Book Review: Children of Time

Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky

A race for survival among the stars... Humanity's last survivors escaped earth's ruins to find a new home. But when they find it, can their desperation overcome it's dangers?


The last remnants of the human race left a dying Earth, desperate to find a new home among the stars. Following in the footsteps of their ancestors, they discover the greatest treasure of the past age - a world terraformed and prepared for human life.

But all is not right in this new Eden. In the long years since the planet was abandoned, the work of its architects has borne disastrous fruit. The planet is not waiting for them, pristine and unoccupied. New masters have turned it from a refuge into mankind's worst nightmare.

Now two civilizations are on a collision course, both testing the boundaries of what they will do to survive. As the fate of humanity hangs in the balance, who are the true heirs of this new Earth?

When you say to any fantasy fanatic the name of Adrian Tchaikovsky they must immediately answer with Shadows of the Apt. Adrian Tchaikovsky really made a name for himself with this series, ground breaking in many different ways. Last year the series was finished and this year Tor had planned to release two completely new books of him. THe first was Guns of the Dawn an alternate history story and the second is this book Children of Time a hard hitting cutting edge Science Fiction story. As you can see, Adrian Tchaikovsky went from writing Epic/steampunk fantasy to alternate to Science Fiction, and you know, he does it in a brilliant way. This year he has definitely proven his worth once again, pitch him a genre and he will write a stunning story! 

The story of Children of Time picks up directly with a lot of action. A famed scientist known as Avrana Kern is set on an important mission to make sure humanity can survive. She is tasked with terraforming new planets, but during one of these missions things go south (as far as that is possible in space). Avrana's spaceship is sabotaged and she has to abandon ship in a pod. In a last desperate attempt she send a specially coded nanovirus to the nearby planet. This nanovirus is coded in a way that it enhances intelligence... In order to survive Avrana puts herself in a cryogenic sleep since she is light years away from Earth. After quite some time a spaceship the Gilgamesh reaches the area of Avrana and since her pod is emitting a signal the Gilgamesh and it's occupants set out to investigate only to find out that even though a distress signal is put out, Avrana Kern is not really in trouble... The Gilgamesh is there with a reason though, because in the two hundred year span, Earth is destroyed and they are seeking a planet to settle on. The planet that Avrana was investigating fits all the criteria. However, Avrana won't let them interfere. On board the Gilgamesh, Holsten the historian, engineer Lain and ship's captain Guyen stand for a difficult task, because Avrana is threatening with bringing down the Gilgamesh if they dare to land on her planet, Kern's World. 

Now don't go thinking that this is all because soon after the fate of Avrana's spaceship, there is a change of perspective and the second story line is introduced. That of Portia. She is neither on Avrana's side or on the Gilgamesh. She is an inhabitant of Kern's World. She is not a homo sapiens either, she is an arachnid. Yes you know those beings that have eight legs and makes webs, she is a spider. The nanovirus that Avrana has designed for monkeys has been effecting the local arachnid and formicidae  populations ( the latter are better know as ants). Due to the different targets of the nanovirus these two beings are rapidly evolving into being of a higher intelligence. This transition is shown through several spiders Portia, Biance, Fabian and Viola who each play a crucial role. Their storylines show a very detailed way in how they overcome several obstacles and how they maintain with being the top predators. 

But something unavoidable happens soon and that is when these two civilisations meet. The humans of the GIlgamesh and the highly intelligent arachnid population on Kern's World. Something has to happen, and something big happens. The story that Adrian Tchaikovsky has written down in Children of Time cannot be describe in any different way that shouting WOW over and over again. This is precisely the type of story that will provocate your thinking and is directly up in the lines of Science Fiction, breaking boundaries and going (for me) where no author has been before. I haven't come across such a story before. It's just handsdown awesome, and as I said before Adrian Tchaikovsky is really building up his repertoire of must-read books. 

Character-wise Children of Time can be divided into three fronts. The front is that of the human side with the characters on board the Gilgamesh. Here you have Lain, Guyen and Holsten. they have come with a mission to Kern's World, becuase they are transporting the last hope of the human race. They see the need to colonize the planet but are kept at bay by threats. All along the story you see how they try to find a way to keep the hope alive. As I already said there is clash in the end and here you see a quite emotional ending for humankind... the second "front" is that of Avrana Kern who can be best described as a person who cannot let go of her work. She wants to keep control of everything with a lot of disasters that can change the fate of many. When she went into cryosleep, she uploaded her mind to an AI who has taken control of everything, the interaction between the Gilgamesh and Eliza (Avrana's AI) is most interseting and you will be seeing it for yourself what a psychopath Avrana really is. For me and I think for many other readers, the most interesting characters were from the third "front" those that live on Kern's World. Portia was for me the favorite character by far. She is the leader, but not sending out helpers to do her work, she can be found in the front. It feels weird talking about a spider as a human character but the nanovirus is doing this. The whole society of spiders on Kern's World have become as sentient as us humans... 

The world building in Children of Time is awesome. The story does take place on Kern's World or in the atmosphere of Kern's World aboard the Gilgamesh. The former site is explored in more detail and as with the characters the world of the spiders is so rich in detail. Of course I have no idea how they perceive a world but I felt like a spider. How they fought against the ants it was very intense on such a small scale (these insects aren't really big). If you take the Gilgamesh and the backdrop of the story also into account I think it is difficult to get a bigger sense of wonder that what you see in Children of Time

Do you want to read a Science Fiction book that has big and bold ideas that are worked out into the fine details? Look no further. Adrian Tchaikovsky had already written a winner in the Alternate History subgenre earlier this year and once again shows that he means business with Children of Time. This book is just filled with awesome and cool idea's that will make you think. For me what made this story a true winner was Portia's side of the story. Of course  Science Fiction stories where the last of humankind is searching for new plants exists BUT not in the way that Adrian Tchaikovsky has written his story. Children of Time is handsdown one of the best Science Fiction book that I will be reading this year, I know it is just June and there are still six months to ago, but I will take a really good book to trump Children of Time! (I would say it is impossible).


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