nuclear bombs that not only could bring an end to the war, but also could shift the balance of world power. As time goes by and Mia gets older, she becomes the primary operative and is to join up with an OSS contact within the German ranks, Walter Dornberger, who can assist with the apprehension and safe transfer of von Braun to the US. The mission is aborted when Sarah discovers that the malicious Trackers, who have hunted the Kibsu for thousands of years, are on their tails. Mia and Sarah must remain one step ahead of their ardent pursuers and a known ruthless enemy. This is a captivating, compulsive and exciting first-contact historical science-fiction thriller. I loved the potent mix of historical accuracy as all included events actually took place; it's clearly extensively researched and the addition of the characters, or the fictional aspect, creates a more personal thread to the story. It's clever and compelling with thrills and mystery aplenty and a whole lot of action and unexpected twists in the tale. Dark and enthralling and with rich and superbly detailed world-building, we are treated to a palpably tense narrative consisting of mysterious secrets, conspiracy theories and the idea that alien beings could very well be living among us. Mia is a complex character and as we watch her come of age and embark on a journey of self-discovery, she questions whether her family’s multigenerational mission to save humankind really is an objective to strive for. After all she's seen, she can't help but wonder whether humans are worthy of saving. Highly recommended.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Wright

    There are always two; a mother and a daughter. They are the Kibsu and for 99 generations they have lived for one goal to "take them to the stars." They pass through history nudging, encouraging, hinting, helping scientists from Babylon to Werner Von Braun. Whatever it takes. They will survive and continue their work no matter how many people have to die. But there are others equally committed to stopping them. Sci fi and history intertwine in this dark, compulsive thriller. Loved it! There are always two; a mother and a daughter. They are the Kibsu and for 99 generations they have lived for one goal to "take them to the stars." They pass through history nudging, encouraging, hinting, helping scientists from Babylon to Werner Von Braun. Whatever it takes. They will survive and continue their work no matter how many people have to die. But there are others equally committed to stopping them. Sci fi and history intertwine in this dark, compulsive thriller. Loved it!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Denise Ruttan

    This review is also on http://www.dnruttan.com. I received the book “A History of What Comes Next” by Sylvain Neuvel (expected publication date of February 2, 2021, from Tor) as an e-ARC for an honest review from Netgalley. First of all, I will try my very best not to review this book with SPOILERS because very few people have read it so far, seeing as it’s an upcoming release, and sadly I have no one to talk with about these spoilers yet; but I can’t wait for more people to read it so I can geek This review is also on http://www.dnruttan.com. I received the book “A History of What Comes Next” by Sylvain Neuvel (expected publication date of February 2, 2021, from Tor) as an e-ARC for an honest review from Netgalley. First of all, I will try my very best not to review this book with SPOILERS because very few people have read it so far, seeing as it’s an upcoming release, and sadly I have no one to talk with about these spoilers yet; but I can’t wait for more people to read it so I can geek out over this. Yes indeed, this is one of those kinds of books. I was blown away. I need to geek out, people. Hurry up and read this book. At first I thought that this was a time travel book. Then I thought it was a space exploration story. Then the mystery slowly and expertly unfolded and I realized it was all and none of those things. This is the story of the Kibsu. There are the 99; and there can never be three. They have a few rules: Survive. Carry on the knowledge. Achieve space travel. But they don’t know where they came from. They only know the code, passed down through the centuries of women who defied their place in history. This story is really a story about the mystery of their secret society, discovered through fragments of time. The story follows a mother and daughter pair, Sarah and Mia, in the 1940s. It’s the end of World War II and Mia is sent, allegedly, by the Office of Strategic Services to infiltrate the German rocketry program to recruit Werner von Braun. At first, I was struggling with the idea that a 19-year-old woman could get anywhere in late 1940s Germany, given the restrictions of gender roles and sexism at the time. Even with advanced scientific knowledge, and only interacting with scientists who could appreciate her intellect, that would be a stretch. But then I read the author’s research notes after finishing the book and it finally made sense. In fact, that’s a theme throughout the whole book; these generations of women sneaking into holes in history where they didn’t quite belong in order to influence events. They leave behind a trail of bodies to cover their tracks, which then leads them to the antagonist of the book, The Tracker, another figure with a mysterious origin story who is feared by the Kibsu. But therein lies spoiler territory. So in short order, you have: feminism, 1940s rocketry and the beginnings of the space program, all done in an intense, lightning-fast literary style. This one had me at hello. Talk about one beautiful rush. The story is written in the present tense, which I usually don’t like because it’s usually done poorly. Not so in this book. The first-person present tense was crafted perfectly and immediately sucked me into the story, adding to the tension and ramping up the pacing. I wasn’t sure I really liked the protagonists, Mia and Sarah; they were a bit cheeky and egotistical, but in the end, I was rooting for them to live the normal life they realized they wanted, after all, but could never have. They had dimension and complexity. And the tone was written in an irreverent, self-aware style that drew me into character with depth and style. This was a gorgeous story. I eagerly await the sequel. Thank you again to the publisher for an advance look.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sahil Javed

    oh this new trilogy is going to fuck me up so bad. bring it on.

  19. 5 out of 5

    ash | novelly rooted

    A History of What Comes Next is a creative take on the space race told in a similar writing style as Neuvel’s Themis Files. It’s a genre mashup of historical fiction and science fiction -- closely mirroring timelines and historical figures from our recent history. What immediately hooked me was the premise. It’s three thousand years of the Kibsu, or “superalien” women working in mother-daughter pairs to sway the course of history in order to get space travel up and running. There can never be thr A History of What Comes Next is a creative take on the space race told in a similar writing style as Neuvel’s Themis Files. It’s a genre mashup of historical fiction and science fiction -- closely mirroring timelines and historical figures from our recent history. What immediately hooked me was the premise. It’s three thousand years of the Kibsu, or “superalien” women working in mother-daughter pairs to sway the course of history in order to get space travel up and running. There can never be three of these women alive at the same time for long (i.e. mother-daughter-granddaughter) and they must follow a set of rules that are passed down through the generations. It is such an interesting concept! “My mother’s words. Her mother’s word, and her mother’s, and her mother’s. Our lives boil down to a single sentence, a handful of symbols on an ancient piece of jewelry.” The story is told mainly in dialogue between the main character, Mia and the other characters with some chapters narrated journal style and a few interludes showing the brutal and gruesome history of the previous generations. We don’t learn too much in this first book about where they are originally from. I assume the next two books will take care of explaining their origin story and how and why they first arrived on Earth. I do think that this series will have a specific audience it will appeal to -- and will work for those who do not need to make a strong connection with characters. I mention this because Neuvel’s writing style, in all of his books/series that I have read (Themis Files, The Test) leads to a reader-character connection that tends to feel very clinical. That’s one consistency I’ve noted with his style. I generally need a strong connection to the characters, but since I know this already going into his books, I can focus a lot more on plot instead. Neuvel always imagines the most fascinating plots with a focus on human nature. Getting back to the story -- the Kibsu have been hunted by a Tracker called the Radi Kibsi that is like the women in that they are one and many and follow a set of their own rules. “I dream of our world at night, I see its moons traverse the red sky, but I know now what I see can’t be real. I’ve only heard my father describe a place he’d never seen for himself. We’re playing telephone. Our dreams get garbled with every generation. Colors get diluted, details are erased. We lose a bit of who we are every time we’re born.” The last few chapters are action packed and we learn a lot in regards to the Kibsu and Kibsi that makes me very excited to see where the story heads in book two. I want to know everything about these two groups and I really hope we get off planet. I think my favorite part of the story is how we witness characters beginning to be torn between generational duty and personal desires. Is there a purpose to it all? Is the knowledge that's been passed down even accurate? I appreciated the extensive notes at the end of the book where Neuvel shared his research and where to look if we wanted to learn more. There are content warnings for death, some torture. Thank you Netgalley and Macmillan-Tor/Forge for providing a copy for review.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Madara

    3/5 Quality of writing: 3 Plot development: 3 Pace: 3 Characters: 3 Enjoyability: 3 Ease of reading: 3 I've hear a lot of good things about Sylvain Neuvel's work and was excited to get my hands on his newest book. Took me a month to finish... A History of What Comes Next is not a bad book. But at one point I just got really bored. Overall it's a decent book. Don't know where the next book will go, but I'd be interested to see. The one thing I really enjoyed was the flashbacks to previous generations. Mi 3/5 Quality of writing: 3 Plot development: 3 Pace: 3 Characters: 3 Enjoyability: 3 Ease of reading: 3 I've hear a lot of good things about Sylvain Neuvel's work and was excited to get my hands on his newest book. Took me a month to finish... A History of What Comes Next is not a bad book. But at one point I just got really bored. Overall it's a decent book. Don't know where the next book will go, but I'd be interested to see. The one thing I really enjoyed was the flashbacks to previous generations. Mia as a character just rubbed me the wrong way a bit. Pacing is all over the place too. Review copy provided by the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Holly (The GrimDragon)

    "I pulled a pen out of his shirt pocket, put it in his nostril, and drove it into his skull with my palm." A History of What Comes Next is the first in the Take Them to the Stars trilogy by Sylvain Neuvel.  I read Neuvel's novella, The Test, almost exactly two years ago & fucking LOVED it! It was intense & emotional & surprising all within something like 100 pages. A History of What Comes Next is much longer & significantly less emotional. In fact, it was quite bland & often difficult to navigate. "I pulled a pen out of his shirt pocket, put it in his nostril, and drove it into his skull with my palm." A History of What Comes Next is the first in the Take Them to the Stars trilogy by Sylvain Neuvel.  I read Neuvel's novella, The Test, almost exactly two years ago & fucking LOVED it! It was intense & emotional & surprising all within something like 100 pages. A History of What Comes Next is much longer & significantly less emotional. In fact, it was quite bland & often difficult to navigate. I just couldn't wrap my head around  everything.  These are basically the worst books for me to review, seriously. The reason being, I want to love this. Truly! The bones to this are so fucking radical I cannot deal! Punching Nazis in the face & rocketry & alien clones! Sylvain Neuvel seems like an author I would dig. Clearly a shit ton of research was put into this. It's intelligent, smartly crafted & as someone who is just as obsessed with music as they are with books, I absolutely loved the chapter titles corresponding with the playlist which signifies what year the chapter is taking place. Of course, I listened to each song while reading, most I've never heard of before now. It definitely put me in the time period, although I can't help but think of Fallout whenever I hear music from that era. I'M SUCH AN ELDER MILLENNIAL! This was quite a mixed bag, overall. It just didn't click all the way for me, although I think it will for many others! YMMV. (Thanks to Tor.com Publishing for sending me a copy!) **The quotes above were taken from an ARC & are subject to change upon publication**

  22. 5 out of 5

    MJ (The Book Recluse)

    A History of What Comes Next ***Book Review*** A History of What Comes Next By. Sylvain Neuvel P. 304 Format - eArc Rating - ****1/2 ************************* This eArc was provided to me for free in exchange for an honest review by @netgalley. It has not impacted my review. ************************* A History of What Comes Next is a historical science fiction set mostly at the end of World War II. The story follows Mia and her mother Sarah. The two are identical in every way except age. They are the 99th A History of What Comes Next ***Book Review*** A History of What Comes Next By. Sylvain Neuvel P. 304 Format - eArc Rating - ****1/2 ************************* This eArc was provided to me for free in exchange for an honest review by @netgalley. It has not impacted my review. ************************* A History of What Comes Next is a historical science fiction set mostly at the end of World War II. The story follows Mia and her mother Sarah. The two are identical in every way except age. They are the 99th generation of their line. They have been tought to follow four rules. 1. Always Run, Never Fight 2. Preserve the knowledge 3. Survive at all costs 4. Take them to the stars Except their knowledge was lost. They do not remember why the rules were put in place, just that they need to be followed. ************************* I loved this book. I was hesitant because of the historical fiction aspect, but still excited. I walked away excited for the historical aspect of the book. It was set during the space race, and the way that Neuvel connected Mia into the events was facinating. I really appreciate that at the end of the book there was an entire section reviewing the historical aspects of the book. I read every page and it made me interested in learning more. The narritve style is different. It almost reads like stream of consciousness. I am amazed how well it was done and how much I enjoyed it. I will say that I think some readers may not connect with this. So, be forwarned. However, I still strongly encurage you to read the book. The characters were well developed, At times to the point of me being horrified when we are in the villains head. Because of the natures of the main characters there is so much overlap in who they are, yet they were still perfectly unique. Again, more skill from the author. I will absolutly be picking up the sequel when it is published. This book was one I was excited about, but still hesitant. I was pleasantly suprised by how much I loved it. I anticipate that it will be one of my favorites of 2021 - and if it isn’t then we have an exceptional year ahead of us.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Branden Davis

    This book is for a very narrow audience. If you love: - science-heavy sci fi - historical fiction - books about space exploration - stories about invisible minorities throughout history - mother/daughter relationships - aliens This book is all of those things wrapped into one. But I imagine if you’re not interested in even once of those, this book will be a slog to get through. But it was everything I wanted it to be and more. Mia is a very interesting character, whose struggles with breaking free This book is for a very narrow audience. If you love: - science-heavy sci fi - historical fiction - books about space exploration - stories about invisible minorities throughout history - mother/daughter relationships - aliens This book is all of those things wrapped into one. But I imagine if you’re not interested in even once of those, this book will be a slog to get through. But it was everything I wanted it to be and more. Mia is a very interesting character, whose struggles with breaking free from tradition I thoroughly sympathized with. Also, her dealing with the trauma of experiencing WW2 felt accurate and heartbreaking. Her relationships, from her mother to Billie to Korolev, are all written well and I felt a lot for them. The rocket-building scenes were interesting and informative, and I learned a lot about the space race and its tie to war. And then of course there’s the playlist. Each chapter is titled by the name of a song released the same year that chapter takes place in. I highly recommend listening to those songs while reading the chapters, as I felt completely transported to the time period. It was a very nice touch that added much to the story. All in all, I can absolutely understand why some people would not love this, but it was exactly what my space-loving heart needed.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Margaret Schoen

    This is a review of an ARC from NetGalley. Well, that was odd. Sarah and her daughter Mia are the Kibsu, two in a long line of mothers and daughters sworn to help mankind reach the stars, and escape the evil that is coming. But even as they are helping shape history, they are being hunted. No matter where they go - medieval Amsterdam, the Kievan Rus empire, Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia - someone is trying to stop them before they can help humans get the knowledge they need to escape Earth. This is This is a review of an ARC from NetGalley. Well, that was odd. Sarah and her daughter Mia are the Kibsu, two in a long line of mothers and daughters sworn to help mankind reach the stars, and escape the evil that is coming. But even as they are helping shape history, they are being hunted. No matter where they go - medieval Amsterdam, the Kievan Rus empire, Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia - someone is trying to stop them before they can help humans get the knowledge they need to escape Earth. This is mostly set in the beginnings of the Space Race, starting with Werner Von Braun and traveling to Russia for the launch of Sputnik and to the US and NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab. Sarah and Mia have a Zelig-like ability to work their way into every conceivable part of the story of the Space Race, helpfully correcting some calculations here and suggesting an escape route there. Their stories are intercut with flashbacks to previous generations of mother-daughter Kibsu, who all show a remarkable ability to stay hidden - until forced to fight, when they then destroy everyone around them. We're also introduced to a set of male aliens, equally blood-thirsty, who are determined to find the Kibsu, whom they regard as traitors. I feel like Neuvel couldn't decide whether he wanted to tell an alien story or a Space Race story, so decided to combine them both. I wish he had spent more time on the aliens, because the tension of the book comes from their story, not the history (Will Werner Von Braun escape to America? Will Russians launch Sputnik? are not suspenseful questions!) And then after all that build up, we don't really get an answer, just a cryptic flashback and a few lines tossed into a fight scene. But his writing is so good that instead of thinking "this makes no sense, I give up" and I was thinking "wait, what? let me read five more chapters before bed." So I'm really giving it 3.5 stars.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Erin (roostercalls)

    “There’s so much I’ve never experienced. I can calculate thrust coefficients with my eyes closed but I don’t know what it’s like to sleep next to someone, to feel their chest move with every breath, or how much heat two bodies can generate.” ✨ A HISTORY OF WHAT COMES NEXT is a fictional retelling of the 20th century space race that interweaves historical fact with a mysterious alien presence—generations of mothers and daughters—whose sole goal on Earth is to take us “to the stars,” and another ali “There’s so much I’ve never experienced. I can calculate thrust coefficients with my eyes closed but I don’t know what it’s like to sleep next to someone, to feel their chest move with every breath, or how much heat two bodies can generate.” ✨ A HISTORY OF WHAT COMES NEXT is a fictional retelling of the 20th century space race that interweaves historical fact with a mysterious alien presence—generations of mothers and daughters—whose sole goal on Earth is to take us “to the stars,” and another alien race bent on stopping them. You know from that sentence alone whether this book for you (hello, fellow space nerds), but let me offer a few more enticements: Sylvain Neuvel’s dark satirical writing style (ft. some fierce take-no-shit-OR--prisoners women); dips into the weird lacuna surrounding what it took to send rockets into space (like the inception of climatology as a quantitative science in the 1960s); a FULL-ON SOUNDTRACK, with songs from the era for each chapter which set the mood exquisitely, and could all authors please do this??? It was the manifestation of all my reading+music dreams. Neuvel also provides a “Further Reading (Not as boring as it sounds, I swear)” section at the end, which is something I always want from a book like this, and saved me approx. 2 dozen googles/Wiki searches. The purpose and identity of the non-human entities tipping the scales of human scientific advancement are rolled out slowly, and the mystery kept me engrossed throughout and DESPERATE for book 2. My only gripe with this one is that the second half contains too much gratuitous, Tarantino-esque violence for my tastes. But otherwise? Full endorse. Thank you @tordotcompub for the advance copy and for always delivering the most solid, imaginative scifi out there! A HISTORY OF WHAT COMES NEXT is out now.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Anatl

    Thank you to Netgalley and Macmillan-Tor/Forge for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I was very much drawn to the concept of the book. Two strong heroines, a mother and daughter, Sarah and Mia, with lethal powers and a scientific agenda that drives them to advance humanity un the space race. Tons of historical research and some action scenes that reminded me of a Tarantino film. Mia working for the OSS (Office of Strategic Services) is sent to recruit a Thank you to Netgalley and Macmillan-Tor/Forge for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I was very much drawn to the concept of the book. Two strong heroines, a mother and daughter, Sarah and Mia, with lethal powers and a scientific agenda that drives them to advance humanity un the space race. Tons of historical research and some action scenes that reminded me of a Tarantino film. Mia working for the OSS (Office of Strategic Services) is sent to recruit a Nazi scientist for an American missile program. Her mother Sarah is focusing on climate change. We learn along the way that they are actually aliens. They have their own code of conduct and agenda and they try hard to keep a low profile because they are hunted by a mysterious Tracker. They navigate some seriously dangerous situations while hoping to settle for once in one place and cultivate friends and family. However, somewhere along the way the story falls a little flat. The plot tension sloped halfway through which made hard to pull through. The action picked up again towards the last quarter of the book, but it had me close to DNFing the book. The character development also left me a little wanting. I ended up enjoying the author's notes about the research more than the story itself.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ashley Hoover

    A History of What Comes Next was one of my most anticipated 2021 releases, so I was ecstatic when I received a review copy and had to jump right in as soon as I got it in my hands. I’ll go ahead and recognize that this book isn’t going to be for everyone. It’s satirical, a little dry, really science and historical based, and has no quotation marks, and I enjoyed the hell out of it. The writing was wonderful and just a little snarky, making this an easy binge read. My only complaints: characteriza A History of What Comes Next was one of my most anticipated 2021 releases, so I was ecstatic when I received a review copy and had to jump right in as soon as I got it in my hands. I’ll go ahead and recognize that this book isn’t going to be for everyone. It’s satirical, a little dry, really science and historical based, and has no quotation marks, and I enjoyed the hell out of it. The writing was wonderful and just a little snarky, making this an easy binge read. My only complaints: characterization was a little lacking and there wasn’t nearly enough space or aliens. *Many thanks to the publisher for sending me an advanced review copy in return for an honest review.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    I recently reviewed an (admittedly vintage) science fiction novel where we had the main characters covertly steering Mankind through history “for the greater good”, something I questioned the arrogance of. Nevertheless, after that I found that in my next read, by accident, I had a more contemporary version of that idea, that there were secret societies and god-like beings doing the same for the human race. I had thought that I had had enough of such stories, at least for now. And yet, to my surpr I recently reviewed an (admittedly vintage) science fiction novel where we had the main characters covertly steering Mankind through history “for the greater good”, something I questioned the arrogance of. Nevertheless, after that I found that in my next read, by accident, I had a more contemporary version of that idea, that there were secret societies and god-like beings doing the same for the human race. I had thought that I had had enough of such stories, at least for now. And yet, to my surprise, what arrived to review next was, by coincidence, another version of this idea. This time though, it is women who are doing the steering. From the publisher: “Over 99 identical generations, Mia's family has shaped human history to push them to the stars, making brutal, wrenching choices and sacrificing countless lives. Her turn comes at the dawn of the age of rocketry. Her mission: to lure Wernher Von Braun away from the Nazi party and into the American rocket program, and secure the future of the space race. But Mia's family is not the only group pushing the levers of history: an even more ruthless enemy lurks behind the scenes.” OK: so ticking the “Why should I read this?” boxes in my head, this is about the 1940’s to 60’s Space Race, in an alternate history and using lesser-known aspects of the actual story to tell an entertaining story. I could suggest that A History of What Comes Next taps into the same vein of ideas as Mary Robinette Kowal’s Lady Astronaut series – an alternate Space Race story from a female perspective - although to me this is perhaps better written. If I was to conform to the cliches then it would be easy to think that this is going to be a cute generational history story. However, it’s actually sweary and surprisingly violent and may not be for those of a sensitive disposition. I enjoyed it. The plot is basically that there is a group of women who call themselves the Kibsu, who for reasons that will become apparent in the novel, have ensured that a blood line has been maintained for generations through the women. The book is focused on Mia and her mother Sarah, who are the 98th and 99th of this lineage, although the story begins in 1910, with the 97th, Mia’s grandmother. Each of the sixty short chapters are written from the perspective of the key characters, meaning that there’s a running internal dialogue that carries the story. As we read, we find that what the women are doing is keeping this line going at all costs, summarised in a mantra that is passed down through the ages: Preserve the knowledge. Survive at all costs. Don’t draw attention to yourself. Don’t leave a trace. Fear the Tracker. Always run, never fight. There can never be three for too long. There are also interludes throughout the book that show how those rules have come about, ranging from 825 BC to 1945 AD. They tell of the women’s resolve to survive, often having to resort to desperate and gruesome means of ensuring their survival. This determination to stick to the rules (and also what happens when they don’t!) means that relationships are created purely to maintain the bloodline. Husbands and male lovers are often disposed of once daughters have been born. Because only two of the bloodline appear to be viable at the same time (one as mentor, the other as trainee), grandmothers commit suicide in order to allow their daughters and granddaughters to continue the Kibsu’s work and ensuring that humans will eventually get into space. [image error] To complicate things, whilst all of this is happening, the women spend much of their time also running and hiding from the Tracker, who are actually a group of men (possibly clones) determined to hunt the Kibsu down, for reasons that will be revealed through the story.  So far, the women have avoided being killed, although there are times when things get awfully close. This is a great storyline. It also helps that I liked the characters, and in particular Mia. She’s bright, lively, fiercely intelligent and yet she’s not invulnerable and she makes mistakes. She reminded me of a more contemporary version of Heinlein’s Friday Jones (from Friday) whose superior skills made her a useful asset but at the same time such actions clearly cause the character emotional and mental damage. Thinking back to that vintage writer, Mia is probably the epitome of what Heinlein would see as the person to carry the plot. Whilst the role of women and minorities are essential to this story, the point is made without it being made obvious. It is important, and ensures engagement with the novel, but it does not feel like it is the entire point of the novel. Unlike some recent books, I found A History of What Comes Next gets the point of the importance of often secret activities of women without hammering the point home, repeatedly. It is deliberately “A History” rather than “The History”, but one that is worth your time, nevertheless. It was interesting to read how the American, Russian and even Chinese governments are persuaded to compete as a result of these women’s work. To me, the main point seems to be that regardless of sex the characters act to ensure that Mankind expands into the Solar System, rather than have the Space Race flounder in the 1970’s as it did. The reasons for this are hinted at in the plot, but I think that the pioneers from the Golden and Silver Ages of Science Fiction would be pleased with that. This story goes up to the point just before the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo space programmes begin – I’d love to read what happens next, so the fact that the book is subtitled “Take Them to the Stars, Book One” is a great sign. I would be very happy to read more in this setting. There’s also some interesting little touches that make this a blast. There’s a 60 track playlist available, each track being the title of one of the 60 chapters in the book dating from 1937 – 1961, and there’s a great Further Reading list at the back of the book that points out that many of the people and events in the story are based on real people and events – even the seemingly far-fetched ones! It is a lot more entertaining than you might think. A History of What Comes Next is a novel with a brilliant premise that’s a lot of fun and was clearly a joy to write as well as read. It takes the tropes of the past and reuses them in an engagingly contemporary style story, and also shows an author with burgeoning talent. I look forward to the next book in this series.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Chrissie

    3.5 stars After largely enjoying his Themis Files trilogy, seeing that Neuvel had a new book coming out that delves into an alternate history of the space race immediately piqued my interest. In this new series of books (presumably a trilogy), Neuvel explores the idea that humans were aided in their push to go off-planet all along. Urged by the will and knowledge of females known as the Kibsu, whose own history is largely lost to them, Neuvel tracks the beginnings of the journey to the stars with 3.5 stars After largely enjoying his Themis Files trilogy, seeing that Neuvel had a new book coming out that delves into an alternate history of the space race immediately piqued my interest. In this new series of books (presumably a trilogy), Neuvel explores the idea that humans were aided in their push to go off-planet all along. Urged by the will and knowledge of females known as the Kibsu, whose own history is largely lost to them, Neuvel tracks the beginnings of the journey to the stars with the events leading up to World War II. What really is astounding in this book is the amount of research Neuvel did and how seamlessly he not only wove the pieces of history together that were true, but how he was able to construct his fictional narrative in and around these truths. I'm not one who always reads author's notes at the end, but when I do, I like 'em to be like Neuvel's. I am, however, one who does a lot of sidebar with the internet to see about these real people while I'm reading. So whatever I didn't know ahead of his author's note, I really enjoyed reading through, in addition to his thought process and the incorporation of everything that went into this book, perhaps most especially the information about the Kibsu. The two Kibsu we know best, who narrate, in turn, almost all of the main timeline, and who are known to the reader as Sarah and Mia for the majority of the book — they assume aliases, but never really drop these birth names — play two sides of the same coin, quite literally actually ... in a figurative sense. (Wink, wink.) The Kibsu women only give birth to daughters and though they need a male to initiate the process, their bodies shed all of the male's DNA and use only the female's, thus creating a long line of complete duplicates of each other. Their internal drive to survive at all costs and take them to the stars are forced along by their ancestors, all of whom, in essence, reside in the body and mind of the older of the pair of mothers and daughters throughout the centuries these duos have spent on Earth. There's more to it, and it's an incredibly interesting concept and execution, for the most part — but it takes a while for Neuvel to get the reader to a more comfortable place and until then, it's mainly just spotty information when all you want is more, making for a confusing opener for these incredible women. In contrast to the Kibsu are the men hunting them, known as the Trackers. At least one of these guys narrates, a brother named Charlie, but their ancestry and history is mostly a mystery. Which I presume will be told more in upcoming books. However, they are as mission-oriented as are the mother-daughter teams throughout the decades that we learn about through the cuts in the story that Neuvel inserts. In these, Neuvel helps establish the basis for a long history for the Kibsu on Earth and their fight to stay alive and reach their goals. I really look forward to learning more about them in the next installment. That being said, there was a large portion of this book where I wasn't sure I even wanted to finish it. A History of What Comes Next started off strong and ended strong, but from about 15% through 60%, I had trouble wanting to pick this one back up. The characterizations of Sarah and Mia were okay, but they were slow to build — and for Mia, they were very action dependent. In addition, Mia had a very pithy wit that took a long time for Neuvel to write beyond ... to allow her more depth, which was welcome once he got her there. But a lot of it for me had to do with both the tone and the style. Aside from the historical segments about the past Kibsu lives, Neuvel chose to write this in present tense (even perfect present at times), which is not something I enjoy. For me, this is a gimmicky and fast way to get the tension and pace desired, and though I don't mind if a book dips its toes in for a scene or two, not many books can stand up to the constant threat and demand of being in the now. This feeling of being trapped in the present moment never feels true and only makes me bored and incredibly aware of the author. Also, making it hard for the flow for me was Neuvel's choice to punctuate the dialogue (which was often rather choppy anyway) with a leading hyphen rather than the standard quotation marks — other than once during a flashback Mia experiences as she's assaulted by a lost memory. This even made it difficult, depending on the scene, to figure out who was speaking and when, on top of it all feeling like bullet points of speech. Despite these drawbacks, I was really — ultimately, perhaps — compelled to finish the story once I made it over the hump. Once Neuvel stopped with the long introduction of the Kibsu and the Trackers, you could almost feel the author sigh and stretch, and the story open up a little, as if to say, "Now we begin." I received this book for free from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This affected neither my opinion of the book, nor the content of my review.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Tammy

    The nitty-gritty: Sylvain Neuvel's latest is an ambitious look at the history of the space race with an intriguing, speculative twist. This is an odd book that I think is going to have a tough time finding an audience, but I absolutely loved the concept, and I think Neuvel probably achieved what he set out to do.  The gist of the story is that a matriarchal race of people called the Kibsu, who have been on Earth for nearly one hundred generations and consist of mother/daughter pairs, have been tas The nitty-gritty: Sylvain Neuvel's latest is an ambitious look at the history of the space race with an intriguing, speculative twist. This is an odd book that I think is going to have a tough time finding an audience, but I absolutely loved the concept, and I think Neuvel probably achieved what he set out to do.  The gist of the story is that a matriarchal race of people called the Kibsu, who have been on Earth for nearly one hundred generations and consist of mother/daughter pairs, have been tasked with influencing and pushing the human race towards the stars. The latest generational pair is Sara and her daughter Mia, the Ninety Ninth generation, and their story takes place near the end of World War II, when the development of rockets was in its infancy. Spanning the globe from Germany to Russia to America, Sara and Mia must hide their identity while subtly pushing the world’s most famous and important scientists (before they were famous and important) in certain directions, which will ultimately lead to critical discoveries in the “race to space.” Mia has specifically been tasked with shadowing a young German named Wernher von Braun, but at the same time, Sara and Mia are being followed by a shadowy figure called the Tracker, who apparently wants them dead. Neuvel’s idea is fascinating, and writing this book was clearly a labor of love for him. A ton of research obviously went into it, as Neuvel uses real life people and events to show how the race to get a rocket into space might have played out if aliens were involved. I loved his mentions of German and Russian scientists, places like Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Caltech, and the historical launch of the Russian satellite Sputnik. I also loved the subtle ways that Mia tried to influence the space race by making sure of one country’s success in order to foster an atmosphere of competition with the other countries. In this way, progress was made, slowly but surely.  And while there are some exciting scenes, especially the ones where the Tracker catches up to Mia and Sara, much of the book is more of a fractured narrative and demands that the reader pay close attention in order to figure out what’s going on. The format is odd as well. For example, Neuvel doesn’t use quotation marks for dialog, which is a stylistic choice I don’t really care for. The chapters alternate mostly between Mia’s and Sara’s POVs, and in this way we come to understand their mission as Kibsu and how dangerous their lives are. Still, I never really came to feel much for any of the characters, strangely enough, and I think the overall structure of the story had something to do with that. I did like that the Kibsu are an all female society, but there is quite a bit of mystery surrounding their origins. I personally thought of them as aliens, sent back in time to ensure the survival of the human race, which apparently can only happen if they leave Earth at some point and head for the stars. Clearly Mia and Sara already know the history of rocket science and space travel, but they also know something bad is coming. Because of this, their mission takes on a frantic quality as if time were running out. This gave the story some excitement and tension, even if you don’t quite know why getting to space is so important.  And while I mentioned before that I didn’t have an emotional reaction to the individual characters, I did love the relationship between Mia and Sara. They are just one generation in a hundred, and the rules are very clear: there can only ever be two at a time, never three, meaning that the “two” are mother and daughter, but when it’s the daughter’s turn to have her own daughter, her mother can no longer be part of the mission. Mia grows up knowing that someday her mother will have to die, and this was emotional and heartbreaking. But so much of the story is never explained, and although I loved parts of it, I’m still frustrated by the lack of information. Neuvel refers to Mia’s unusual necklace throughout the story, dangling bits of information about it and why it might be important. But again, by the end of this book, we still don’t understand exactly what it is. If it’s a hook to get me to read the next book, then I’ll have to admit that Neuvel’s plan worked! A History of What Comes Next won’t be for everyone, but discerning readers, especially those with a passion for the history of rockets and space travel—as well as those who aren’t intimidated by unusual story structure—will definitely find something to love about this book. Big thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy.

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