BooksOfTheMoon

Children of Ruin (Children of Time #2)

By Adrian Tchaikovsky

Rating: 4 stars

After receiving signals from another world that may be part of the diaspora of fallen Earth, the Portiids and Humans of Kern’s World launch an expedition towards the distant star. There, they find something that the terraforming team that had launched at about the same time as Avrana Kern had stirred up and which may have been best left buried.

So this book is to octopodes, octopi, octopuses, what Children of Time was to spiders. One of the terraforming team that comes to the worlds later known as Nod and Damascus is fond of the creatures and harbours hopes of uplifting them. The cephalopods have the advantage of not having to start from scratch, and are able to build on the technology that their human creators left them, creating a civilisation that expands to fill their solar system, to the wonder of the Humans and Portiids that find them.

What I loved about this book was just how alien the octopus mind was. Tchaikovsky extrapolated from modern octopuses and the way that the tentacles have almost their own sub-mind to create a very different way of thinking for his creatures. At times I struggled to comprehend such a way of thinking, where the surface, conscious, level is all emotion and reaction (the what), while the logic and maths (the how) is left to the tentacles, without the seat of consciousness necessarily being aware of what was going on.

Communicating with such creatures is necessarily difficult, but Tchaikovsky manages to both describe the difficulty and the way that the gap is bridged in a strong, and interesting, way.

One of the more unexpectedly interesting characters in the book was Avrana Kern, who is something between the operating system for all Portiid technology and grumpy old mentor. We see multiple instances of Kern, running different systems, and get somewhat inside her ant-filled head (I still love ants as computing substrate). The complexity of a thinking AI that is aware of how much it has lost in terms of ability to feel emotions is fascinating.

Spoiler
And that epilogue! A true co-operative interstellar civilisation. It raised goosebumps as I was reading it. And can we get a book about corvids next, please?

A worthy sequel to Children of Time, with lots of great ideas and characters. Also a great attempt at writing a non-human sentient species that isn’t just humans with lumpy foreheads.

Oh, and never has the phrase “we’re going on an adventure” been so sinister…

Book details

ISBN: 9781509865857

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