A History of What Comes Next by Sylvain Neuvel is a clever alternative history story involving a mysterious alien race and a long-term plot to help Earthlings get into space. Except the aliens have an enemy determined to prevent them from living long enough to do so. With its witty monologues and creative approach to dialogue, A History of What Comes Next redefines the space race in a way that is as entertaining as it is intriguing.
Aliens exist, except no one really knows that they do. The Kibsu inhabit the shadows, guiding humanity towards space one generation at a time. At the opening of A History of What Comes Next, Mia begins her training as the next Kibsu to forward humanity’s progress by saving various Nazi scientists from certain death as World War II enters its final phase. From there, Mia gets to experience Soviet Russia and later the Red Scare. All of these historic events force Mia to question whether humans are worthy of saving. In light of our current history, it is a very good question indeed.
It becomes very obvious early on in the story that we know very little about the Kibsu and even less about their enemy, the Kibsi. This feels deliberate on Mr. Neuvel’s part. As A History of What Comes Next is the first book in a trilogy, it is as if this book focuses on what the Kibsu do and get Mia to the point where she is asking questions about her own race. The next books should give readers more answers to who they are and what they are doing on Earth.
Thankfully, the lack of answers and all but the barest of introductions to the aliens never become bothersome. Mia’s monologues are witty and insightful, and her observations of humanity are as brutal as they are thought-provoking. I particularly liked the way that Mr. Neuvel built Mia’s story around true historical events. His notes at the end are enlightening and show just how creative he was in doing so. I am curious to see how much he does so in future books.
A History of What Comes Next is informative, fun, and uniquely creative. We finish the novel with almost as many questions as we started it, but that in no way diminishes one’s enjoyment of it. I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to view humanity and history through an outsider’s eyes and am excited to see what comes next for Mia’s journey!