Breathe. None of it is real (39)
Released last month, Sylvain Neuvel’s novel blends original characterization, an SF thriller plot, and historical detail to tell the story of the uncertain aliens behind the hidden history of the modern world.
Title: A History of What Comes Next
A Take Them to the Stars Novel
Author: Sylvain Neuvel
First Published: February 2021.
For thousands of years of history, a pair of aliens and their essentially-identical descendants have been interfering with humanity. One set wants to bring us to the stars; the other set has more problematic motives. Both can be killers, and neither has full possession, after all of this time, of the knowledge with which they arrived and the purposes it was intended to serve.
Neuvel has penned an interesting and original story that moves quickly while including a lot of historical detail, real and imaginary. The historical asides answer many– though not all– of the questions raised by the novel, and provide some of the strongest moments in the book.
A number of chapters consist mainly of partially-attributed dialogue. It’s a testament to Neuvel’s charactization that I always knew who was talking, and these chapters contribute to the book’s speedy pace. However, those chapters lack in other qualities, and can feel rushed and, at times, confusing.
Originality: 4/6 A History of What Comes Next reads less like other alternate, hidden histories than it might sound.
Imagery: 5/6 When Neuvel does describe the world, he does so memorably.
Story: 5/6 The story moves along quickly and makes for compulsive reading. The ending may leave many readers cold– but I find myself wondering if we need a series. The slightly absurdist, open ending works well with the novels thematic elements and somewhat satiric tone. By ending right when the Space Race starts going somewhere, the novel need not risk altering public history.
Characterization: 5/6 However, the protagonists will continue in variants of their fascinating present forms…
Emotional Response: 5/6 …And the story opens a number of intriguing possibilities that could solve the book’s central mystery, for those who want a definitive solution.
Editing: 5/6 Neuvel’s prose is quite readable.
Overall: 5/6 In addition to some strong historical detail and an appendix of suggested reading, the novel also comes with a recommended playlist.
In total, A History of What Comes Next receives 34/42