About the Book
Children of Time was written by Adrian Tchaikovsky. Originally published in June 2015 by PanMacmillan. I read the Kindle version published September 18, 2018, by Orbit. Somewhere I read this was Tchaikovsky’s first science fiction novel. I can’t find the source but I did look on his website and couldn’t find another. Speaking of the website you can find Tchaikovsky at https://shadowsoftheapt.com. In addition to winning the Arthur C. Clarke award, Tchaikovsky should get an award for the worst author website. It’s bad – seriously – the worst. Children of Time is the first book in the series of its namesake. The second book, Children of Ruin is out May
Why did I choose this book?
The cover. I admit it. I was walking around Barnes and Noble and they had Children of Time sitting on a table the cover looked very cool and I decided to buy it. Admittedly, I was aware this book existed and had seen it several times on Amazon and other blogs. Seeing it in person sealed the deal.
The reason this book was on my radar is that when I’m searching for new things to read Children of Time kept coming up on websites and blogs “Best Sci-Fi of all time” type articles. A few examples are BookBub 51 Best
The thing is, I read the description online about 10 times and thought, Meh. But like I said, the cover is cool. On a side note, Barnes and Noble should be an Amazon Affiliate because I bought 10 or so books while in the store, on Amazon. I read on my Kindle exclusively… Not much I can do.
What’s the book about?
The book starts with very advanced humanity traveling the stars and terraforming planets. Unfortunately, there are earth factions which see the path to the future differently. One faction named Non Ultra Natura wants humanity to reduce it’s scientific progress and become closer to nature and natural evolution. Another group, not named, is pushing for and developing ways to improve humanity through science and technology.
As you can imagine something goes wrong for Kern and her ship and the monkeys die. Kern lives because she was able to escape to the sentry pod which was supposed to monitor the planet during the uplift. The virus also survived and entered the planet. It began its job of uplifting, even without the monkeys. Shortly after the Brin was destroyed all communication was lost with Earth.
Two thousand years later humans are back in space and heading toward Kerns world on a colony ship called the Gilgamesh. During the time humanity was quiet, the virus was busy uplifting everything it could. Survival of the fittest won out and there are new masters of Kerns world.
The situation on earth isn’t good and the crew of the Gilgamesh believes they are the last of humanity. The Gilgamesh is also carrying thousands of colonists in suspension chambers. These colonists are trusting the crew to get them to a planet where the can start fresh. When the Gilgamesh arrives at Kerns world they are in for a big surprise. Limited on options the crew has to decide how to overcome the
Story – 2.5 stars
The actual story arc
The story from the Gilgamesh’s perspective starts out much better however quickly devolves into one useless story arc after another. The reader believes these story arcs are going to add up to some meaningful conclusion but only a small fraction does. If feels like Tchaikovsky is just inventing things for the Gilgamesh to do so the planet can evolve and the two groups of characters can meet on a more equal footing.
A perfect example of a useless story arc (spoilers) is the Gilgamesh’s trip to the second planet and subsequent old earth space station. Once they find the space station there is an entirely new story arc of Guyen taking a consciousness uploader machine and trying to upload himself. Then when they head back to Kerns world Holsten ask Guyen how the Gilgamesh could stand against Kern when they couldn’t before. Guyen replies, “I’ve gone over the whole damn ship Hosten. The drives been upgraded, the security system, the hull shielding. I’d say you’d not recognize the specs of the Gilgamesh–if I thought you had any idea what they looked like before.”
This is a Sci-Fi book! Had the key crew stumbled on this spacestation and realized they could upgrade the Gilgamesh and go back to Kerns world we could have spent some amazing chapters investigating, learning, and converting old earth technology to help the Gilgamesh find a new home for humanity. A complete missed opportunity.
Why is this book so critically acclaimed? I suspect it’s because the story addresses many hot topics in todays culture as evidence my the review in the Financial Times. The most quoted sentence for the FT review is, “This is superior stuff, tackling big themes — gods, messiahs, artificial intelligence, alienness — with brio.” The book also tackles gender roles in an evolving matriarchal society. I found some of those topics interesting however I read books for pure entertainment. Because of that, I review books on their entertainment value.
Characters – 3 stars
The reader makes an immediate connection with Holston Mason. Mason is the classicist on the key crew. A classicist is a type of historian which specialized in the old earth empire. Since Kerns world is an old empire terraforming project, Mason is a critical component of the crew.
Vrie Guyen is the Gilgameshes leader and a key contributor to the story. You never really know if he is crazy or just determined for the survival of the human race. There are times in the book when I agreed with him and times I thought he was crazy. Decent character development but missed the mark from an entertainment perspective. Most of Guyens story arc was useless in support of the ending.
Portia is the creature on Kerns world we follow through her evolution. She is not the same Portia over thousands of years but it is her descendants and with the nanovirus memories are retained. Throughout the book it feels like the same Portia. I didn’t create an emotional connection with this character. I felt like this whole portion of the book was “blah”.
Character development, in general, was erratic. The book
Pace – 2 stars
The pace was terrible. I considered quitting this book several times. I even reached out on social media to see if there was any hope at all for this book. Luckily the ending was decent.
It doesn’t really “get to it” until about 80% into the book. If you look at the 1-3 star rating on Amazon you can see I’m not the only one who things so.
Originality – 4 stars
The Children of Time story was very original. The whole idea of an uplift nanovirus is not new but I liked how Tchaikovsky used it. Intelligent spiders are also not new to Sci-Fi but how they evolved and confronted human social situations which an arachnid spin seemed original.
There are smatterings of originality throughout this book which I rally liked. I like the Kern human computer merge. I liked the how Portias race approached technology and solving problems.
Technology – 4 stars
Technology in Children of Time is not the books primary focus. Human technology was sub-par. The reason I gave this book 4 stars is strictly on the technology used by Portia’s race. Tchaikovsky had to think through how a spider would invent metallurgy and create technology. The technology felt very alien, which is a good thing. When the Gilgamesh gets back to Kerns world for the final time we get to witness the peak of the
This was not the book for me. I finished it and the ending was good but it could have been so much better. The book was boring 80 percent of the time. It was also very long. What’s funny is I kept comparing this book to Noumenon – which I absolutely hated – and when I look at Goodreads reviews of Children of Time it recommends I might like… Noumenon. I’d say their algorithms are spot on,
Feel free to leave me a comment below. I’m happy to discuss.