Title: Children of Time
Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky
Blurb: 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?
I’m of two minds about this book.
On an objective level, I’d say that the execution of the premise is very well done. The author takes this hard sci-fi concept of spiders undergoing rapid evolution due to a human-made nanovirus and expertly depicts the unique way in which a sentient arachnid species may form their own civilization and gradually develop into a modern society, complete with their own strange and interesting brand of technology.
Using a nonstandard POV method—one that involves giving characters of different generations the same names to more adequately depict their “character development” over time—the author manages to produce a fairly logical progression of spider social development that I can’t find too many faults with. And because of the way the book is written, in a rather detached narratorial style, it feels almost like you’re reading the subtitles of a documentary at times. It’s pretty neat.
That said, I have some issues with the book on a subjective level. My biggest issue is that, while the spiders are interesting precisely because they are sentient spiders and they’re being analyzed by an outside narrator, the humans in the story, with their more limited narration, fall very flat. The characterization of the humans somehow manages to come off bland in comparison to that of the spider characters, even though the spiders are literally different characters each time you see them, whereas the humans remain the same throughout.
There’s just something about the writing style that prevented me from connecting with the humans at the basic emotion level that really matters to me as a reader—I’m a big fan of character-driven narratives—so even though I found all the sci-fi concepts in this book to be fascinating, I felt pretty blah about the human half of the story. Consequently, every time the story jumped back to the human POV, I felt slightly agitated, as I found the “sentient spider documentary” half of the story to be far more compelling.
Thus, overall, I liked this book, but my running issue with the human narration style and the poorly developed human characters prevented me from really loving the book.