Although it almost took me three months to read Adrian Tchaikovsky’s first science fiction novel Children of Time, I cannot give it any other than the maximum rating because of its big ideas and final message.
External factors in my life might have taken my attention away from the book more than I have intended, though I do have to admit that even with taking this out of the equation, I found it a little hard to get into the plot and story through the first few chapters. I am not particularly fond of spiders, which might have been a contributing factor. It might also have been because I struggled staying fully immersed through the short chapters with alternating storylines. Still, I came to appreciate the very unfamiliar perception of, and life of the arachnid characters and the different approach to the difficulties their society and neighbouring societies have to deal with. Much easier was identifying with humankind’s last remnants in their desperate departure from Earth on the ark ship Gilgamesh. As much as I would like not to get so worked up about what is currently going on in our world, Tchaikovsky’s solid writing resonated with me so much that I somehow found validation in a work of fiction, reflecting on my own worries.
She had racked her piecemeal recollection of her species’ history and found only a hierarchy of destruction: of her species devastating the fauna of planet Earth, and then turning on its own sibling offshoots, and then at last, when no other suitable adversaries remained, tearing at itself. Mankind brooks no competitors, She has explained to them — not even its own reflection.
It saddens me to fully grasp this half-empty glass view on humankind. It really does seem like we cannot achieve anything without bringing some form of destruction to the table and the question still lingers in my mind whether we would be able to survive without artificial intervention. Life aboard the Gilgamesh is eerie, dreary and dark, even though there was always some hope left. That little spark of hope, which is perhaps the one thing that will keep any of us going, until it dies out and we finally give up.
The book embodies several interesting themes such as gender equality, religion, artificial enhancements and intelligence, language, exploration, survival and (self-)destruction and delivers everything in a believable manner brimming with remarkable characters, intriguing settings and memorable moments.
Towards the end of the book, I became so engrossed I found it hard to put it down and not ignore my surroundings, and before I even thought about how I would have liked everything to come together, Tchaikovsky delivered a deeply satisfying conclusion without loose ends. Because even after all hope is lost, who is to say it is the end of all things?
Children of Time could have easily been strewn out with umpteen sequels to an initial installment and I am very grateful that it was not. I like how the vastness and scope of this space opera is contained into one standalone novel so its brilliance and message can never waver.
We will show them, Portia thinks. We will show them the error of their ways.