Review: Children of Memory by Adrian Tchaikovsky

  • On: 11th May 2023
  • Category: Reviews

Children of Memory by Adrian Tchaikovsky: first published January 31st 2023

Children of Memory is the third entry in the Children of Time series by Adrian Tchaikovsky. If you’ve read my reviews of books 1, Children of Time, and 2, Children of Ruin, you’ll know that I adored both stories.

This third entry, however … I really struggled with. The narrative format is very different from its predecessors, with a structure that I found confusing to follow. Part of this is intentional – a clue to a mystery that is built up over the first 85% of the story – but when it comes time to pull back the curtain and reveal what has been happening all this time … well, the answer is underwhelming, and personally, I found it to be quite unsatisfactory.

I won’t delve into the general plot as much as I did in my previous reviews, as the story didn’t excite me like its forebears did, but nonetheless, spoilers are ahead!

We’re introduced to the core crew of the Enkidu, another of humanity’s Ark ships, of the same generation as the Gilgamesh that we followed in Children of Time. After many years travelling through space, they arrive at their designated terraformed world, only to discover that the planet, Imir, has only been partially terraformed: it has breathable air and the beginnings of an ecosystem, with plankton in the oceans and lichen on the land – far from the earth-like world they were expecting.

Ideally, they would continue, seeking out a more suitable world, but the Enkidu is old and worn out – it has travelled far but will not survive travelling further. For the humans onboard, it’s Imir or death, and ultimately, the settlement they construct only goes on to support a small number of colonists – the bulk of the sleeping cargo is killed off where they lie.

We follow Liff, a descendant of those first colonists, a young girl living in the settlement, which is now systematically failing due to the incomplete nature of the planet’s ecosystems. It’s supported life up until this point, but only barely, and it’s now passed a point of no return, spiralling down towards guaranteed destruction.

Then in come the familiar characters from the first two books; a multi-species crew of Spiders, Octopuses, Humans, AI, and Ravens comes across Imir, and decides to send down a landing party to observe the locals up close and personal. Disguised as humans, they get caught up in the colonies failing society, experiencing the fractured reality of the settlement.

At one point in the story, we detour to explore the origin of the Ravens, which mysteriously popped up at the end of Children of Ruin with zero explanation. Their story feels like a tacked-on addition, and in some ways, I think it deserved to be fleshed out more and could’ve made for a more exciting story.

After getting four-fifths of the way through the story, the secret of the story is revealed – there is a piece of alien technology buried on Imir that seamlessly copies the minds of beings in its sphere of influence into a simulated world. It copied in the colonists when they first arrived, having them live out multi-generational lifetimes inside its electronic environment, and it copied the multi-species landing crew when they descended; however, the nature of the Nodan crewmember overwhelms the machine, causing the confusing narrative we experienced in the story so far.

This all leads to a philosophical discussion about what sentience is. From there, the crew heads back out into the stars, taking their newfound understanding of the alien simulation machine with them. As I mentioned above, I found this conclusion underwhelming and unsatisfactory.

Overall, I felt this was by far the weakest entry in the series thus far. I don’t know if Tchaikovsky intends to write more sequels, but if he did, I would approach them with caution; if the story were in the vein of books one and two, it would be a shut up and take my money moment. However, if the story is like the third book, it would definitely be a cautiously approached read.

Have you read Children of Memory? What did you think? Let me know in the comments down below!

Background image by Casey Horner on Unsplash