Review: Children of Ruin by Adrian Tchaikovsky

  • On: 26th Feb 2023
  • Category: Reviews

Children of Ruin is the second entry in the Children of Time series by Adrian Tchaikovsky. If you’ve read my review of the first book (which you can read here if you haven’t) you might recall that I absolutely LOVED it, and the same goes for Children of Ruin – what an incredible story!

Like its predecessor before it, Children of Ruin is also an award-winning story; although where Children of Time won the Arthur C. Clarke Award, this book won the British SF Association Award for Best Novel – another most deserving award!

Structurally the sequel is different to its forbear, which alternated between the events occurring on Kern’s World and its sentient Arachnid inhabitants, and The Gilgamesh, an Ark ship and its human cargo. Instead, Children of Ruin switches between past and present, as well as three main protagonist groups. I found this narrative change a little odd at first, probably because I was expecting something more akin to the first book, but it grows on you very quickly, and before you know it, you are enthralled in the story.

So what story is Children of Ruin telling? Read on, but here’s your spoiler warning!

The book starts in a similar time period to the first book – the original human civilisation is spreading out among the stars and terraforming worlds. Specific to this story is the terraforming vessel, the Aegean. Arriving in their designated star system, they’ve two terraforming candidates – a frozen ice world, soon named Damascus, and a relatively barren world populated by strange alien life, which is given the name Nod.

Deciding that they can’t simply erase the life already present on Nod, they opt to study it instead and decide to focus their terraforming efforts on Damascus. Expedition leader, Yusuf Baltiel, focuses on Nod’s alien lifeforms, while Dirsa Senkovi focuses on Damascus’s transformation. Dr. Avrana Kern, the central scientific mind from the first book, is a colleague within the larger terraforming program, and her work on the uplift nanovirus is known to the likes of Senkovi.

As Damascus begins to warm and liquid oceans form, Senkovi forms the idea that he can use the same virus - the Rus-Calif virus – to uplift octopus, setting in motion the creation of a new sentient species. When a parasitic lifeform from Nod brings an end to the Humans, the Octopi are left to evolve in isolation.

In the present timeline, the Voyager, a joint venture between the Portiid spiders and the humans, arrives in the Damascus/Nod system, seeking the source of a radio signal they detected at the end of Children of Time. What follows is the trial and tribulations that come from different species with vastly different communication styles and cultures trying to find common ground on which to interface. Add in the confusion of whether or not Nod’s parasitic lifeform is friend or foe, and you have one complex, fantastic and interesting story.

The story Tchaikovsky tells is original, well-thought-out, engaging, and downright captivating. The science and pseudo-science are intricate and rich, not used too little or too much. For all I’ve touched on in this review, it’s only the tip of the iceberg that is this story. I can’t recommend this book or its predecessor enough – both are fantastic reads – if you enjoy sci-fi, do yourself a favour and pick up a copy of Children of Ruin today.

Background image by Casey Horner on Unsplash