Children of Ruin

Posted: June 6, 2020 in Book reviews, science fiction
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51qQMNkR-wL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_By Adrian Tchaikovsky

A little spoiler warning. Because this is a sequel, I will refer to events of Children of Time, so be warned! (And If you haven’t read Children of Time I heartily suggest you do!)

An earth terraforming project travelled many lightyears to a distant star, and a world they named Nod. They expected to find a blank slate upon which they could imprint a copy of Earth, but instead found a world teeming with alien life. While part of the terraforming team studied this world, others travelled to an ocean planet they named Damascus. Here they began to terraform, and began breeding octopuses using an experimental drug to uplift their intelligence. Soon Earth collapsed as the conflict there reached a terrible conclusion, and the terraformers were left all alone in the universe, or so they thought…

Thousands of years later the remains of humanity, along with their spider allies, travel to the worlds of Nod and Damascus, following fragmentary radio signals. They find an advanced race that can trace its roots back to old Earth, and, more terrifying, something truly alien that threatens them all.

* * *

Children of Time is probably the most enjoyable book I’ve read in the last ten years, so I was eagerly anticipating this sequel, and its fair to said Tchaikovsky didn’t disappoint. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t quite as good as Children of Time, but that novel was always going to be a hard act to follow, and the author deserves all the kudos imaginable for writing a follow up this enjoyable and it kept me gripped from the first page to the last.

The main issue is that the element of surprise is missing, but having said that, in doing for octopuses (octopi? Even Tchaikovsky doesn’t seem sure of the correct nomenclature) what he previously did for spiders, he once again showcases not only an incredible imagination, but also an in-depth knowledge of biology. More importantly he’s able to get that across in a way that the average reader can understand.

As with Children of Time, his world building is truly stupendous, but any indication that this is merely a carbon copy is quickly dispelled. What starts as sci-fi soon morphs into something far darker as he creates a species whose existence threatens the very nature of what it means to be an individual human (or spider, or octopus), and the repeated “We’re going on an adventure” line is incredibly unsettling (and would work equally well on screen if you ask me).

His prose is excellent, and as said his worldbuilding top drawer. If there’s a flaw I’d say that the some of the characters didn’t quite come alive for me, though I did really engage with the terraformers Senkovi and Baltiel, and also with Fabian, the male spider struggling in a female spider’s world.

As for Children of Time the ending wraps things up perhaps a little too neatly, but I am being really picky here because this is a superb book. Truly epic in scale, hopeful and with a wonderful evocation of deep time and evolutionary biology akin to the first book, with an added dose of body horror and a truly unusual alien species that only adds to the universe he’s created.

Highly recommended!

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