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Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Children of Time (edition 2016)

by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Author)

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2111555,323 (4.07)17
Title:Children of Time
Authors:Adrian Tchaikovsky (Author)
Info:Pan (2016), Edition: Main Market Ed., 608 pages
Collections:Your library

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Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky


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I’ve read an enormous amount of science fiction over the years, so it takes more than a run of the mill space opera to get my attention. That having been said, this was a very good work, which while not completely original, certainly could not be considered hackneyed or derivative.


In a distant future, the Earth undergoes something of a civil war, between those who wish to explore the stars and those who adamantly do not. The former seek to terraform and colonize nearby star systems. As this project is progressing, the opposition sparks an Armageddon that takes life on Earth back to the Stone Age.

Meanwhile, life on one of the terraformed planets develops, quickened by a catalyst, though this life progression is nothing like what had originally been planned. Over the years, life on Earth undergoes a slow return to pre-cataclysm technological capability, including space flight. The Earth is slowly becoming less and less habitable, and the remnants of the human race depart the earth aboard a space ark of sorts, destination our terraformed planet.

So, with all this background, the novel tracks both the alien life on the terraformed planet and the Earth colonists in alternating story threads that ultimately converge in the final fifty pages.

The alien life form (not entirely alien in nature) and its evolution are presented very cleverly by the author. The human characters are outstanding. I can very heartily recommend this novel to anyone that enjoys science fiction. ( )
  santhony | Apr 28, 2017 |
Materialistic determinism will only get you so far. This book lacked the basic plausibility found in others of this genre. Generations of humans acting as machines with no soul or independent thought is a little dull after 600 pages. The story bogged down a lot in the middle chapters as well. The typical pointless gender switching is getting a little old as well. Dune and Hyperion are infinitely better reads. Three Body Problem is infinitely better. ( )
  wrevans | Apr 25, 2017 |
Very mild spoilers.

There's a lot to like about this book. It was really a 3 star book, but the author gets a pass since its an early book and I think he has a lot of potential.

The good:
- Good, hard science fiction. I liked the main characters: the bumbling classicist, the self-obsessed captain, although the "bad-ass female engineer troupe" is getting a little tired.
- The spider society was interesting. The author clearly thought out how it would work, and spent time on the details.
- A good overall story with an ending that lands.

The bad:
- A little long. I could have lived with a 500 page book rather than a 700 page book. Did we really need to see every single stage of spider society? Yes, I get it: the scenes on the ship and the scenes on the spider planet follow a parallel thematic arch. But you could have done that with several fewer chapters.
- The spider characters were a tiny bit flat. Since we get a new set every chapter, its hard to get to know them with any
- I think "inspired" is the word. There is another desperate-earthlings-orbiting-a-society-of-primitive-spider-aliens-and-we-observe-the-aliens-developing-through-time book by Vernor Vinge ([b:A Deepness in the Sky|226004|A Deepness in the Sky (Zones of Thought, #2)|Vernor Vinge|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1217218691s/226004.jpg|1270006]), which is better in my opinion. The Spider stories remind me of [b:The Years of Rice and Salt|2723|The Years of Rice and Salt|Kim Stanley Robinson|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1419079388s/2723.jpg|74882] by Kim Stanley Robinson. If you liked this, try those.

The wasted opportunities:
- Why have a prologue at all? Wouldn't this have been a much better book if we never learned who was in the satellite? Wouldn't it have been great, having the earthers interact with this eerie, distant, half-crazed power? Wouldn't it have made the captains actions that much more crazed, standing up to this remnant of a fallen empire? Wouldn't it be great to see the spiders learn about a literal god in their sky? It even would have fit thematically: we would get to see how these two societies react to the unknown.

Overall, 3 stars. Probably would have been 4 stars without the prologue,
( )
  dwkenefick | Apr 20, 2017 |
This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything and links at Booklikes, & Goodreads by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Children of Time
Series: -----
Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SFF
Pages: 609
Format: Kindle digital edition

Synopsis: Spoilers

In the future humanity has spread far and wide. As have their divisions. One group of scientists is beginning the process of uplifting monkeys on a terraformed world when war breaks out and a saboteur does irreparable damage to the spaceship said scientists are in. The head scientist initiates the uplift program and seals herself in a coffin sized tank to sleep until rescue comes. Unfortunately, the barrel of monkeys gets destroyed and the nanovirus has to find other hosts.

We watch as an insect [Tchaikovsky really has a thing for bugs and he doesn't hold back here] civilization arises due to the effects of the nanovirus.

Fast forward 2000 years. Humanity wiped itself from the stars and sent itself back to barbarianism on Earth. While the last dregs have recreated some of the technology and kluged together several spaceships, Earth is done. Poison from the first war is killing everything. Humanity's last hope is to get to the terraformed planet and start anew.

Two civilizations are on a collision course. Humanity, worn out, still fighting itself and desperate to survive and the Spiders, young, cooperative and desperate to survive.

My Thoughts: Spoilers!!

First, if there was ever a book championing Intelligent Design, by accident, this is it. I'm an Ex Nihilo Creationist myself, so I had a bit of a chuckle when Tchaikovsky starts talking “Evolution” about a man made nano-virus. You can't have it both ways, unless you're a Theistic Evolutionist and the less said about them the better, lol. Ok, onto the serious stuff.

This was a weighty book. We get alternating chapters from humanity and the spiders. It was beautifully orchestrated, with the downward spiral of humans and the upward mobility of the insects. Spiders were the main characters and Tchaikovsky uses several names over generations again and again so we aren't introduced to a bewildering number of Spider characters. So we are always reading about “A” Fabian, or “A” Bianca or “A” Portia, just generations removed. I thought it provided a great thread of continuity for 2000 years of Spider time. Humanity on the other hand, we stick with the same crew from the last Arc ship and time passes for them in cold sleep. We see things through the eyes of one particular man who has been trained to interpret Old Empire records, etc and that is his only skill. So he only gets unthawed when things are going bad and the ship needs his expertise.

The humans are fighting each other right from the get go and don't stop. Tchaikovsky really hammers down on individualism and our propensity for conflict even in the face of extinction. It felt a little heavy handed at times but it was just so true to form that I shook my head and was like “Yep, that's us”.
The spiders on the other hand, while having conflict within their society and from other “less uplifted” insect civilizations, are all about working together and overcoming differences. It didn't come across as preachy though but as a natural outflow of how spiders work.

And that leads into the ending.

There are no other planets for the colonist ship to go to. The Spiders don't have interstellar travel so they are stuck on their planet. It is an apparent lose-lose situation for everyone as the humans are just going to wipe out the spiders and the spiders will wipe out the humans, all in the name of survival. Then Tchaikovsky pulls a magical nanovirus stick out of his bum and suddenly the humans just love and adore the spiders and everyone gets along famously. Fast forward to the very end of the book and Spiders and Humans are living in peace and ready to explore the stars with their new love and appreciation for each other.

And that leads me into my only real complaint of this book. Nothing the old Empire does goes right or survives. Colonies die, terraformed planets go haywire, ships crash and burn and YET the nanovirus miraculously does exactly what it is supposed to and doesn't go astray. It was just a smidge more than I could accept.

Other than that, this was an exciting read with a lot of tension right up until the end and solidifies in my mind that Tchaikovsky is a Real Author. ( )
1 vote BookstoogeLT | Feb 25, 2017 |
Dying Earth, nano-virus, terraforming, arkship, non-human intelligence, a crazy scientist, AI, human-AI mix, crazy ship captain and a few millennia of history. It sounds like a checklist of what can be added to a science fiction series, doesn't it?

For his debut science fiction novel (but not his debut novel by a lot), Tchaikovsky did not just pick one thing from the list. Or 2. Or 5. He used all of them - and added even more. And then he decided that this will be a standalone story and wrapped the story in 600 pages. It should not have worked. And yet, it is one of the best SF novels I had read in a long time.

It all started with the uplift project (ran by the Brin Habitat of course - how else could it have been called?) - a project to terraform a string of planets, add monkeys and a nano-virus to allow them to reach intelligence a lot faster and see what will happen. It should have been the biggest success of the human race. But that being humanity after all, the things do not go as planned and the slightly crazy scientist Dr. Kern ends up overseeing her own project - minus the monkeys. And while the planet is evolving with the help of the virus (but without the recipients for it), humanity destroys Earth in more than one way (and lives through an ice age just to make it really messy) and ends up on an arkship, trying to follow a map everyone had forgotten for millennia. And that's where the story really starts.

The planet, Kern's World, now has a living population - of big intelligent spiders (at least it was not cockroaches - that would have been logical but would not have worked - Tchaikovsky knows his animals and picked the one that actually could pull off a success). The protection inside of the virus that was supposed to protect the monkeys from competition, does its job rendering all vertebrae animals stupid. But everyone forgot the other members of the animal family - and the green planet is more of a nightmare. And humanity is coming.

Add a few battles, a shifting story (we have one chapter with the humans, one with the spiders) and evolution on a scale that noone had ever seen (time passes and the nano-virus helps as well), more than one reversal of fortune (for both species), the titular crazy scientist getting crazier and causing a lot of the issues on both sides and an end that was so logical but also so unexpected that I did not see it coming. And it is a perfect end of a story about intelligence and beliefs.

But it is not just a story of battle and survival - because Tchaikovsky builds his evolution story step by step - through the dark ages and the religious dark times (and it is almost logical that the first time the spiders go on a war against each other, it is because of a human); through innovation and progress. It is a success story, even if the monkeys never made it on the planet - and at the end, the evolution wins against stupidity.

A wonderful story (as long as you are not afraid of spiders) and I am not surprised at all that it won the Arthur C. Clarke award - it is a reimaged story from the past but told in a new way. ( )
  AnnieMod | Jan 3, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 15 (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)
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To Portia
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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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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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