Children of Time

By Adrian Tchaikovsky

Rating: 4 stars

The Earth in the distant future has been rendered uninhabitable, and its last inhabitants flee in an ark ship cobbled together using what remnants of ancient technology that they could recover towards a planet that was, according to the old star maps, terraformed for them and awaiting their arrival. However, when they arrive, they find that they’re not alone and their paradise planet has more than they bargained for.

It took me a while to get into this book, although that was partly my fault, as I took advantage of the relatively short chapters to read it in small doses, when I think it really needed a longer run. Throughout, I was definitely rooting more for the green planet’s inhabitants than the humans on the Gilgamesh. Apart from our POV character, Holsten Mason, the ship’s classicist, none of the others were particularly sympathetic, although chief engineer Lain comes close. I did like the idea that a starship would have a classicist amongst its Key Crew though. The technology that they’re relying on, and that terraformed the planet was from a civilisation long gone, so they need him to translate – like having a Latin scholar in a time travel story about ancient Rome, I suppose.

I found the chapters following the spiders to be the most enjoyable, as we stepped forward in time, seeing their species and civilisation evolve from primitive hunters to something that can build space elevators and has a ring around their world. And I must confess that I didn’t see the end coming. The clash of the two species looked like meaning that genocide of one was inevitable, and the last-minute swerve to avoid it blindsided me entirely, in a good way. The end was uplifting and hopeful and, once I thought about it, entirely in keeping with both the spiders’ technology, and the entire span of their history.

It was nice to see Kern get some redemption towards the end of the book as well. She started as intensely arrogant and unlikeable, then went a bit mad so I was pleased to see her ‘recovery’ into something more likeable and helpful later on. Also, ant colonies as computers! That’s a fabulous idea.

So lots to like here, but don’t be fooled by the short chapters – I’d definitely recommend setting aside blocks of time and reading chunks at a time.

Book details

Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Year of publication: 2015

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