'Children of Time' - Book Review

Children of Time
by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Tor, 600 pages

A good friend recommended this to me, but when it arrived on the hold shelf at the library I thought "he really should have told me it was the length of a Bible!" Having just finished reading it, it seems to me that it's just as well he didn't: I might not have ordered it, and that would have been a real shame.

The book spans millennia. The amount of time is never specified, but it doesn't really matter: it's hundreds of thousands of years, split between a world where we skip across tens of thousands of generations of uplifted spiders and a human cold storage ship voyaging between the stars trying to find a new home. Two groups set on an inevitable collision course. Tchaikovsky has woven so many disparate science fiction concepts into one novel that if you look at it from the outside you're going to believe there's no possible way he can make it work. He takes on:

  • the poisoning of the Earth
  • future Luddites
  • species uplift
  • racism/phobias (they're spiders)
  • artificial intelligence
  • biotechnology
  • godhood
  • species war
  • millennia spacecraft
  • terraforming

And that's probably not everything that I could name. But I'm making a list after the fact, whereas he was just trying to write a good story. And I've made a silly list and he's made a fantastic novel.

Yes, it's long: and if you're like me, you'll treasure the whole thing. The struggles of the generations of spiders, their evolution sped thousands of times by a nanovirus, and the last colony ship from the poisoned Earth, desperately seeking a terraformed world left behind by the "Old Empire" (a previous human civilization).

And it comes complete with a WTF ending - but the good kind. There are twist endings that come out of nowhere and completely destroy a book or movie. And then there are ones like this, ones that work - after you pick your jaw up off the floor. The two most memorable recent examples I can think of are both movies, "The Sisters Brothers" and "Ex Machina."

Best book I've read this year, highly recommended.