#REVIEW: CHILDREN OF TIME, by Adrian Tchaikovsky

It is hyperbole, but only by a little bit, to state that I have hated every second of 2019. I won’t go into the details; if you’ve been reading here for a while and especially if you follow me on Patreon you know a lot of them by now, but this has been the single worst year of my life by a wide margin and there are still four fucking months of it left.

The one shining bright spot of 2019 has been the books I’ve been reading. Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Children of Time was number ninety, I believe, and it is the book that convinced me that my traditional end-of-year top 10 list is probably going to have to be pushed to fifteen this year. It was effectively a random buy; we took my son to Barnes and Noble to spend some money on him for his birthday and it jumped off the shelf at me. I will own the sequel by the end of the weekend.

Children of Time is a post-apocalyptic, more or less post-human novel set in two places: a green planet far from Earth and an ancient, decaying generation ship containing what are, as far as the occupants know, the last few thousand members of the human race. It takes place over centuries if not actual millennia– the time scale is kept fuzzy, and the human characters’ ability to put themselves into cryogenic storage until the next event that causes them to need to wake up allows the timeline to be pushed well beyond the human lifespan. At the very beginning, a human scientist attempts to seed the green planet with primate life and with a nanovirus that will tailor their evolution over the years to produce sentient life on the level of human beings. Something goes terribly wrong, and the proto-primates are lost, but the nanovirus is not … and it settles into a species of spider instead. The book tells two parallel stories: the slow evolution of the spider species and their eventual rise to supremacy on their planet, a story that takes place over many generations and thus has many different “main” characters for each part of the book, most of whom are named “Portia,” basically for narrative convenience, and the remaining humans on a generation ship called the Gilgamesh, a cultural reference they have long since forgotten the meaning of. Eventually, the two discover each other’s existence, and while there is conflict, it doesn’t work out the way you think it will, and the final resolution was so simple and elegant that it blew me away.

It is– and this is the entire review, so pay attention– one of the most fantastically inventive things I have ever read. That should be clear just from the plot summary, right? You already know you need to read this book, and you should go get it right now and get started. I know, I know, I’m prone to hyperbole, I start the review off with hyperbole and I mention my tendency toward hyperbole in damn near every positive review I write. But this book is really something special, y’all. You owe it to yourself to read it.

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Luther M. Siler

Teacher, writer of words, and local curmudgeon. Enthusiastically profane. Occasionally hostile.

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