Mia is a Kibsu, 97th in a parthenogenetic line of mothers (indistinguishable from humans until they start ripping people’s heads off) who are bent on getting humanity sufficiently technologically developed so that they can leave Earth. The Kibsu have been at this game a long time: “I cannot imagine what it must have felt like for the Eleven,” Mia reflects, thinking of a distant ancestor, “knowing there was so much beyond the sky but having no way to see it. Dreaming of civilisations a galaxy away, machines that can cross the heavens in an instant, yet stuck in the middle of the Iron Age.”
Sylvain Neuvel’s A History of What Comes Next (Michael Joseph, £14.99) is alt-history with a difference. It basically traces the true story of the development of rocket science, namechecking the real people involved in the days before the space race, but adds an alien-conspiracy-theory edge in the shape of a fictional team of mother-daughter clones, reborn through the ages with three imperatives: “Preserve the knowledge; survive at all costs; take them to the stars”. Along with the usual problems faced by women trying to change the world (or at least get men to listen to them), they are threatened by a mysterious “Tracker” who has spent centuries trying to kill them.