Review: Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky

  • On: 28th Oct 2022
  • Category: Reviews

Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky: originally published by PanMacmillan 2015

I absolutely LOVED Children of Time! Its ideas were big, & its timescale even bigger! Tchaikovsky has created a vast, rich universe that is thrilling to explore.

To review this story in a spoiler-free manner would be to exclude all the elements that are so fundamentally woven into the DNA of this story, so spoiler warning!

Children of Time is split between two primary locations, a terraformed genesis world known as ‘Kern’s World’ and an Ark ship, The Gilgamesh. The story starts in a space station in orbit above Kern’s World, the planet already terraformed and populated with an ecosystem of small mammals, birds and insects uplifted from Earth. The planet is about to embark on an ambitious scientific project – a colony of chimpanzees is going to be added to the world, along with a nanovirus designed to accelerate the evolution of the apes.

Human conflict knows no bounds, and an ideological terrorist from Earth destroys the space station and the chimpanzees, leaving only two survivors; Dr Avrana Kern, stuck inside the observational century satellite, and the nanovirus, which is sent down to the planet. So begins a journey of evolution that spans thousands of years and is where Tchaikovsky explores some of his most extensive and most exciting ideas.

Over the centuries, the nanovirus, whilst designed for apes, finds suitable hosts amongst several of the planet’s arachnid, insect and crustacean species. Gifted with rapidly increasing intelligence, genetic memory, and overall peaceful behaviours, the primary species, evolved Portia labiata spiders, are the surrogate through which a plethora of ideas are explored; evolution, social development, religious and scientific development (and the struggles between the two), and technological development.

Meanwhile, a very different story, and yet similar story, plays out in the Gilgamesh. The terrorists that destroyed Kern’s intended experiment also sparked a war on Earth and its colonies, eventually destroying them all. A relatively small group of survivors, regressed from the civilisation that’d created the ashes they were born into, escape the graveyard of Earth in at least one (but probably a few) Ark ships. Following old star charts of terraformed worlds, they set out hoping to find a new home.

Most of the humans aboard the Gilgamesh are in cryogenic sleep, but on and off throughout its life, various key crew and colonising individuals are awoken. During these periods, they mostly unknowingly repeat their ancestors' mistakes and at times, find themselves devolving, regressing into more primitive social structures and with fewer technological understandings – a stark contrast to the journey the spiders are on!

All of this only scratches the surface of the Children of Time story. Don’t be put off by the arachnids – they are actually very relatable and sympathetic creatures.

Children of Time is won the 2015 Arthur C. Clarke Award, a most deserving award! The level of thought and detail that Tchaikovsky has put into the story, whilst wrapping it all up in a well-paced, easy-to-read story, is impressive and inspirational. The quality of this story is the level I aspire to reach with my writing, and I can only hope to be half as good with my storytelling one day.

A highly recommended read, five stars, do yourself a favour and check this book out!

Background image by Casey Horner on Unsplash