Adrian Tchaikovsky – Children of Time

Children of Time starts with a prologue of sorts that sets up two different story lines (humans versus spiders). As Peter F. Hamilton’s cover endorsement nails, “evolutionary world-building” is the key theme Children of Time, with an emphasis on evolution.

Children of Time starts with a prologue of sorts that sets up two different story lines (humans versus spiders). As Peter F. Hamilton’s cover endorsement nails, “evolutionary world-building” is the key theme Children of Time, with an emphasis on evolution. To achieve this the author indulges in large time gaps regularly for the humans (in hibernation) while the spiders happily evolve up the intelligence ladder.

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Children of Time coverCHILDREN OF TIME

by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Publisher by: Pan; Main Market Ed. edition (May 19, 2016)

Paperback: 608 pages

My rating: 8/10

First sentence: “There were no windows in the Brin 2 facility – rotation meant that ‘outside’ was always ‘down’, underfoot, out of mind.”

The last remnants of the human race left a dying Earth, desperate to find a new home among the stars. Following in the footsteps of their ancestors, they discover the greatest treasure of the past age – a world terraformed and prepared for human life.

But all is not right in this new Eden. In the long years since the planet was abandoned, the work of its architects has borne disastrous fruit. The planet is not waiting for them, pristine and unoccupied. New masters have turned it from a refuge into mankind’s worst nightmare.

Now two civilizations are on a collision course, both testing the boundaries of what they will do to survive. As the fate of humanity hangs in the balance, who are the true heirs of this new Earth?

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The choice of insects (spiders, ants, and others) is interesting with many readers probably suffering from a spider aversion or who are downright arachnophobic. The author clearly has done his homework on spider anatomy/biology/ecology and the perspective of the spider characters as they develop is a really positive aspect of the book. The author achieves a uniquely inhuman perspective in the spiders, ants, and other insects. One of the most thrilling and terrifying parts of the book is the interaction of humans with the evolving insects and the visions of baseball sized ants chewing through your abdomen. The author captures the visceral terror quite well, while not overdoing the graphic violence.

The human side of the story covers diaspora from a more familiar science fiction trope. Humans have ruined Earth and the remnants have to leave to find a new home. The also familiar trope of a descendant race of humans is all that is left of a glorious more advanced previous civilization(s) creates the driving motivations of the surviving humans. The main protagonist ‘classicist’ struggles with the need/desire to rediscover the old civilization’s knowledge and specifically technology, while at the same time yearning to pave a new path for humanity. Underlying this is the doubt that all has been discovered and done before and that a new path is futile.

Tchaikovsky does well with building tension and keeping the reader guessing and mostly in the dark in the human story line. It is a slow build in tension between characters with some very good dialogue between the protagonist and the other leads. Unfortunately the characters are very one-dimensional, literally each displaying one trait such as cowardice, over-aggression, psychopathy, sociopathy, and so on.

The spider story line takes on more Asimov-like large scale world building. The author tends to the third person to explain much of spider society and events, while the mute spiders intersperse dialogue in italics. The author roughly wields large themes in building the spider society that mimic large societal struggles such as religious conservatism, progressive technological development, warfare, and individual rights. Not much is subtle and much seems glossed over, or that the author is ‘talking at’ the reader to get points across. Because of the format it felt like watching a National Geographic documentary that has turned into a History channel show starring spiders, leaving me not very invested in the actual characters.

By the last section of the book I was very tired of generations of spiders being referred two by three names instead of individual spider characters. Worse so, the spiders evolution seemed to have stagnated and the characters really didn’t have the depth to be differentiated between multiple generations. What does work is the idea of spider space exploration and their ability to build, extrapolated to the extreme.

The overarching theme throughout the novel is communication and what it means between intelligent beings. Although a building undercurrent throughout the entire novel, especially on the spider story line in the second section, the author basically ‘talks to the reader’ in the final pages about this theme. The author lays out all the questions about forms of communication, the failure to communicate, and how limited our ideas can be when we don’t communicate. The biggest science fiction leap and near-science idea of future communication are understandings (as the author names it). In the end the author waxes about empathy and the ability to see yourself in others that allows for progress and growth. I left the final pages wondering whether understandings are a form of communication or more of a brainwashing.

I felt the characters were weak throughout the novel and so did not feel invested in either story line; I didn’t really feel compelled to root for one side or the other. This fact aside, I never got tired of the ideas throughout the book and that is the major strength of Children of Time. The imaginative world of the spiders is fantastic and the issues faced by both species keeps you thinking throughout.

Top Video Game Themed SciFi Novels

From copious pop culture references, to Jason Bourne-like plot lines, strap in and get ready to….read about being online?

Cline Ready Player One_website image

Top Video Game Themed SciFi Novels

Not ranking, but just a group of excellent science fiction books with video games as a main theme.

armada coverARMADA

by Ernest Cline

Paperback: 384 pages

Publisher: Broadway Books; Reprint edition (April 12 2016)

Zack Lightman has spent his life dreaming. Dreaming that the real world could be a little more like the countless science-fiction books, movies, and video games he’s spent his life consuming. Dreaming that one day, some fantastic, world-altering event will shatter the monotony of his humdrum existence and whisk him off on some grand space-faring adventure.

for the win coverFOR THE WIN

by Cory Doctorow

Hardcover: 480 pages

Publisher:Tom Doherty Associates (May 11, 2010)

In the virtual future, you must organize to survive.

At any hour of the day or night, millions of people around the globe are engrossed in multiplayer online games, questing and battling to win virtual “gold,” jewels, and precious artifacts. Meanwhile, others seek to exploit this vast shadow economy, running electronic sweatshops in the world’s poorest countries, where countless “gold farmers,” bound to their work by abusive contracts and physical threats, harvest virtual treasure for their employers to sell to First World gamers who are willing to spend real money to skip straight to higher-level gameplay.

in real life coverIN REAL LIFE

by Cory Doctorow (author) and Jan Wang (illustrator)

Paperback: 192 pages

Publisher: First Second (October 14, 2014)

Anda loves Coarsegold Online, the massively-multiplayer role playing game that she spends most of her free time on. It’s a place where she can be a leader, a fighter, a hero. It’s a place where she can meet people from all over the world, and make friends. Gaming is, for Anda, entirely a good thing.

Ready player one coverREADY PLAYER ONE

by Ernst Cline

Paperback: 400 pages

Publisher: Broadway Books; First Edition edition (June 5, 2012)

In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines—puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them.

reamde coverREAMDE

by Neal Stephenson

Paperback: 1056 pages

Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (May 15, 2012)

With Reamde, this visionary author whose mind-stretching fiction has been enthusiastically compared to the work of Thomas Pynchon, Don DeLillo, Kurt Vonnegut, and David Foster Wallace—not to mention William Gibson and Michael Crichton—once again blazes new ground with a high-stakes thriller that will enthrall his loyal audience, science and science fiction, and espionage fiction fans equally. The breathtaking tale of a wealthy tech entrepreneur caught in the very real crossfire of his own online fantasy war game, Reamde is a new high—and a new world—for the remarkable Neal Stephenson.

Introduction

Welcome to MaverickSciFi blog!

Welcome to MaverickSciFi blog!

I’ve created this blog to discuss science fiction literature, specifically novels, in the form of book reviews.  I’m new to blogging, so it will be a learning experience.

I vaguely remember my first real dive into science fiction, it would be the Asimov universe. It began with reading the detective series and Asimov’s short stories and then the Foundation series.  Reading changed for me after discovering the prequels and sequels to the original Foundation series and seeing it all come together.  The idea of universe building with large overarching themes was what hooked me and still does.

I will try to read and write as often as possible and hope to share my thoughts and hear from you about your thoughts.