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Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Children of Time

by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Children of Time (1)

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Showing 1-5 of 34 (next | show all)
Terraforming meets extinction and evolution: Earth is trying to terraform other planets even as factions try to destroy the technology that keeps humanity alive in farflung places. Result: an uplift virus is released on a new planet, but the monkeys that were supposed to get it don’t survive, and the spiders do instead. Meanwhile, over centuries, a ship of the few survivors of Earth heads to a planet they thought might save them, but the mistakes of the past seem to repeat again and again. It’s very interesting speculative work, though rather depressing in its conclusions about un-altered humanity. ( )
1 vote rivkat | Feb 12, 2019 |
In truth, like spoiled children, it was sharing that they objected to. Only-child humanity craved the sole attention of the universe.

Neither the title nor the summary give you much idea of what to expect from this, but it’s very good. The spider civilization’s evolution over time is fascinating and the resolution of the final conflict is highly satisfying. ( )
  brokensandals | Feb 7, 2019 |
This is a science fiction of old school. I’ve never before read any books by [a:Adrian Tchaikovsky|1445909|Adrian Tchaikovsky|https://images.gr-assets.com/authors/1282303363p2/1445909.jpg] and after this novel I’m eager to try more. While I cannot say that this is a groundbreaking work, with most ideas (mind upload, uplifting, generation ships etc.) are well established, they are neatly connected in the grand, millennia-spanning narrative.

A semi-spoiler of what happens in the very beginning, just to give a taste: an advanced human civilization attempts to uplift monkeys on a newly terraformed planet with a tailored nanovirus, which speeds evolution. However, the mankind is not united, there is a significant opposition under the name of Non Ultra Natura, which denies people the right to set themselves above the nature, hits, destroying the very monkeys prepared for the uplifting and starting a civil war among the humanity. There are no more monkeys to uplift, so the virus aims to another species. Millennia past and now the last remnants of human civilization arrives in the generational ship.

The simple yet gripping prose, interesting characters and the situations they face, allusions to real world issues and a bit of National Geographic style description of the species in uplift made a great book. Recommended to all fans of old-school SF but with modern issues.
( )
  Oleksandr_Zholud | Jan 9, 2019 |
4 & 1/2 STARS

I suffer from a strong aversion to insects – any kind of insect: the mere idea of something crawling up an arm or a leg, even if it’s the most harmless creature in the whole universe, makes me shudder in revulsion. That’s the main reason I resisted so much before reading this novel, despite the glowing reviews from several fellow bloggers – because I knew spiders were this story’s main characters. Spiders.

And yet, the premise for this novel sounded interesting, and the unanimous praise concerning Adrian Tchaikovsky’s work was a powerful incentive to try and overcome my dislike. You can therefore imagine my surprise when I was not only able to happily sail through the… many-legged narrative of Children of Time without a qualm, but ended up enjoying the sections focusing on the spiders much more than the ones about humans. Our mind works indeed in mysterious ways…

The future on Earth does not look very cheerful: despite the huge advances in technology and the many terraforming projects launched to create new homes for humanity’s expansion, there is also a strong movement that abhors the manipulations of science and wants to keep planet Earth as the sole, pristine home for the human race, a movement that is apparently growing in strength and numbers. Dr. Avrana Kern is carrying on a very ambitious goal: that of not simply terraforming a suitable planet, but of peopling it with enhanced monkeys, infected with a nanovirus that will speed up the growth of their mental abilities and therefore create a willing race of assistants for the colonists that will come for a further phase of the project. The final stage of Kern’s endeavor is however sabotaged from the inside, the ship that should have landed the monkeys on her planet crashes and burns, and she remains the sole survivor of the expedition, waiting in suspended animation to see what the virus payload – the only part of her plan that escaped sabotage – will do to the target world.

As human civilization crumbles and falls in the aftermath of the anti-science faction, and then rises painfully out of its own ashes, launching ark ships in search of a new home for what remains of the people of Earth, on Kern’s world spiders find themselves the recipients of the nanovirus, and start the long journey toward their uplift as a sentient race: the story splits here into two threads, following the two separate – but at some point converging – narratives, that of the spiders, slowly but surely evolving from simple-minded hunters to complex creatures who build a flourishing civilization; and that of the humans, displaced both in space and in time, as they are awakened from their frozen sleep when need arises and as their search for a new home becomes more and more desperate.

It’s impossible not to notice the dichotomy between the spider’s upward spiral, as their grasp on evolution (the buildup of Understandings, as they call them) increases exponentially, and mankind’s regression as their resources dwindle and the ship starts to break down around them: humanity has not only lost its home planet and the colonies it established in its golden age, they have also lost much of the higher technology that allowed projects like the one launched by Dr. Kern. Much of what made Earth’s civilization is now almost consigned to myth, and the only person on the ark ship Gilgamesh who is able to access that knowledge is Mason Holsten, a classicist – a cross between a linguist and an archeologist, a man who often feels like the proverbial fish out of water and therefore symbolizes perfectly the floundering attempts at survival of these people who have been torn from their roots in more ways than one.

It’s indeed a desolate spectacle, made even sadder by the steady advancements of the spiders, whose powers of adaptation to their environment appear so extraordinary that after a while I forgot I was not reading about human creatures: I became deeply invested in their discoveries and successes, particularly because the author gives us a definite frame of reference through a few recurring characters that, generation after generation, take on the roles of their predecessors. We therefore have Portia, the intrepid hunter who incarnates the courage to explore and to overcome one’s limitations; then there is Bianca, the thinker and scientists whose discoveries advance the spiders’ civilization in leaps and bounds; and then there is Fabian, the only male of notice in a society that is strongly geared toward matriarchy and who acts both at the catalyst of many changes and as the balance between Portia and Bianca.

Make no mistake, these are not humanized spiders, they retain all of their weird alien-ness in cultural outlook and instinctual behavior, but still the author made them highly relatable not in spite of, but because of those differences. There are several descriptions of the spider cities, sprawling complexes of aerial bridges and woven-silk platforms that come across as things of wonder and beauty even while one sees the huge differences brought on by the nature of their dwellers and the limitations imposed by the planet’s resources, where metals are scarce and much of the spiders’ organic technology is based on chemistry and scent, on biology rather than mechanics. One can easily see the successful hybridization of beauty and function that the spiders are able to achieve, and the admiration for such endeavors is enhanced by the respect for the deeds of the three recurring protagonists – Portia, Bianca and Fabian – in all of their incarnations: like pioneers of old, they are the ones who take the giant steps that advance the civilization, sometimes paying the ultimate price for it, and it’s impossible not to be moved by such determination in the face of danger, hostile attacks or ravaging disease.

On the other hand, humanity offers a very sorry spectacle as the power plays of old take precedence over the needs of simple survival or the goal of finding a suitable planet where to establish a new civilization: the few voices in favor of reason are constantly drowned by the apparently unavoidable drive toward conflict and destruction, a drive that comes to a dramatic height once the desperate survivors realize that Kern’s world is their only viable option and that they will have to fight the spiders for it. This is the point where the author managed to surprise me with a twist I would never have expected, a solution to the often quoted Prisoner’s Dilemma – an interesting logic exercise, indeed – that felt both unexpected and right, a very satisfying conclusion to a riveting story.

I now understand the reason for the praise I have often encountered for Adrian Tchaikovsky’s work, and I look forward to discovering what other enthralling wonders he has in store for me…

Originally posted at SPACE and SORCERY BLOG ( )
1 vote SpaceandSorcery | Dec 25, 2018 |
Adrian Tchaikovsky (yes, apparently a distant relative of THAT Tchaikovsky) had built up a fairly solid track record in fantasy before producing this, his first, stand-alone sf novel. I've come to this book a little behind most people, and I'm pleased I've caught up with it. It marks a return to old-fashioned sense of wonder sf with big themes and an almost cosmic span of events.

The basic plot: human seedship sets out to colonise a new world and uplift simians to sentience as a client race. (Tchaikovsky nods to David Brin for his concepts of 'uplift', though as will be seen, things do not go to plan - despite one of the human characters expecting that they have, a deft touch.) However, some political plotting goes badly wrong, resulting in the simians being destroyed before making it to the target planet and the uplifting nanovirus being deployed against a population mainly comprised of spiders and ants. This then causes a major upset when a later human colony vessel arrives expecting to be able to inherit a new planet ripe for colonisation.

Tchaikovsky displays a command of plot development, using relatavistic flight and coldsleep technology to enable his crew of humans to undertake voyages whilst generations of development occur on the spider planet. Through the device of giving different characters in the spider narrative the same names (which works well; the spiders have access to distilled genetic memories of ancestors, and so descendents can easily identify one with another), we are shown the development of the spider society over time through characters with similar traits and so the story moves forward in different eras as though seen through the (eight) eyes of the same dramatic character.

Meanwhile, the human generation starship finds its options getting narrowed down by the vastness of space and the ever-increasing age of their technology. I found the human characters a little less sympathetically drawn but they play their parts well enough. Tchaikovsky interestingly depicts arachnophobia on both an obvious, personal level (in the shape of one particular character) and on a cultural level, where the humans continue to think of reclaiming the spider world after "burning out the infestation" or after a bug-hunt; only slowly - too slowly - do they realise that they are facing sentient beings rather than simple insect pests.

Tchaikovsky makes a good attempt at depicting a spider society, with some clever manipulation of phrase and saying to translate our human experience into spider terms. (For instance, I particularly liked suggesting solidarity amongst spiders through saying "standing knee-to-knee" where we would say "shoulder-to-shoulder".) Indeed, I came out of the novel knowing more about spiders than I did previously. He takes the opportunity to reflect some human traits back onto the spiders in terms of their matriarchal society and some of its attitudes as that society evolves. Some might see that as preachy; but the spiders only make high-level conceptual breakthroughs in understanding their world once they have evolved to recognise the contributions made by males to their society (and stop eating them after sex - though there is one instance where, having established the cessation of that practice as a badge of societal evolution, Tchaikovsky neatly turns that on its head to show heroism in an arachnid context).

There is a streak of humour dotted through the story; but overall, I was left with an overwhelming sense of the span of time; as the humans spend thousands of years in coldsleep, the spiders pass through major societal and technological change. The sense of the passage of time is almost Stepledonian; in the coda to the novel, an expedition sets out to find the source of new signals from another old human colony, and the atmosphere is almost that of the ending of Wells' 'Shape of Things to Come'.

So this is possibly the best science fiction novel I have read this year, though readers should note that I do not suffer from archnophobia! ( )
2 vote RobertDay | Dec 17, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 34 (next | show all)
The concept of “uplift” has been around for a while; in this version, humans have destroyed Earth, and are making a last ditch effort to terraform a new home planet. The last stage of the terraforming includes uplifting some apes to serve as slaves for colonists via a nanovirus.

Alas for the humans, things do not go as planned. They accidentally create a planet of sentient spiders.
added by bug_girl | editWIRED.com, Gwen Pearson (Jun 17, 2015)

» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Adrian Tchaikovskyprimary authorall editionscalculated
Herden, BirgitTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hudson, MelNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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There were no windows in the Brin 2 facility - rotation meant that 'outside' was always 'down', underfoot, out of mind.
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Book description
Haiku summary
Alas, Earth is Dead.
Space, the final frontier. Hey!
Form new Earth? UH OH. (Bug Girl)

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 144727329X, Paperback)

WHO WILL INHERIT THIS NEW EARTH? 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?

(retrieved from Amazon Sat, 04 Jul 2015 11:25:28 -0400)

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The last remnants of the human race left a dying Earth, desperate to find a new home. Following their ancestors' star maps, they discovered the greatest treasure of a past age--a world terraformed and prepared for human life. But all is not right in this new Eden. 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 and must fight to survive. As the fate of humanity hangs in the balance, who are the true heirs of this new Earth?… (more)

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