Saturday, February 25, 2017

Children of Time

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Title: Children of Time
Series: -----
Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SFF
Pages: 609
Format: Kindle digital edition

Synopsis: Spoilers

In the future humanity has spread far and wide. As have their divisions. One group of scientists is beginning the process of uplifting monkeys on a terraformed world when war breaks out and a saboteur does irreparable damage to the spaceship said scientists are in. The head scientist initiates the uplift program and seals herself in a coffin sized tank to sleep until rescue comes. Unfortunately, the barrel of monkeys gets destroyed and the nanovirus has to find other hosts.

We watch as an insect [Tchaikovsky really has a thing for bugs and he doesn't hold back here] civilization arises due to the effects of the nanovirus.

Fast forward 2000 years. Humanity wiped itself from the stars and sent itself back to barbarianism on Earth. While the last dregs have recreated some of the technology and kluged together several spaceships, Earth is done. Poison from the first war is killing everything. Humanity's last hope is to get to the terraformed planet and start anew.

Two civilizations are on a collision course. Humanity, worn out, still fighting itself and desperate to survive and the Spiders, young, cooperative and desperate to survive.

My Thoughts: Spoilers!!

First, if there was ever a book championing Intelligent Design, by accident, this is it. I'm an Ex Nihilo Creationist myself, so I had a bit of a chuckle when Tchaikovsky starts talking “Evolution” about a man made nano-virus. You can't have it both ways, unless you're a Theistic Evolutionist and the less said about them the better, lol. Ok, onto the serious stuff.

This was a weighty book. We get alternating chapters from humanity and the spiders. It was beautifully orchestrated, with the downward spiral of humans and the upward mobility of the insects. Spiders were the main characters and Tchaikovsky uses several names over generations again and again so we aren't introduced to a bewildering number of Spider characters. So we are always reading about “A” Fabian, or “A” Bianca or “A” Portia, just generations removed. I thought it provided a great thread of continuity for 2000 years of Spider time. Humanity on the other hand, we stick with the same crew from the last Arc ship and time passes for them in cold sleep. We see things through the eyes of one particular man who has been trained to interpret Old Empire records, etc and that is his only skill. So he only gets unthawed when things are going bad and the ship needs his expertise.

The humans are fighting each other right from the get go and don't stop. Tchaikovsky really hammers down on individualism and our propensity for conflict even in the face of extinction. It felt a little heavy handed at times but it was just so true to form that I shook my head and was like “Yep, that's us”. The spiders on the other hand, while having conflict within their society and from other “less uplifted” insect civilizations, are all about working together and overcoming differences. It didn't come across as preachy though but as a natural outflow of how spiders work.

And that leads into the ending.

There are no other planets for the colonist ship to go to. The Spiders don't have interstellar travel so they are stuck on their planet. It is an apparent lose-lose situation for everyone as the humans are just going to wipe out the spiders and the spiders will wipe out the humans, all in the name of survival. Then Tchaikovsky pulls a magical nanovirus stick out of his bum and suddenly the humans just love and adore the spiders and everyone gets along famously. Fast forward to the very end of the book and Spiders and Humans are living in peace and ready to explore the stars with their new love and appreciation for each other.

My only real complaint of the book is this: Nothing the old Empire does goes right or survives. Colonies die, terraformed planets go haywire, ships crash and burn and YET the nanovirus miraculously does exactly what it is supposed to and doesn't go astray. It was just a smidge more than I could accept.

Other than that, this was an exciting read with a lot of tension right up until the end and solidifies in my mind that Tchaikosky is a Real Author.

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