Sea Change

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Pub Date 22 May 2020 | Archive Date 08 Jun 2020

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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.

“Sea Change is like liquid nitrogen ice cream—a chilling treat.”
—Greg Bear, author of
Take Back the Sky

“Kress wisely keeps her global catastrophe on a human scale, eschewing superheroic action for tense realism. This urgent, deeply satisfying story is as tenacious and inspiring as its heroine.”
—Publishers Weekly

Operative Renata Black has a serious problem: an ordinary self-driving house. But this house, causing a traffic snarl, also has the Org’s teal paint on the windowsill.

In 2022, GMOs were banned. A biopharmaceutical 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 food-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. At risk is the possibility of an even more devastating climate collapse. For answers, she will go to her legal clients from the Quinault Nation. Will there be time to reveal the solutions that the world has not been willing to face?

Nancy Kress (Beggars in Spain; Yesterday’s Kin) has delivered a riveting climate-change technothriller, of espionage, conspiracy, and hope.

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...

A Note From the Publisher

Nancy Kress is the bestselling author of more than forty science-fiction and fantasy novels novellas, and short fiction collections, including Beggars in Spain, Probability Space, and Steal Across the Sky. Kress is a six-time Nebula Award winner, including two consecutive awards for After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall and Yesterday’s Kin. She is also the recipient of the Sturgeon and Campbell awards, as well as two Hugo awards. Kress lives in Seattle, Washington, with her husband, the author Jack Skillingstead, and Cosette, the world’s most spoiled toy poodle.

Nancy Kress is the bestselling author of more than forty science-fiction and fantasy novels novellas, and short fiction collections, including Beggars in Spain, Probability Space, and Steal Across...

Advance Praise

Praise for Sea Change

A Polygon Book to Watch Out For

“Kress wisely keeps her global catastrophe on a human scale, eschewing superheroic action for tense realism. This urgent, deeply satisfying story is as tenacious and inspiring as its heroine.”
 —Publishers Weekly

“Kress writes a brilliantly imagined near future complete with false identities and analog spycraft mixed into an aggressively digital world in which greenhouses hiding GMO carrots are as vulnerable as missile bases, "drivie" houses cruise unassisted down streets, and disinformation campaigns blaze on social media."

A Foreword Book of the Day
“Sharp, spare, and journalistic.”

 “Nancy Kress’ Sea Change novella shows that she’s still the master of biological disruption and human insight.”
Amazing Stories

“A realistic climate fiction with superb plot and memorable characters. It actually reads like a Hollywood thriller!” 
Strange Horizons 

“This new work of fiction from Nebula Award winning author Nancy Kress, Sea Change (Tachyon) is a riveting climate-change techno-thriller.”
Environmental Magazine, “What We’re Reading Now” 

20 2020 Sci-Fi Books to Read Based on Your Favorite Star Trek Character

“Character: B’Elanna Torres. Renata/Caroline Denton is a lawyer and operative in an underground science organization whose research could save the world. B’Elanna should enjoy the who-done-it turn the book takes when a spy infiltrates the group and only Renata can discover who it is. ", the official Star Trek website 

“Another excellent, fast-paced read from one of speculative fiction’s most consistent voices.”
—Christopher East 

“Nobody is better at destroying the world—see one of my favorite novellas, the multi-award-winning After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall—but here Nancy Kress dives into the science of genetically modified plants and shows us how we just may need them to save the planet. And this brilliant, thoughtful story is also a page-turner! I don’t know about you, but a thriller about a fear-mongering, anti-science government and the smart, brave people resisting it was exactly the story I needed right now.”
 —Daryl Gregory, award-winning writer of Spoonbenders

“Kress brilliantly weaves together two halves of a bio-thriller about GMOs and climate change that blooms logically from our immediate past and into one possible catastrophic near future. What’s even more impressive is how she warns us about the dangers of GMOs on one hand, and teaches us about their wonderous advantages on the other. It’s science fiction and it’s not science fiction, and that’s what’s scary about this novella. Highly recommended.”
 —Patrick Swenson, author of The Ultra Thin Man

“A strong, striking look at a a possible future, and the courage that will allow us to survive it.”
 —Laura Anne Gilman, author of Heart of Briar and Soul of Fire

Sea Change is like liquid nitrogen ice cream—a chilling treat. Right next door to the future, filled with dark wit—a fine addition to Kress’s work.”
 —Greg Bear, author of Eon and Take Back the Sky

“This taut, suspenseful near-future ecothriller combines a frighteningly plausible ecological/economic collapse scenario with genuine human emotion. A winner!”
 —David D. Levine, author of Arabella of Mars

“In a word, fantastic. Ms. Kress has crafted a brilliant and frighteningly realistic near future world”
—Disciples of Boltax 

Praise for Sea Change

A Polygon Book to Watch Out For

“Kress wisely keeps her global catastrophe on a human scale, eschewing superheroic action for tense realism. This urgent, deeply satisfying story...

Marketing Plan

• Promotion at major trade and genre conventions, including BEA, ALA, Readercon, and the World Science Fiction and World Fantasy conventions
• Features, interviews, and reviews targeting literary and genre venues
• Author events/appearances to include the Seattle Bay area and national events
• ARC distribution and book giveaways to include NetGalley, Goodreads, and Edelweiss
• Advertising and promotion in national print, blogs, and social media

• Promotion at major trade and genre conventions, including BEA, ALA, Readercon, and the World Science Fiction and World Fantasy conventions
• Features, interviews, and reviews targeting literary...

Available Editions

EDITION Paperback
ISBN 9781616963316
PRICE $15.95 (USD)

Available on NetGalley

Send to Kindle (EPUB)

Average rating from 43 members

Featured Reviews

Set in Seattle and Portland this story deals with a number of cascading events that ultimately leads to the collapse of the world’s financial institutions. As a result the government responds with heavy-handed curtailment of civil liberties and severe restrictions on gene modified crops, which will eventually result in world wide famine.

Renata tells her story from first person point of view and details her joining the Org, a group dedicated to fighting the government.

I thought the story was very well researched. Character development was excellent. Ms. Kness is on top of her game as a writer; check out this line when commenting on Renata’s relationship with her lover: “It isn’t the past that creates the future. It’s how you interpret the past.”

I highly recommend this story.

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Sea Change by Nancy Kress- In a world where all forms of GMO food production are outlawed and people are starving, Caroline Denton- not her real name- strives to return her country and the world back to a planned, human approach to scientific food production rather than the excesses and misfortunes of agri-business, for profit, mishandling. To do this, she is part of a network of people dedicated to this cause, who must work their magic while being branded terrorists by their own government. A great catastrophe has reduced the world' food output and only her organization, small as it is, can hope to change opinions, foster research, and help bring the world back from the inevitable brink. Kress offers a lot of technical detail in her novella, but dresses it to appeal to the fast pace of her story. A cautionary tale? Yes! And a shatteringly believable one.

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Nancy Kress is a master of short form storytelling.

I first (re)discovered Nancy Kress a few years ago when I was in an reading dry spell. I was listlessly perusing the library shelves feeling like I had nothing to read when I came across a copy of her then-just published novella After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall. I recognized her name from having read Beggars in Spain years before so I picked it up.

It blew me away. The book was a masterpiece. The author created a fully realized world, She didn’t need a thousand pages to do it. Up until that point I had been disdainful of shorter works; Nancy Kress made me realize just how much hard work and talent was needed to excecise economy when world building.

Nancy Kress writes hard sf. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Just because the hard science she’s basing her work on is usually biology instead of physics doesn’t make it any less hard.

I quickly sought out every volume of Ms. Kress’s short fiction I could find on my library’s shelves. Which brings me to today.

I was lucky enough to be granted an eARC of Sea Change (thanks to NetGalley and Tachyon Publications). It was, in a word, fantastic. Ms. Kress has crafted a brilliant and frighteningly realistic near future world where genetically modified foods are a crime and anyone trying to use science feed the hungry is hunted down by the government. It is a taut thriller that never slows down and leaves you wanting more.

The protagonist Renata is a beautifully drawn character, realistically flawed and hauntingly familiar. I don’t want to spoil any of her arc but I will say that the final revelation of how she is betrayed was both surprising and did not feel like a cheat.

Very minor spoiler: I wish the book had come with trigger warnings for death of a child/parental bereavement.

That being said I wholeheartedly recommend this. Buy it when it comes out in April. I bet it’ll be on your 2021 Hugo ballot! It’ll be on mine!

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In the very near future, the United States experiences a catastrophe that utterly changes their approach to food production. In the aftermath, GMOs are banned, and the US becomes critically unprepared for the changing climate. Ten years later Renata Black, AKA Caroline Denton, is a member of the Org, a group dedicated to continuing genetic modification research outside the bonds of agribusiness, focused on the well-being of all humans, preventing starvation, not making money. But growing genetically modified food is considered a form of terrorism, and the Department of Agricultural Security is on their trail...

There's a saying that goes around left-wing social media, sometimes attached to an image macro of Garfield: "You don't hate Mondays; You hate capitalism." The phrase can be adjusted to suit many different circumstances; in <i>Sea Change</i>, Nancy Kress makes the argument that you don't hate GMOs, you hate capitalism. And the argument seems reasonable. Renata and her fellow operatives are working to produce food that will not only grow in the harsher climates that global warming will create, but that also fight back against the more dangerous aspects of large-scale farming, like spraying pesticides, that cause even more damage to the environment. I found the arguments for GMOs in this novella very interesting; especially as Renata expresses support for labelling GMO products and helping people understand what they are eating. In the day since I finished reading <i>Sea Change</i> I find myself reflecting on it as if it were non-fiction about GMOs as much as a novella.

Despite these reflections, I still enjoyed the story of Renata Black. She's not the highest-ranking member of the Org, but she has her own connections with her ex-husband's family and within the Quinault Nation, for whom she does legal work. Following Renata's life from her undergraduate degree at Yale, through her ill-advised marriage, difficult pregnancy, and short period of motherhood as the world changes shape around her is a great way to get an overview of the recent history of the future Kress sketches. I found it a little weird that Kress has a character that was born around the same time as me complain so much about her age and her body failing her, but perhaps in 2032 when I'm in my mid-forties I'll understand better.

<i>Sea Change</i> was an interesting novella, diving into a topic with which I have only passing knowledge and presenting information to me in a way that drove the narrative and worked well as a story. I also thought that Renata's story was a great read, although it's not the part that stuck with me, it appears. If you like science in your fiction, <i>Sea Change</i> is highly recommended.

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Sea Change is everything I love about speculative fiction. The story has a compelling near-future setting, is full of smart characters with sharply written dialogue, and is so thematically rich and progressive. It’s character driven, scarily close to reality, and covers topics often overlooked by other media.

Kress’s Sea Change centers on our world following devastation caused, primarily, by climate change, It's set in the 2030s in America and feels very true to a near-future picture of the country. Following a disastrous incident in the United States that causes many children to die, the government takes drastic measures to “protect” the people from GMOs. GMOs are completely outlawed at a time when GMO plants might be the one thing to save the world’s population from malnutrition, which has only worsened due to climate change.

Amidst these changes, an underground (and very illegal) movement crops up, full of scientists and activists devoted to saving the world through scientific innovations with vegetation, nutrition, and, yes, with GMOs. Our main character, Caroline, is a part of this secret organization, the Org. The story opens with Renata uncovering a mystery with unknown but certain ties to the Org, and follows her as she works to discover the truth.

Kress not only covers themes relating to climate change and politics, but also covers a lot of ground by having Renata tangentially involved with the native community on a nearby reservation. Not only is there meaningful representation of native characters, but the plot carefully covers issues relating to sexual assault on native girls and women, and also with the difficulty in prosecuting known offenders. Somehow Kress manages to tie her themes and story-threads together in a way that is both successful and purposeful, which makes her important representation feel like much more than just a casual reference.

I highly recommend this novella, and can’t wait to read more Nancy Kress. 5/5 stars and all the praise I can muster.

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me an eArc of this novella in exchange for a fair review. Sea Change comes out on April 24, 2020.

I have posted reviews on Netgalley, Goodreads, Edelweiss, and on my blog (

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Thank you to Tachyon Publications for giving me a free digital galley of this book in exchange for feedback.

Not long ago, I was irritated by a book I'd read, which had a very self-consciously literary writing style but a tedious plot about awful people and their boring emotions. And I thought to myself, I DO think that good writing is important, but what I really like is well-written sentences by someone who, instead of focusing on how pretty their sentences are, is focusing on a strong, character-driven plot in which good people try to do good things.

And then I read this, and it's exactly what I got. Excellent writing, always in service to a good story about good people trying to do good things.

The mobile house on the cover is just an inciting incident - it kick-starts the action, but it isn't what the book is about. The book is about Renata, who is part of an extremely secret organization working illegally to try to make the world better than the dubiously elected government wants it to be. Renata, whose personal tragedy coincided with a national tragedy, and who decided that her best choice was to try to change the world. Renata, haunted and trying, working to figure out who was in the house, why it was abandoned, and whether her organization is in danger. I love her.

At this moment in history, with the world apparently on fire around me, I find that I'm in the mood for optimistic dystopia - books about how we'll build the good even in a world that has fallen apart, This book really worked for me, and cheered a week that was pretty gloomy on the news.

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The book did a great job of combining hard science fiction with a well developed main character. My only complaint is that it wasn't longer.

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I am a big fan of Nancy Kress, and this book was not a disappointment. I would have liked it to be longer, because the character is someone I would like to spend more time with. Also liked the scientific background, celebrating rationality

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The premise in Nancy Kress’s latest novel is chillingly topical: genetically modified organisms, run amok under the control of greedy corporations, almost devastate civilization. In the aftermath, people in undeveloped countries starve. Special police root out any effort at developing crops that might save them. An underground of scientists and their helpers, split into very small groups to avoid large-scale investigation, slowly begins creating new varieties of food crops and other organisms to benefit humanity. But – of course – the special police are hard on their heels. Dramatic, full of wonderful details and characters, all in all a satisfying and thoughtful read. But I would expect no less from Kress.

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Kress’s near-future climate thriller follows Renata Black, mild-mannered Seattle paralegal who is also Caroline Denton, undercover eco-terrorist. The “terror” that Caroline and her compatriots are attempting to inflict on the masses involves growing genetically-modified crops to help mitigate the world’s food crisis (in this speculative 2032, GMOs have been outlawed after big agriculture’s profiteering led to a deadly toxin in children’s medicine). Caroline/Renata discovers there may be a mole in her cell, causing the carefully delineated boundaries of her double life to blur. Kress, a long-established master of conjectural sci-fi, renders a global-scale conflict in intimate terms. The obstacles Renata faces and the choices she makes have deeply personal consequences for her as well as world-changing implications, allowing the author to effectively whittle away the border between the macro and the micro.

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The writing of Nancy Kress frequently reminds the readers that biology is a hard science and that rigorous science and great characterization can coexist. She pulls this off once again in Sea Change, a new lengthy novella (or short novel, at just under 200 pages) set in the near future. Kress, who is scheduled to appear at Capclave in October 2020, successfully combines secret societies/conspiracies, genetically modified organisms (GMO), Native Americans, climate change/environmental disaster, celebrity culture, and personal tragedies.

Kress jumps readers right into her future world of 2032 and trusts they can figure out the situation from the clues she plants as the story progresses. In this near future, America is still recovering from The Catastrophe, an economic crash that destroys entire companies after genetically altered plants used to make an anti-dehydration drug mutated, killing 115 children. This fueled a national anti-GMO movement, food hoarding and riots, and the creation of a Department of Agricultural Security devoted to protecting the purity of good sources, even as millions went hungry. "Genetic engineering was Satan. It had brought Armageddon. This was a holy war." Fighting against this anti-GMO government is an unground secret society of scientists and supporters called simply the Org, devoted to saving the world though genetic engineering of crops so they can feed more people safely.

There is a lot on how the Org stays secret at a time of extreme government surveillance. It uses a cell structure so each person knows only a few members and avoids any electronic form of communication.

It would have been easy for Kress to present a story about GMOs being good or evil. Instead, she more subtlety shows both the benefits and potential liabilities. The Org is as much against large multinational organizations focused on profit as it is opposed to groups calling for environmental purity.

As in Beggars in Spain, Kress' trilogy of genetically modified people, her characters are real people coping with the problems and potentials of genetics. She gives her narrator and main character, Renata, a rich background. While an activist searching for a cause after graduating from college, Renata married an actor and had a son, Ian, who died on the Quinault Nation reservation after eating clams contaminated by toxic algae. After Ian's death almost destroyed Renata, only the need to work as a paralegal on sexual-assault cases at the Quinault Nation reservation and joining the Org on the recommendation of her ex-husband's brother brought her back to life. But the reader does not learn about most of this backstory until halfway through the book.

The plot begins when Renata, on her way to meet a new recruit, encounters a self-driving house with the Org's secret signal paint. But when she enters it, one step ahead of the police, there is no agent or message there. She goes to her rendezvous and shows her new recruit Org research on modifying carrots to grow in the future's increasingly salty soil. But later she gets a call that the authorities have found out about the carrots. So part of the plot is determining the leak in her cell. At the same time, a severe injury brings Renata's ex-husband back into her life.

Readers who like conspiracies and stories with both strong science and strong characters will enjoy Sea Change and wish it were a full novel.

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