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Children of Time #1

Copiii timpului

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Premiul Arthur C. Clarke in 2015

„Cea mai inteligenta imagine a evolutiei civilizatiei umane pe care o veti descoperi vreodata intr-un roman.”
Peter F. Hamilton

Ultimii supravietuitori ai Pamantului au scapat cu greu din lumea lor muribunda si cauta supravietuirea printre stele. Pe urmele unor stramosi indepartati, ii asteapta o adevarata comoara: o planeta terraformata, pregatita pentru ei. Dar in lungul timp care s-a scurs pana au ajuns aici, planeta a fost ocupata, iar refugiul paradiziac a devenit un cosmar.

Doua civilizatii sunt pe cale sa se confrunte pentru a supravietui. Care se va dovedi adevarata mostenitoare a noului Pamant?

„Ca un roman de Stephen Baxter cu multa istorie alternativa, cu protagonisti numerosi ca intr-un space opera de Peter F. Hamilton si cu o dinamica narativa ca a unui David Brin sau Gregg Bear, Copiii timpului este o carte care nu vrei sa se termine.”
SFF World

488 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2015

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About the author

Adrian Tchaikovsky

161 books10.8k followers
ADRIAN TCHAIKOVSKY was born in Lincolnshire and studied zoology and psychology at Reading, before practising law in Leeds. He is a keen live role-player and occasional amateur actor and is trained in stage-fighting. His literary influences include Gene Wolfe, Mervyn Peake, China Miéville, Mary Gently, Steven Erikson, Naomi Novak, Scott Lynch and Alan Campbell.

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Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books4,109 followers
October 27, 2015
There's something wildly giddy welling up within me, and I blame it entirely on this book.

There have been a couple of brilliant SF titles to come out this year and I would swear belong on the Hugo list, and this is yet one more. Kim Stanley Robinson's Aurora was one, as was Scott Hawkins's The Library at Mount Char, but if I had to break down the individual merits of each, I might wind up saying that this one deserves it the most. For pure SF, it hits the heights of ideas, memorable characters, exploration, and message, although the message is definitely not one that is apparent until the end.

It has all the hallmarks of a good classic SF tale, and I was reminded every step of the way of John Brunner's The Crucible of Time, with the bringing up of an alien society from its primitive roots to space exploration, the wild quest of humanity trying to survive it's own stupidity in over ten thousand years of desperate Ark travel, and throw into the mix a great mad cyborg/AI god/scientist who's belief system gets sorely challenged.

If all that isn't enough to perk you up, then how about a society of biopunk spiders learning to tame themselves and their world with the propelling help of a nanovirus designed to uplift an entirely different species, but lacking those poor monkeys, had to make due with some jumping spiders from old Earth?

Oh yeah. Now we're talking. From page one we get a precious nod to David Brin for his wonderful Uplift series, but right as we begin to suspect that it's a rip-off, everything goes to hell. I call that an auspicious beginning.

And then we get slices of alien life complete with great self-contained stories, with nothing worthless to the grand over-tale being spun, including the war and eventual domestication of deadly intelligent army ants, the fight for the poor male spider's rights (who don't appreciate being eaten after mating), and the eventual discovery that the original scientist that had seeded the world with the nanovirus, who still lived as a cyborg, was not, in fact, a god.

And if that isn't enough, let's get to know the human side of the equation. They've had a rough time climbing back out of a dark age only to discover that the Earth is a complete shit hole and there's nothing left to be saved. They rose on the backs of the dead society that had brought humanity to this pass and went out to search for a new home. Unfortunately, everything has gone to shit except this one little paradise that's defended by a mad cyborg god who thinks that humans are shit. (And she's right.) She'll protect her precious project from anything that dares disturb it.

Great conflict ensues.

My god this was a great book. I had a bit of a learning curve in the first few dozen pages getting over the somewhat sparse writing, but there's a purpose to it. A hell of a lot has to happen to build such an enormous tale without stretching it out into a dozen equivalent and impoverished books. In this one novel, we get everything. It's brilliant.

I'll revisit this review at a later time and see if it still captures my imagination as much as the other Hugo Possibles, but my mind wants to put all my bets on this one. The flaws in Aurora, despite the brilliant setup, message, and end, are just enough to push it down a rung for me. Library at Mount Char was mostly dark fantasy with a damn huge nod at turning it into a real SF title, and I still think it's awesome and mythic, but if I had to choose between something that's obviously SF to the core and beyond and a great book that has more in common with American Gods and Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, (both of which won Hugos in their years despite being fantasies), then I'd choose Children of Time.

Unfortunately, I'm going to have to sit on the fence. Having to choose between two novels that are very different in scope, writing, and characterizations is a hell of a thing. Both are fantastic at what they do. I cried during both. I'll just have to revisit my memories later to be certain.

Oh, there is one more thing I need to mention.

I hate the title.

It does absolutely NOTHING to enumerate how fucking awesome this epic SF is. Fans of any classic SF need to read this gem. It has a hell of a lot more flow to it, and just as much idea exploration as anything written by Alastair Reynolds. Go get it. Now.
Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,538 reviews9,967 followers
January 4, 2021
UPDATE: $2.99 Kindle US 1/4/21

Holy guacamole! This book rocked!

I had a feeling I would like this book but hells bells, I had no idea how much I would love it.

You have Earth that is pretty much going to pot, then goes to pot because of some stuff. Then people wake up a million years later on their ships. Well, okay not a million but still.

So there is space!

There is a new planet that continued to make itself from the start of terra forming many years ago < -- I don't think I spelled that right but we all know what it means. They were working on making the planet livable.

AND . . .

we have freaking . . .


and I liked Portia, she was the main spider and they are like no other spiders. Dudes and dudettes, this book is like no other I have read. YOU might have, but I have not.

Loved it, looks nice on my shelf with one of his other books. I'm a happy camper.

Mel ♥
Profile Image for Emily (Books with Emily Fox).
554 reviews60.5k followers
January 4, 2020
I adore the first contact with aliens trope so when I heard this was essentially the remanent of humanity vs intelligent spiders I jumped on it. Very unique and the ending took me pleasantly by surprise.

I never thought I would end up rooting for spiders... but I did!

A must read!
Profile Image for carol..
1,576 reviews8,232 followers
February 7, 2017

Sympathetic spiders? Inconceivable!

–I do not think that word means what you think it means–

Nope, in this case, it pretty much does. It's not that I have a spider-phobia--I like to think we have a truce regarding squishing and biting--it's that something about their structure and movement speaks to a primeval instinct to run away. Children of Time popped up in friend reviews, but I'll be honest--it wasn't until I realized there were giant spiders and colony ships that I really became intrigued. I am usually interested in the moving island of space colonization, and the inclusion of what seemed to be genuine aliens piqued my curiosity. Could it be done? Could an author really give an alien feel and yet remain sympathetic to creatures that inspire such fear?

Yes and yes.

Aside from that general set-up, I went into Children blind. Tchaikovsky structures the premise and then alternates the narrative between the two species. Once settled into the story-telling rhythm, he adds another wrinkle. I appreciate the way he told the story, easing the reader in and then building on the concepts. The human narrative tends to be more dialogue oriented, the spider-narrative more internal. It makes for an interesting pace change that might have dragged had the entire book been one style or the other.

"She feels fear, a building anxiety that makes her stamp her feet and twitch her palps. Her people are more suited to offence than defence, but they have been unable to retain the initiative in this conflict. She will have to improvise. There is no plan for what comes next. She may die, and her eyes look into that abyss and feed her with a terror of extinction, of un-being, that is perhaps the legacy of all life."

Characterization proved rather intriguing, particularly at first. I thought the feel of primitive spider-thinking rather believable, and appreciated the structuring of a very different world-view. I ended up believing the premise enough to enjoy the story and not feel hampered by arguing the science in my head. Also interestingly--particularly in a genre known for its sexism--the tendency of some female spiders to eat the males after mating is turned toward matriarchic ends. I was also intrigued by the spiders' interaction with other beings on the world, as well as how they are characterized.

"She knows that individual ants themselves cannot be treated with, communicated with or even threatened. Her comprehension is coarse, of a necessity, but approximates to the truth. Each ant does not think. It has a complex set of responses based on a wide range of stimuli, many of which are themselves chemical messages produced by other ants in response to still more eventualities."

Writing is solid. It is complex enough to convey cognitive concepts of world-view as well as philosophical underpinnings of what intelligence and interconnectivity is. I didn't overtly realize it as I read, but I think there were parallel discussions of what humanity means and aims for, a particularly worthwhile topic for our time.

"The more he learned of them, the more he saw them not as spacefaring godlike exemplars, as his culture had originally cast them, but as monsters: clumsy, bickering, short-sighted monsters... In trying to be the ancients, they had sealed their own fate--neither to reach those heights, nor any others, doomed instead to a history of mediocrity and envy."

I do think Tchaikovsky loses his way somewhat near the last third of the book. Still, it ended up being a book full of unexpected twists and turns. Most worked. A few did not, and I remain ambivalent about the ending. However, there were also moments when I thought, "this reminds me of Ursula LeGuin and one of her world-building, sci-fi masterpieces." A good story, intriguing world-building and a layered exploration of humanity and civilization. Overall, I'd definitely recommend it to someone who is in the mood for classic-feeling science fiction with modern sensibilities.

Four and a half webs, rounding up because it deserves recognition for Big Ideas, not because it's screaming to be included in my personal library.
Profile Image for Claudia.
960 reviews556 followers
February 16, 2018
Hard science fiction = a category of science fiction characterized by an emphasis on scientific accuracy or technical detail or both. Just to be sure what are we talking about.

The detailed info about Portia, the jumping spider and Scytodes, the spitting spider are as accurate as they can be, no doubt here. In fact, there is an entire chapter at the beginning with characterizations of both species, which is, after all, fascinating, but non-fiction. So, nothing new. (BTW, all this info about the spiders is on Wikipedia).

The story line: on another planet, Dr. Kern initiated an experiment on a new terraformed planet.

On the other hand, the two main human factions on Earth, those in favor and against nanotechnology and the like, manage the performance to almost destroy the Earth. There are survivors but all the knowledge and technology of their ancestors is lost (how much time did pass between the experiment above and the war we don’t know, but appears not too long. However, they are called ancestors and from the old empire or something…).

But - there is a big BUT: they had built a few arks (space ships) in which they gathered the survivors and the long trip in finding another Earth begins. How did they build those arks if they had no tech, no knowledge and no resources left?! Ok, moving on. The key crew wakes after 1800 years when they arrive near the planet in question and discover the ship in which Dr. Kern is still guarding her planet, half mad. And the ones from the ark are amazed by the technology (they being in a space ship capable of interstellar travels, remember?).

Should I go on? No.
I forced myself to read up to 52% and then I went straight to the last chapter and guess what: exactly what I have imagined.
Where is the hard science fiction? All the info thrown into the story is disjointed. The various ideas contradict one another. And I can give a lot of other nonsense ideas but I already bored myself…

And the writing is so flat; just words thrown to fill the pages; endless explanations; absurd development; moron characters; etc.
I’ll stop here. I’m rarely so virulent about a story, given the fact that I have the utmost respect for writers. It’s not minor deal to be able to create a world of words. But I had such a big disappointment with this one, given all the five stars rating it has. Too much hype behind it with no real ground.
Profile Image for Petrik.
688 reviews46.1k followers
October 31, 2017
Smart and imaginative, highly recommended for everyone who loves Sci-Fi and not recommended for anyone with arachnophobia.

Children of Time is Adrian Tchaikovsky’s first Sci-Fi and also my first experience with his work. This is a highly praised book, it won Arthur C. Clarke Award for Best Novel in 2016 and most likely, will be 5 stars read for anyone who has never read anything like it. Plus, for even more praise, the film rights to the book has also been sold to Lionsgate.

It’s a great story. The plot revolved around the race for survival between races on attaining a single terraformed planet; The races being the last surviving humanity that fled their dying Earth, and the sentient spiders accidentally evolved by a mad scientist; these beings were born and live on the planet.

Picture: Children of Time (Polish cover)

This standalone encompassed a lot of relatable topics to our society such as gender discrimination, greed, and on the bright side, empathy. It’s unique and epic, with tale spanning between generations to generations. Unfortunately for me, I have read something very similar to this in a manga called Terra Formars and because of that, my experience on this was a bit ruined. The premise of this book with that particular manga is very similar, with the differences being the planet is Mars and the sentient creatures are cockroaches. It’s not fair for me to compare the topic unrelated form of speculative fiction but I want you to first look at this gif so I can explain my reasoning. (Warning: gory scene ahead)

That, ladies and gentleman is a sentient evolved cockroach killing humans. This somehow affected me into thinking that this standalone will be action-packed because of the similar premise; it’s not. Children of Time plot direction is almost the total opposite. I expected more interaction between the two species but they happened only twice throughout the entire book, one very briefly too. I also felt the entire middle section from the alien’s side felt a bit boring; it was a bit too long and felt like learning biology and history from a textbook because there’s almost no dialogue on it. Finally, I don’t think it was necessary to divide the prose for the two races POV’s, the human side was written in past tense while the alien side was written in present tense; this made their stories felt disconnected to me.

I may sound a bit too negative here. This is because up until the 80% section of the book, I totally felt like this is a 3 stars book at best. However, I was wrong. The author has saved everything for the last 20% of the book and it was brilliant. No loose ends, the conclusion of this book was truly incredible and made all my struggle through the middle section of the book worth it.

Knowing that this is the author’s first Sci-Fi, I foresee a very bright future ahead of him. I highly recommend this to every Sci-Fi fans but not to anyone with arachnophobia; because.. sentient spiders.

For anyone who loved this book and wants something more epic, I recommend reading Remembrance of Earth’s Past by Cixin Liu. Trust me, the last book of that trilogy made everything this book looks like an ant regarding its scope.

You can find this and the rest of my Adult Epic/High Fantasy & Sci-Fi reviews at BookNest
Profile Image for James Tivendale.
318 reviews1,345 followers
May 8, 2019
I received a review copy of Children of Time in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Adrian Tchaikovsky and Pan Macmillan for the opportunity.

Children of Time is 600-pages of extraordinary, evolution-based science fiction that features quality storytelling and worldbuilding that is rarely seen in this generation. This narrative is set over 1000's of years. We first see Doctor Kern and her scientific team of 19 as they wish to experiment with monkeys and a nanovirus on what some individuals are considering could be the new Earth. After betrayal and confrontation on their spaceship, which may be reflecting hostilities back on Earth events don't progress in the way that they envisaged.

The action mainly follows two very different perspectives. The first is the views of a human classicist named Holsten who has travelled for two millennia to the above-mentioned planet after the end of Earth. He is onboard the spaceship Gilgamesh with the remnants of the human race and spends most of his years frozen and therefore not aging. The crew members are only awakened when their duties permit it necessary so our first contact with the human ensemble is when they are approaching the said planet. The crew features the needed components to create a new future including commanders, engineers, soldiers, intellects, etc... It transpires that the planet they are looking to land on is already occupied and it isn't by the highly evolved monkeys as was planned. This brings me to the second perspective which is written from the point of view of spiders - a species that are also receptive to the advancements in evolution that the nanovirus presents. This complication was not accounted for and may be problematic. We follow the spiders as they evolve over 100's of generations and the way it is written is truly unique. The main spiders we follow are Portia, Bianca, and Fabian. They don't live to be 1000's of years old, instead, we follow the original characters' relatives through different generations as the spiders evolve. They may share the same name but often have very different personalities. There is also a third perspective that is from a human/machine/satellite/messenger/God viewpoint and she is very protective of 'her planet' and does not wish for the humans to land. It's a superbly original tale in the way it is presented.

Often, science fiction stories that I read are overly complex with tech-lingo and it sometimes feels like the author is trying to prove how smart he is. In the first few pages of Children of Time, I thought it would be the same again. However, after the first chapter or two, it became crystal clear that this is a novel where the story, characters, and development are the top priority. It is beautifully written, and has been extremely well researched and is expertly paced. Children of Time is packed full of highs and lows. Who could have known I'd care about the death of a revolutionary hero giant-spider? The spiders' society throughout various stages of evolution is intensely detailed and complex, still the way the species progress feels organic and natural although before this narrative I'd have never considered how a spider community would behave. Turns out they're pretty damn sexist!

For quite a lengthy book I was reading this at a blistering pace. Chapters tend to be between 10-20 pages so it was always tempting to just read one more which soon became another 100 pages. Especially the last 100 pages with I devoured in one breathless sitting. It features an insane space battle and I could never have imagined reading something of the sort when I first picked this up. The ending is intense, unpredictable, but highly satisfying. When I finished reading this story the first thought I had upon reflection was that there is no way I could be an author because I could never write anything this good so what would be the point? It's one of the best science fiction books I've ever read and I've already started Children of Ruin. A+ Recommended.
Profile Image for Choko.
1,221 reviews2,597 followers
January 28, 2023
Re-read and What can I say? I loved everything about it! I can't believe I had given it only 4.65 stars the first time around. It is a full 5* and maybe some plusses:) The intricacies of the world building, both in the human and spider communities, was brilliant! The attention to detail, the thought that went in the communication, the way the one group evolved and the other devolved, the differences and the commonalities, the little gestures and the big, overwhelming occasions, just so good!!! *** 4.65 ***

"... ““You can never know. That is the problem with ignorance. You can never truly know the extent of what you are ignorant about.” ...

I wanted to read this book only because it was recommended to me by a friend. I never expected to love it so much, despite never having read anything by the author. Boy am I glad I read it!

I was raised on Science Fiction and Fantasy. Every week my family would receive in the mail the newest Sci-Fi publication and we would all fight over who is going to read it first, although we all knew my dad would be first, then my mom, if she was interested, and then would be my turn. My favorite of those were the ones with deep and logical connection to the Science side of the fiction, not so much the ones with the space battles and soap-operas in space kind of stories. I loved the real plausible what-ifs that came with books taking the known of Physics and Biology and building them up into strange and irregular ways, but still creating worlds and creatures whose existence and creation we could follow in a somewhat logical way, thinking that yeah, given just the right conditions, this could actually happen and what could we, us humans, do about it.

Well, "Children of Time " is just this kind of book! The author has done his research into the biology of Arachnids and insects, putting them in a newly terraformed world with virgin ecosystem created to support life deriving from our Earth, mix in a Nano-Virus as a variable which acts as an accelerator for neuro-development and intelligence, and a catalyst for critically important markers of useful growth and useless excess of abilities, thus crafting a positive growth of individuals in a communal culture with always expending intellect and talents. Final result - Giant Intelligent Spiders!!!!

"... “The act of courtship is consummated as a public ritual, where the hopeful males – in their moment of prominence – perform in front of a peer group, or even the whole city, before the female chooses her partner and accepts his package of sperm. She may then kill and eat him, which is thought to be a great honour for the victim, although even Portia suspects that the males do not quite see it that way.” ...

Yep, not a planet for those who have an uncomfortable relationship with our eight-legged web-weaving friends. Also, not exactly what the scientist who created the Nano-Virus intended to begin with. Our human, very intelligent, and very self-centered Dr. Avrana Kern, created the virus in order to push monkeys to their most extreme intellectual growth through generations. Instead, when the virus was unleashed on the planet, the monkeys and most of the rest of the humans were sabotaged by an opponent to the project and all blew up. Dr. Avrana Kern is the only one left, in a small capsule in space, going in and out of freeze-stasis, waiting for her "creations" to contact her from the planet. During this time, life on Earth self-destructs, thousands of years later humans reemerge, and then once again only a small part of them remain, looking for another planet to settle on, frozen on an Arc ship called Gilgamesh. The spider planet looks like their only chance and the books goes through their battles to get to it and try to take it over.

"... “She has improved the lives of her species in a dozen separate ways, for she has a mind that can see answers to problems others did not even realize were holding them back.” ...

The book timeline measures in thousands of years and it is fascinating to follow the growth of some and the degradation and regression of others. This was done from the points of view of several pivotal characters, of which Portia and all her progeny through the centuries was my favorite. I loved everything about her/them. I loved how important the Classicist Human Holsten and the head engineer of the ship Lain were to the sustaining of the Human population on the Gilgamesh. A person who can sit back and think about communication and how it shapes our relationships with others, be it species, tribes or Peoples. And how vital the knowledge and ability to take care and advance our infrastructure is, when those skills are being overlooked at times of famine as well as at times when our martial or more lofty flights of fancy seem to rule our daily lives. We are reminded of how easy it would be for us to fall into the one or the other category, letting our roots and foundations rot, while our heads are in the clouds...

"... “If they were of any quality or caliber, then they would ascend by their own virtues. Not if there was no structure that they could possibly climb. Not if all the structure that exists was designed to disenfranchise them. Portia,” ...

This book is not just about evolution. It is about understanding our nature and trying to learn from our mistakes, not just following the innate instinct for destruction, cannibalism, and disseminating everything which is different from us, to the point of mortally wounding ourselves. In our superior Humans First and Only ideology, we slowly but surely erode our environment and eventually the environment will strike back, one way or another. Let's hope we don't realize this too late...

"... “Mankind brooks no competitors, She has explained to them – not even its own reflection. ” ...

Now I wish you all Happy Reading and may you always find what you Need in the pages of a good Book!!!
Profile Image for Dana Ilie.
404 reviews351 followers
August 11, 2018
Children of Time’ is one of those books one devours obsessively and then mourns once it’s finished. Yes, ‘Children of Time’ is that good.

The author acknowledges our implicit arachnophobia and then very cleverly turns it on its head; indeed, after a while you kind of forget that these characters are spiders at all, even when they get stuck in to very spiderish behaviour. Their cities, for example, are great forests festooned with web complexes and, latterly, organic machinery and vehicles. The many versions of the spider society are also resolutely female and this novel is one of the few I can think of that presents a detailed, believable and sympathetic matriarchy. That it is in not in any way a utopia, without seeming unrecognisable or awful either, is another credit to the unapologetic intelligence of this book.

Profile Image for Mayim de Vries.
577 reviews884 followers
March 28, 2020
“We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the Universe. That makes us something very special.”
Professor Stephen Hawking

“What have you done with my monkeys?”
Doctor Avrana Kern

I do not sci-fi that much but when I do, I do it only with books that make me cheer for spiders.

Adrian Tchaikovsky is famous for infusing his books with themes and motives related to his interests. He studied zoology and psychology. He is also interested in natural history, with particular emphasis on the world of insects. These are the roots of the “Children of Time”, a thrilling story about the fall of one civilisation and the birth of another. Together with human civilisation standing on the verge of destruction, we embark upon a fantastic interstellar travel. A tantalising cosmic odyssey, which takes place over the span of millennia, filled with extraordinary adventures, heroes, and dramatic twists.


“We are the civilisation of transport, waiting to happen somewhere else.”

Human civilisation has found itself on the verge of annihilation. The Earth is no longer habitable and so humanity’s last quest is a search of a planet suitable for settlement. Hundreds of thousands of years pass. A spaceship with the last surviving people finds a place similar to Earth. It turns out that the living conditions on the planet are a result of its terraforming many thousands of years ago. It is but a remnant of a wider experiment aimed at creating an intelligent species able to develop at an accelerated pace. The intention was to create a new, better man. However, not everything went as planned, and the “exalted” ones are not monkeys (or other vertebrates, indeed), but an unassuming species known as portia labiata. Yup, here come the sentient spiders. (Don’t make my mistake and check the photos. They are absolutely awful!)


“Why should we be made thus, to improve and improve, unless it is to aspire.”

The narration gives us two perspectives. The first is the one presents the actions of the inhabitants of the last ship-ark with the human cargo, Gilgamesh , trying to find a new planet to settle on. The second one shows the evolution of the spiders, accelerated by a special nanovirus. Consequently, we have one chapter about the human journey through the universe, and another one about the life of spiders on the green planet. Reading the spider civilisation chapters is like watching a National Geographic or a BBC Earth documentary. And I would never expect that the adventures of insects can be so enticing!

To the contrary, human protagonists are a considerable weakness of the book. Holsten, a scholar “at the wrong end of his career” and a historian “at the wrong end of history”, Guyen, a power-obsessed commander, control-hungry and with an utter god-complex, Lain, the engineer turned leader by necessity (come the hour, come the woman), Karst, your regular security tough-guy, or rigid, narrowly-minded scientists - they are all unremarkable, lacking perspicuity, and difficult to bond with.

Pitched against humans, the Portias, Biancas and Fabians, even the Violas of the spider-folk are clear winners. Throughout the thousands of years, we trace the evolving story (and the civilisation) through the (many!) eyes of numerous spiders, for simplicity called by the same names. Just as much as I was quite indifferent to the human figures (I treated them as tools meant to give the spiders time to evolve and at the same time, to push the action forward), I found myself positively cheering for the insects!


“Because she needed to reach out and know there was something she could reach out to.”

The novel was showered with prizes, and rightly so. The rich style of the Mr Tchaikovsky is impressive. “Children of Time” seduces us with an unusual ingenuity of worldbuilding, an intriguing plot, convincing descriptions and an extraordinary ambiance.

Tchaikovsky's tale is a story about the demise of one civilisation and the birth of another. On this very simple, not to say simplistic, premise, the Author creates a brilliant cosmic epos, which contains many key elements that are the driving force of more than one classic science-fiction novel. We have the destruction of humanity, genetic experiments, interstellar journey, fighting for survival with alien forms of life, artificial intelligence, playing the god. Especially gender war in this book is delightful.

It is a novel written with panache, and yet carefully attending to minor details, enriched by the colourful and multifaceted picture of struggles undertaken in the defence and preservation of life, and trials related to overcoming consecutive stages of biological and cultural evolution. It is also a critical vision of the distant inheritors of the Earth, irreversibly poisoning the environment, and thus approaching the point of eliminating their own species. Despite the threat of total extermination, people still cannot get rid of deadly social mechanisms and habits, nurturing the inspiration to remain masters of the whole universe against all odds.


“You claim to be human. Go be human elsewhere.”

It is evident that for Mr Tchaikovsky, humans have lost the game. In the novel, we can also see a civilisation devolving, understanding less than before, losing memory and wisdom, too busy with survival to pass on the knowledge. In the book, all the coveted achievements of civilisational development like genetic engineering or transcending the boundaries of artificial intelligence, resonate only in echoes of former splendour and mimicked copies. The old ambitions of conquest, large-scale attempts at creating terraformed planets, leave only negligible traces behind. Considering how the humans are depicted in this novel, I think that “The Orphans of Time” would be a more apt title. Additionally, humanity is crippled by its own irredeemable nature. We are poisoned by the propensity to violence which we, as a species, seem unable to transcend. Mr Tchaikovsky presents us simply as “monsters: clumsy, bickering, short-sighted monsters.”

This very pessimist Hobessian view, determinist to the extreme, whereby humans are not able to transcend certain obstacles is contrasted with the nascent spider civilisation free from such inhibitions. The green world with giant arthropods, with its nascent civilisation where biology and custom are at constant war, where tradition is set against the progress, the known past against the unknown future, and where the intellect bent to break the shackles of yesterday triumphs, reads like a veritable paradise.

This is something that the Author denies the humans. Where spiders are thriving on empathy and cooperation and altruistic sacrifice, humans cheat, abuse and destroy. But the worst thing is that this catastrophic tone and constant trajectory of humankind towards destruction is not substantiated by anything. Why would humanity be unable to retrace their developmental steps when the spiders basically zipped through evolution and progress?

The last 20% killed the book for me. Particularly during the final stages of arachnid development, I was forced to resort to ‘suspension of disbelief’ which is a technique I usually apply only for fairytales. It is not that I didn’t like the ending, it is more that I didn’t get the answers as to why things worked out the way they did. Explanations for the evolutional check-mate that would anchor the ending in any kind of logic. The finale (and the epilogue) seemed terribly arbitrary and bent on proving a very controversial hypothesis. This was the decisive factor regarding my rating.

Indubitably, “Children of Time” offers a reading adventure, which I savoured with appreciation and applause. It provided me with excellent multi-level entertainment, and at the same time raised many important issues as a poignant warning, foretelling what the humanity may face if we continue to push towards the mutual destruction of each other and the whole environment. However, Mr Tchaikovsky's humanity is one inherently unable to produce Mother Teresas, Mahatmas Ghandi, and Irenas Sendler. And this is not us.

The story continues in:

2. Children of Ruin ★★★☆☆
Profile Image for Phrynne.
3,331 reviews2,144 followers
September 21, 2022
What a beautiful book. Six hundred totally absorbing pages. One of the best Science Fiction books I have ever read. Not being particularly coherent here but let me say again it is very, very good.

It shows mankind at its worst - I would not have cared if the last human being in the universe had died at the end. I hate spiders but was converted to the sentient kind, and I was cheering them on as they grew smarter and smarter.

I could not imagine how it was going to end but Adrian Tchaikovsky is some kind of genius, and the last few pages were just brilliant. Naming the ship Voyager was a touch of magic.

Recommend reading for anyone not just sci fi enthusiasts. There is something in this book for everyone.
Profile Image for Philip.
513 reviews683 followers
October 24, 2017
5ish stars.

An unqualified masterpiece. This is some of the smartest, most exciting, and most imaginative fiction I've read in a long time. It's grand, expansive, and both character-driven and plot-driven.

Uplifted spiders. So cool and creative. The evolution of the Portias and their clusters is endlessly compelling. The journey that the humans take over the millennia, if not as thrilling, is dramatic in its buildup to the inevitable convergence of the two groups.

It chronicles the rise and fall of the human population and explores its recurring, natural gravitation towards malignant ambition and self-destruction. While that aspect is disheartening, there’s also hope, because the spiders, being non-human, might be able to circumvent those tragedies... It’s about nature, pride, communication, fear, change, and determination at all costs. Highly recommended.

Posted in Mr. Philip's Library
Profile Image for Library of a Viking.
182 reviews3,028 followers
September 17, 2023
One of the best books I've ever read. Incredible. I will make a full video about this book.

Profile Image for Nataliya.
785 reviews12.5k followers
April 21, 2020
“If there had been some tiny bead present in the brain of all humans, that had told each other, They are like you; that had drawn some thin silk thread of empathy, person to person, in a planet-wide net – what might then have happened? Would there have been the same wars, massacres, persecutions and crusades?”
This is an excellent SF story, a modern classic in my opinion. For those of you who are not fans of the idea of SF, this is also a wonderful literary story chock-full of philosophy and allegory.
How good is it, you ask? Well, good enough for this arachnophobe to read it twice now, and good enough to feel unexpected kinship to the giant sentient spiders - to see them as persons and not just as alien creepy crawlies. Maybe I got hit with that nanovirus too, who knows?

In a distant future humans are terraforming planets. Avrana Kern, a scientist, is about to seed a newly terraformed planet with monkeys and add to the atmosphere a nanovirus engineered to accelerate their development and allow it to happen on the scale of millennia rather than millions of years, and allow the monkeys to develop into “a race of uplifted sentient aides and servants [who] would welcome their makers.”
“This is the future. This is where mankind takes its next great step. This is where we become gods.”
Except that, predictably, human squabbles on a galactic scale plunge the Earth and its colonies into Dark Ages from which they take millennia to recover, and eventually the survivors leave the dying poisoned planet in ark ships, headed for the hope of terraformed planets, zeroing on the green and beautiful Kern’s world. But things went wrong there, too. Kern’s monkeys have never made it to the planet. The nanovirus, lacking the species it was made for, manages nevertheless to find a species it could infect and change and accelerate the evolution of - the spiders. Whose civilization is robust and so different from ours. And the AI imprint of Avrana Kern still circles their world in her shuttle, the Messenger as the spiders perceive it, unaware that the monkey experiment failure has become the spider triumph.
“In the end, he supposed, it didn't matter. Genocide was genocide. He thought of the Old Empire, which had been so civilized that it had in the end poisoned its own homeworld. And here we are, about to start ripping pieces of the ecosystem out of this new one.”
The story is told in the alternating chapters set among humans on the spaceship, the last of the dying civilization, and the spiders that are building their civilization one generation of the time - each time a new generation of Portias (as in Portia labiata spiders), Biancas and Fabians spinning the webs of knowledge and society, making their own literal world wide web. Collision is imminent.
“For a species that thinks naturally in terms of interconnected networks and systems, the idea of a war of conquest and extermination – rather than a campaign of conversion, subversion and co-option – does not come easily.”

Spiders are creepy, no doubt. They might as well really be aliens, they are so fundamentally different from us in all the respects. And we are hardwired to distrust and fear those that are different, that are *other*, that are not us - that are “them”. We seem to be hell-bent on the destruction even of those who *are* kin, let alone those who are as different as can be. That’s just how our survival instincts work, I guess.
“Sometimes all it takes, to crack a problem, is a new perspective.”
The alternating chapters of human and spider narratives are done very well. Human parts of the story are done in a more ‘usual’ tone of SF adventure, relying on dialogue for exposition. Spider parts have a completely different voice and feel - more of the omniscient narration, less dialogue (as the spiders’ speech is nonvocal), and more of a chronicle feel. There is never a doubt that these are alien beings, not too anthropomorphic but just ‘person-ized’ enough to be relatable. The world building is masterful, immersive and vivid. And writing itself is excellent.

The exploration of what it means to be human and what it means to be a person is also done very well. It’s easy and tempting in the books dealing with these questions to slide into philosophical navel-gazing and proselytizing, and skid the story to a halt to deal with the big ideas. Tchaikovsky avoids those pitfalls. Philosophical bits are subtly woven into the story and allow you to come to conclusions yourself without the author beating you with them anvil-like over the head. And I love it.
“Life is not perfect, individuals will always be flawed, but empathy – the sheer inability to see those around them as anything other than people too – conquers all, in the end.”
So good.

5 stars.
Profile Image for Mogsy.
2,073 reviews2,635 followers
June 12, 2017
5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2017/06/12/...

Children of Time was my first novel by this author, and wow, what a way to start my initiation into the Adrian Tchaikovsky fan club! I have never read anything quite like this book before, and I have to say the praise it’s gotten has been well deserved. I just loved this.

First of all we have this incredible story, which has everything in place for a space opera of the grandest proportions. Long ago, when Earth was on its last legs and humanity feared it could go no further, scientists were sent out beyond the solar system to find and terraform new planets to ensure the future of our species. One of them, the brilliant but megalomaniacal Dr. Avrana Kern was successful in locating such a world, but just as she was about to implement a nanotech virus to accelerate the development process, sabotage occurred. Kern’s monkeys that were intended for biological uplift were not deployed on the planet because they were all killed in the attack on her ship. Kern herself was forced to be transformed, reduced to an AI mind and a body preserved in stasis. However, her nanovirus, the one intended to speed up evolution in the monkeys, did in fact make it onto the planet, imbedding itself into—wait for it—a species of spiders.

Years and years go by. Earth is no more. Desperate humans take to the stars in generation ships like the Gilgamesh to find these terraformed planets their ancestors supposedly prepared for them, but instead of a welcoming home, they find Kern’s World and the repercussions of her genetically engineered virus. For generations, the planet’s inhabitants have been evolving as well, the uplifted spiders developing their own cultures, civilizations and knowledge. It is their world now, and they don’t take kindly to the assumptions of these strange looking humans who think they can just take over and live on their planet.

As a huge life sciences geek, I loved the ideas behind books like Children of Time or what some other science fiction fans call “biopunk”. The chapters aboard the Gilgamesh were compelling with their human drama and fight for survival, but in my opinion, it was the sections about the spiders which were the most fascinating. They were also what made this novel stand out from all the sci-fi I’ve read so far this year. Tchaikovsky details generations of evolution in the spiders’ biology as well as their culture, following compelling characters like the many iterations of Portia as her species develops language, religion, warfare, and other facets of civilization which they pass down to their descendants via a form of genetic memory. As such, they eventually become something akin to spiders but not as we understand them, having been altered by the virus but also by factors specific to their unique physiology. The author deserves extra bonus points too because it takes a real talent to write genuine, relatable and sympathetic non-human characters, and even more when they are effectively overgrown, freaky arachnids. Don’t think you can ever bring yourself to root for a giant spider? There’s a really good chance this book will change your mind.

I was also impressed by the way Tchaikovsky managed to tell this monumental saga—which takes place over thousands of years—without once being sidetracked or losing the story’s main thread. When it dawned on me what the author was trying to do, I didn’t think it was going to work, but oh, it does. In alternating sections, he explores the changes happening on Kern’s World as well as the various side plots unfolding on the Gilgamesh. Most of humanity’s last remnants are frozen in time, traveling in the cargo bay of the ark ship, but we do get to meet and stay with several of the key players like Holsten Mason and Isa Lain who survive the centuries by going in and out of stasis. Culture is evolving in its own way too on the Gilgamesh, and every time Holsten wakes he is hit with another shock of how perspectives and attitudes on the ship have changed since the last time he emerged. It just goes to show, adaptation isn’t something that’s happening only on the surface of Kern’s World, with both the spider and human storylines mirroring and complementing each other in the coolest way possible.

Basically, you have got to read this book. It’s gotten such high ratings for a reason. Children of Time is one of the smartest, most remarkable and innovative science fiction novels I’ve read in years and now I can’t wait to read more by Adrian Tchaikovsky.

Audiobook Comments: I loved Mel Hudson’s narration. Having a female reader really highlighted the spider chapters, and Hudson’s voice and accent exuded the perfect amount of acuity and class to bring characters like Portia to life. I don’t think I would have enjoyed myself as much if I had read the novel in print, so needless to say, I highly recommend this audiobook.
Profile Image for Emma.
2,512 reviews857 followers
July 8, 2017
I have really struggled with this book. Really the only science fiction I tend to like is character driven so I was up against it from the start!
I've always thought that insect and deep sea creatures have much potential as horror/ monster elements in a story. The look of them close up is just as awful as anything fictitious- it's only that, in the case of insects, they're small and in the case of deep- sea creatures, far down and away, that saves us. So I was interested to read about Portia and the development of society, culture, technology, the ideas of god or 'the messenger'. Fascinating to read about colonialism and the subsumption of other cultures and species and its parallels with human evolution.
But I got bored. And the human side of the story, where I would have predicted my deeper interest, had little pace for me. I can see this is a great book and deserves its high ratings, just not from me! I'm very interested to read this author's fantasy series still as I believe this may be more to my liking!
Profile Image for Niki Hawkes - The Obsessive Bookseller.
737 reviews1,264 followers
September 27, 2022
Check out my Booktube channel at: The Obsessive Bookseller

Add Children of Time to my very short list of all-time favorites!!

So many things about it worked for me. First of all, I’m especially drawn to Scifi stories with a strong biological component (Julie Czerneda has been a long-time favorite in that regard), and not only was this one bursting with alien flora and fauna awesomeness, but it also had a strong anthropological angle. I read so many Scifi where the most creative they get with world-building is what type of tech is used on this group of ships vs that one, so it’s wonderful to get the same level of expansive creation I usually have to defer to fantasy novels to experience.

This is my first Tchaikovsky, and it definitely won’t be my last. He made so many brilliant writing decisions in this book that I was left in awe. He had really creative solutions to some story logistics that would’ve left me stumped. Like how to tell the story over multiple generations while maintaining your reader’s connection to the characters. Sometimes it’s as simple as giving them the same name – something I never would’ve thought of. He handled the time jumps for the humans with similar grace, establishing a trust with me very early on in his ability to deliver a satisfying story.

What’s more, I found out mid-read that the author majored in both Zoology and Psychology – both of which spark my interest so much I can hardly stand it. And both backgrounds clearly enhanced the story. I love it when authors take a background of deep knowledge and apply that to their writing.

The book had the perfect balance of world-building, character connection, pacing, momentum, and then he topped it all off with a brilliant finish. I’m sure I’ll be talking about this one for years to come.

Recommendations: one of my all-time favorites! If you like Scifi with a good dose of anthropological components and creature creations, this is an excellent pick. It’s imaginative, exciting, and incredibly well-composed – I can’t recommend it highly enough!

Thank you to my Patrons: Filipe, Dave, Frank, Sonja, Staci, Kat, and Katrin! <3

Via The Obsessive Bookseller at www.NikiHawkes.com

Other books you might like:
Planetside (Planetside, #1) by Michael Mammay Leviathan Wakes (The Expanse, #1) by James S.A. Corey Reap the Wild Wind (Stratification, #1) by Julie E. Czerneda To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini Survival (Species Imperative, #1) by Julie E. Czerneda
Profile Image for K.J. Charles.
Author 59 books8,636 followers
August 23, 2021
I have been avoiding this because spiders. More fool me. This is an incredible (spider-filled) book, with brilliant imaginative sweep, terrible inexorable logic, spiders, incredibly high stakes, a fascinating look at alien minds, a depressing look at human ones, and a highly satisfying bit of play with gender roles and sexism. And spiders. So many spiders. Aargh, spider.

In fact possibly what's most impressive about this book is that by the end, despite SPIDERS, I was actually rooting for the eight-eyed horror machines. Absolutely fantastic read, exactly what SF should be. I went straight out and bought the sequel even though that has *also* got spiders in it. And I'm reading it now and after that we won't mention the S word again, okay.
Profile Image for zuza_zaksiazkowane.
379 reviews33.9k followers
August 30, 2020
2.5? 2.75? Idk
To była książka totalnie odbiegająca od moich oczekiwań, spodziewałam się czegoś innego a dostałam... dużo religijności, dużo gadania o niczym i wartką akcję na ostatnich 40 stronach. Nie jest zła, jest bardzo pomysłowa i niestandardowa, ale czy dobrze się bawiłam? Przez środkowe 300 stron - nie. Ale nie odradzam, to było dość ciekawe doswiadczenie 🤷🏼‍♀️
Profile Image for André Oliveira.
169 reviews58 followers
January 11, 2020
I wasn't ready for this book. WOW

I mean, this was awesome! It took me one month into the year to finally rate my first 5* book of 2019.

I don't want to say a lot about this book, but:

Earth is dying. Humans leave Earth. Humans find a world terraformed prepared for life, WITH SPIDERS.
Don't go into this book thinking that this is an action book with a lot of "Humans killing Spiders". It is so much more than that.

The scope of this story is unbelievably huge and it addresses some unexpected themes.

The only downside of this story is that it took me some time to connect with the characters. But I think it makes sense in this story and I won't say anything else about it.

If you love science-fiction, please, give this book a try.

Some kind of sequel is coming out in May, Children of Ruin, and I couldn't be more excited!!
Profile Image for Robyn.
827 reviews131 followers
October 23, 2015
Five stars because this puppy had me rooting for arachnids. Five stars for carefully crafted characters, humans and otherwise alike. Five stars because of the incredible, millennia- spanning plot. Five stars because of that ENDING! Not what I expected and so satisfying.
Profile Image for Dan Schwent.
3,005 reviews10.6k followers
December 29, 2018
As humanity's fortunes fade, an engineered nanovirus, not finding the monkeys it expected, begins elevating the insects and spiders of an earth-like world. Will it be the humans aboard the space ark Gilgamesh or the spiders of the green planet inherit the universe as... The Children of Time?

One of the lunch talkers was gushing over this book a few days ago, the rare interruption of my reading I can tolerate. Fortunately, I already had this on my kindle despite no memory of buying it. Anyway, I dug in and was quickly ensnared in its web.

Childen of Time is told in two silky, sticky threads: the humans aboard the Gilgamesh, with Holsten Mason, a classicist, as the view point character, and generations of uplifted spiders on Kern's World. As such, we see the rise of the spiders, aided by a human-made nanovirus, across generations, as Holsten is awoken to find the Gilgamesh and its people in various states of decline.

The worldbuilding is exquisite. Adrian Tchaikovsky's spiders are alien yet somehow familiar, not just feeling like humans in different bodies. AT clearly put a lot of thought into his worldbuilding, extrapolating a lot from spider behavior, not just plopping giant spiders down on an earthlike world. The various Portias, Biancas, and Fabians over the generations showed a lot of development and nuances. The spider civilization unfolded in an organic way and I couldn't get enough of it, with its crazy gender politics and technology based around trained ants and genetically encoded information.

The humans coping aboard the Gilgamesh weren't quite as interesting to me, although some interesting avenues are explored. Life aboard an ark isn't easy, especially when you're repeatedly awakened to find things have gone pear-shaped. The Gilgamesh's crew and cargo undergo some interesting reversals of fortune, some expected, others not.

By the time the two narrative threads entangled, I knew which side I wanted to come out on top. Tchaikovsky kept me guessing, though, right up until the end.

Children of Time features lots of things I find compelling in science fiction: artificial intelligence, evolved bugs, and generation ships, albeit unintentional. For once, I'm glad someone interrupted my lunchtime reading. Five out of five stars.
Profile Image for Jilly.
1,838 reviews6,247 followers
June 28, 2020
Once we get the whole space-travel thing going, what is the best idea that we should prioritize, as a species? Well, it turns out that future-us thinks that we need to set-up a new planet with super-intelligent monkeys ruling it. Because, apparently, future-us never saw a movie. Or are such dumbasses that we took the worst idea possible and decided to run with that.

See? Now, this is a good idea. There's a big difference.

But, luckily someone realized that maybe they didn't want to doom us all to be monkey-slaves someday and did the most reasonable thing to stop this from happening: they killed all the monkeys. Now, I'm not a big monkey-lover in general. They are a little too gross for my liking. Give me a baby seal, or a squirrel, or bunny over a stinking monkey any day, but couldn't there possibly have been a better way to stop this thing than burning all the monkeys up? It wasn't their idea. Why should they suffer for some idiot scientist's terrible idea? I mean, come on, Earthlings? You used to be cool. (Okay, not now, but I'm assuming somewhere along the line.)

So, the monkeys are dead but the super-intelligence virus was already released upon the planet, and.... well, I guess you all know what has to happen.... that's right, super-intelligent spiders. Oh, and they are giant too for some reason, cuz why the hell not? When it's FUBAR, might as well go balls to walls.

Oh yeah, this is great. Nothing can possibly go wrong here.

Shockingly, we eventually destroy our own planet and have to send out spaceships with the last of humanity to find one of those habitable planets we discovered way back when. But, you know, nobody actually knows about the spider-thing. yeah. That's not gonna bite us in the ass.

Or maybe it will. Literally.

This book is a long epic tale of the evolution of the spider-planet and the last hope for the survival of mankind. Thousands of years of history is written in alternating chapters of each species. It is surprisingly fascinating. Like, I can't believe I liked this thing, but it was amazing. The spiders start out as neanderachnids and end up a sophisticated race of reasoning beings. But, we watch them go through things like the beginnings of self-awareness, to building a religion, to building cities and civilizations. You forget that they are disgusting spiders for a while. Then, they do something spidery or talk about their spider bodies and..


So, I would say if you are really arachnophobic, you won't want to read it. Since there are no pictures, though, and if you aren't that freaked out by spiders, then you will probably really like this book. It was way better than I thought it would be.
Profile Image for Apatt.
507 reviews806 followers
March 30, 2018
Children of Time: Winner of the 2016 Arthur C. Clarke Award”. Most cumbersome book title ever (this is the full title of the edition I bought). Why did the publisher have to tag the award thing on the book’s original title? Fortunately, on the bright side, this is my only complaint about this book!

This book takes David Brin’s “uplift” concept and really runs with it. In Brin’s popular Uplift series, humanity have used technology to boost the intellect of selected species of animals to sentience level. I can’t quite remember the reason behind this, presumably to make them more useful and for other, more magnanimous, purposes. Indeed there is a direct tribute to Brin in Children of Time, in the form a little spaceship called Brin 2. However, the emphasis of the novel is not about the uplifting itself, but about the accidental sentient species that arise from the project and its subsequent interaction with humanity.

The original idea was to uplift monkeys to sentient levels through an infection of an engineered “nanovirus”, and put them on a habitable planet, but someone sabotaged that project and all the monkeys are killed. However, the nanovirus is sent to the intended planet and infects several species of insects instead. Spiders turn out to be the chief beneficiaries of this project as the virus is most effective on them. This starts off one of the two main narrative threads which chronicles the rise of the spider race as the ruler of the planet. The other narrative thread concerns a group of humans fleeing from Earth which is destroyed by a final world war, on an “ark ship” called “Gilgamesh”. This massive spaceship is carrying working crew and thousands of people in suspended animation, to be defrosted when a habitable planet is found. Unfortunately the only habitable they manage to find, after hundreds of years and generations of crew have come and gone, is the nice planet now ruled by the spiders.

Wonderful Polish edition cover

It has been a busy month so it took me almost three weeks to finish. Somehow it makes me appreciate the book even more as my constant companion to many places. The narrative is quite interesting from the first chapter and as characters, situations and world building are gradually laid down it becomes increasingly compelling, by the end of the book I was completely riveted. While the humans and spiders plotlines are given about equal time I was much more fascinated by the spiders, the culture, language and technology they develop after receiving their “increased cognitive capacity”. The spider protagonists are also very well developed, and quite admirable. I love sci-fi biotechnology, organic devices, homes and transportations. It is fascinating how the development spiders’ technology takes a different path from the humans, due to lack of metals and electricity. Their tech is based on hyper advanced biochemistry instead. I love how their society is ruled by the female, and the physically weaker and less intelligent males are generally disposable second class citizens. That is until a radical and messianic male spider comes along.

The human side of the story is less fascinating but it never drags down the narrative. Their state of affairs is quite pitiful compared to the spiders. They spend hundreds of years on board “the Gilgamesh”, key figures going in and out of suspended animation as needed. Generations are born on the spaceship and never set foot on a planet. The ark ship becomes a “generation ship” even though it was never designed to be used as one and the living conditions on board become rather cramped as the on board population expands. This being the case their need to settle on the spider’s planet is understandable. Unfortunately the humans believe in the cold logic of a concept called “the prisoner’s’ choice” which is based on mutual distrust because the cost of betrayal would mean complete annihilation. As the humans and the spiders head for collision that would result in genocide of one side or the other I found myself curiously rooting for the spiders; mainly because the spider characters are generally better developed and they do have the moral high ground of being the invadees, not the invaders. Thematically it is mainly a story of racial prejudice and a plea for tolerance, with both sides thinking that there is a necessity to completely wipe out the other side for the survival of the race.

Whatever the outcome Children of Time is one of the best space operas I have ever read, with a nice and clear writing style and a straightforward linear structure of the twin plotlines that make the book very accessible. The sci-fi tech is highly imaginative and the science behind it is clearly explained without resorting to infodumping; some very good characterization, thrilling plot developments and a very good ending makes this one of the greats for me. Highly recommended.
spiders line
• In spite of the title this book has nothing to do with time travelling.

• In some ways, parts of this book are like Watership Down for spiders, and that is high praise! It may also be Charlotte's Web for adults? I haven't read that one, but my spider-sense says yes. It also reminds me a little bit of a computer game called Sim Ant.

• Tchaikovsky's study of psychology and zoology stand him in good stead here (he is also a keen amateur entomologist). Interestingly his fantasy series Shadows of the Apt is also based on insects. TBR'd!

spiders line
“There had been those back on Earth who claimed the universe cared, and that the survival of humanity was important, destined, meant. They had mostly stayed behind, holding to their corroding faith that some great power would weigh in on their behalf if only things became so very bad.”

“The enemy they face is the child of a technology she cannot conceive of, advanced beyond the dreams of her own kind’s greatest scientists, using a technology of metal and fire and lighting, all fit tools for vengeful deities. At her disposal is fragile silk, biochemistry and symbiosis, and the valour of all those who will put their lives at her disposal.”

“Life is not perfect, individuals will always be flawed, but empathy – the sheer inability to see those around them as anything other than people too – conquers all, in the end.”

“That is the problem with ignorance. You can never truly know the extent of what you are ignorant about.”

“I consider CoT to be an outreach program for literate-minded arachnophobics :) There has been a pleasant number of readers who really don't like spiders but (a) have got through the book; and (b) have come out of it willing to give the little guys the benefit of the doubt. Of course now I need to stealth-write a book that has spiders as utterly horrible people-destroying bad guys just to utterly throw my readership...”

From Adrian Tchaikovsky's Reddit AMA.
Profile Image for Zoeytron.
1,036 reviews691 followers
June 21, 2020
Well, it finally happened.  Earth can no longer sustain life, having frozen over, then morphing into an oozing toxic thaw.  The possibility of mankind becoming extinct is all too real, and plans have been in place for a relocation to a more welcoming sphere.  It should have been ready when the spaceship arrived with its precious cargo of humans.  But where have all the monkeys gone?  This planet is host to evolutionized spiders.  So many eyes, so many legs.  Striking parallels are spun, the differences between arachnids and humans, and in some ways, the sameness.  Intricate webs for communication, sticky strands and knotted ties to restrict.  Basic, yet effective.  The spider culture is fascinating, travelers and spitters, a mysterious crystal and its secrets, electronic life.  And fire ants!
Profile Image for Algernon (Darth Anyan).
1,531 reviews978 followers
January 15, 2016

This is the future.
This is where mankind takes its next step.
This is where we become gods.

Science has given mankind the tools to travel to distant stars, to terraform their planets and to play with the building blocks of life : genetics.
It sounds like a dream come true, an utopian future in which everything is possible.
In practice, the deployment of miraculous scientific discoveries from the laboratory to the real world is fraught with the same issues that have plagues past generations : greed, selfishness, religious intolerance, thirst for power, irresponsible behaviour. Instead of agents of progress, scientists turn into agents of destruction. Utopias become Distopias.

Adrian Tchaikovsky explores this deep divide between idealistic dreams and grim reality in two directions:

- artificially accelerated evolution of a population through a nanotechnology, synthetic 'smart' virus
- social degradation in a multi-generational arcology : a slower than lightspeed ship transporting the frozen survivors of a planetary holocaust.

It's been done before, but Tchaikovsky manages to be here both traditional and original. The story reminds me of the golden age SF in its mostly positive atitude towards science, in looking at the big picture rather than at the lives of the individuals, in tracking social movements through the lens of technological progress, in its plain, clear-cut storytelling and often unidimensional characters.

The originality of the project comes from the same passion of the author that made his fantasy epic special : Tchaikovsky is really keen on his arthropods. "Shadows of the Apt" is populated by a wide range of different nations that share insect and human traits. "Children of Time" invites us to view the world through alien eyes that share a lot of common features with Earth's spiders. This almost obsession with the insect world is giving Thhaikovsky an edge over his fellow writers through the huge diversity of the regnum, a much richer source of inspiration that the usual human shaped aliens. I know that for me, as a photographer, it is always fascinating to turn a macro lens on even the most common specimens of these arthropods, and that a close up look at their multifaceted eyes or at the shapes of mandibles and antennas will make me think of aliens living unnoticed among us humans.

They are among the most diverse groups of animals on the planet, including more than a million described species and representing more than half of all known living organisms.

"Children of Time" managed to keep my interest and to make me turn the pages faster and faster especially in its alien half of the story, mostly by this originality in perspective. . I was already a fan of the author before his move from fantasy to SF, but this new story reinforced his position among my favorites. It's not easy to keep a good balance between action and exposition and emotionally charged characterization, especially if you have no familiar frame of reference for your social and economic structures and you have to start anew with the main actors after each generational change. The novel covers a multi-millenial timespan yet, despite all the inherent problems of such a large frame, it works like clockwork, even in the final blending together of the two main streams : human and alien.

I am about no namedrop one of the biggest names in SF : Isaac Asimov. In the "Foundation" series, Asimov also uses a multigenerational approach that allows him to study history through the engines of science and technology, explaining wars, gender roles, growth and decay in relation to the discoveries of positronic brains or mathematical formulas that explain Fate and Chance. Tchaikovsky has his nanotechnology virus that can change a whole society from hunters/gatherers to intelligent predators, through commerce and military conquest to a modern society of scientists and artists. This alien evolution is not without its own mishaps and wrong turns in the path to the future. It starts with the promise of a mad dreamer:

We will seed the universe with all the wonders of the Earth.

... a dreamer who conveniently forgets that these wonders, monitored from outer space, manifest like global warming, oceans of plastic garbage, deforestation and desertification, global wars, famine and crippling poverty, indigent species hunted to extinction. Both the aliens on their terraformed planet and the humans in their multi-generational ark demonstrate that this dismal list is very close to the true heritage of humanity. Yet Tchaikovsky is also prone to remember that at the bottom of Pandora's Box there is a feeble thing called Hope. The future is not already written down, despite the claims of psychohistory and prophets of doom, and thus my last quotations from what turned out to be one of the best (SF) novels of 2015:

Nothing. No promises. The universe promises us nothing.
Things are the way we make them.
Profile Image for Scott.
292 reviews318 followers
September 30, 2019
Hey you! Yeah you - the person reading this review!

Stop reading. No really, if you’re a Science Fiction fan stop reading this review right now. You don’t need to. You’re going to LOVE this book. It’s going to rock your world. It’s fricking amazing. That’s all you need to know.

Now, go, git, skeddadle, whatever, just RUN to a bookshop, as fast as you can. Get this book, then call in sick at work. Ignore your family. Turn your back on your adult responsibilities. Do what you have to do to get some serious quality time with Adrian Tchaikovsky’s bloody brilliant novel.

What? You’re still here? Really? You need to be convinced to read one of the best science fiction novels of the 21st Century? A book that is a likely in the top fifty of any serious list of the best SF books ever written?

Ok. Damn. You’re tough. You’re a hard-nosed reader, someone who isn’t just gonna drop some cash after reading some guy's opinion on the internet. I get it. I’m usually like you. I read reviews. I research books for my to-read list. I’m not easily impressed, I’m a bit jaded, perhaps even a touch cynical.

But Children of Timethis is why I read Science Fiction - to experience books like this one, books that fill me with euphoria at their sheer brilliance, their audacity, their vision.
I get it though- you need to more than ‘it’s really good’ before you’ll commit. I’ll try to control my rabid enthusiasm for long enough to give you an idea of what you’re in for.

In the far future, humanity has fallen. An era of almost god-like technological power has passed, and the remaining humans have pulled themselves back up from the wartime devastation of Earth, scrabbled together some comparatively primitive tech, and escaped Earth in a cryo ark. The era of godlike power is so long ago that it approaches myth, and a journey that once took twenty years will now take many centuries.

At the end of their journey is a world. A world that an entire epoch earlier was terraformed and seeded with life. They hope it will be their new home.

The crew of this ship include a classicist – Holsten Mason – an expert on the language and history of the old empire, the dictatorial captain, Guyen - a man so obsessed with human preservation that he has become mentally imbalanced, and Lain, the ships chief engineer. As the ship travels across the millennia, the people awake from their sleep to meet challenges, sleep again, wake, and so on - hopping across time, losing touch with the universe outside their vessel.

But the world they are travelling to is not as they think it is.

This planet – Kern’s World – was seeded with more than life. It was seeded with a virus designed to accelerate evolution, to raise apes to human-level sentience, and it is being watched.

The world’s namesake - Doctor Avrana Kern - is trapped above the planet in a tiny satellite, incrementally losing her mind while she waits for her apes below her to evolve far enough to respond to radio signals.

But there are no apes. They all died entering while their ship entered the atmosphere. Instead, the virus is slowly raising the intelligence of various species on the planet, the most successful of which is a type of Spider…

Yep, arachnophobes beware - Kern’s world is home to an evolving civilization of intelligent spiders.
And what a civilization. Tchaikovsky deftly paints with a palette of thousands of years, showing a society evolving and growing in fascinating and enthralling detail. Following the many descendants of one of the first spiders to become more aware he takes readers into a society that is unique among all the SF novels I have read.

It’s a total trip, filled with wonder and even humor, as Tchaikovsky uses the matriarchal nature of insect societies to make some deft allegories to patriarchal human structures (in one example, the murder of smaller male spiders by larger females for fun is palmed off by a protagonist as ‘girls will be girls’.)

All the while of course, the human refugee ship draws closer, making conflict between humanity and their strange, lost children inevitable.

This juxtaposition, of the last days of a desperate and dying intelligent species (us!) with the evolution of another life-form from tiny, almost mindless insects into intelligent, civilized beings is the core of the narrative, and it’s heady, wonderful stuff.

The story twists and turns, avoiding SF clichés and forging its own unique path, leaving me genuinely surprised (and just a little giddy) by the novel’s end.

Anyway, now back to effusive praise and un-restrained recommendation:

If you like SF, if you like great storytelling and if you like having your mind and imagination expanded then you really must read this book - this guy is a major talent.

Now get out there and find yourself a copy!

Five giant, scary (yet thoughtful) spiders out of five.
Profile Image for William Gwynne.
376 reviews1,712 followers
July 21, 2021
I now have a YouTube channel that I run with my brother, called 'The Brothers Gwynne'. Check it out - The Brothers Gwynne

My expanded review of this great book is now on BookNest... Children of Time Review

“That is the problem with ignorance. You can never truly know the extent of what you are ignorant about.”

Children of Time is my first delving into the genre of science fiction, and it served as a great introduction. When I began, I found it a bit mind-boggling because of the technical space language and sophisticated technology. But as the story progressed, I soon acclimatised to this aspect and it did not become as demanding or distracting as I first thought.

There are some wonderfully unique aspects to this book, which I have been told cannot be compared to any other sci-fi, because of how different it is. One such idea is exploring evolution, and following the journey of this progression with different animals, in this case being a number of insect species...
It was so interesting and fun and novel that it cemented itself as my favourite part of the book, as I found myself disappointed every time a chapter finished with this PoV.

“Humanity is overrated”

It took a while to get into the other PoV, who was a human on a spaceship that carries the rest of humanity. This was partly due to the technical part that I mentioned earlier, and also because there was not as much action. But when the plot started rolling, I was also looking forward to this part of the story, because of the cultural challenges presented, the fantastic prose that Tchaikovsky writes with, the unique ideas, and so many other reasons.

There is a very small cast of named characters, definitely not over 15 in total. This is extremely different to what I am used to, but it served well to strengthen those bonds with the characters that are present, and allowed another level of depth to be added to these as they earned more page time.

So once again, Children of Time was a great introduction to the genre, and I am sure that I will continue onto its sequel at some point, and also some other science fiction, starting with Dune.
Profile Image for Peter Tillman.
3,685 reviews347 followers
November 28, 2021
The good news: $1 ebook at Amazon (Nope: now 10 bucks!(2021))
The bad news: I started it at the end of last year (2017), read to 62% and stalled out. When I picked it up again, I found I had no wish whatever to continue. It's a pretty ramshackle affair, and I'm surprised it won a major award. Not for me!

Here's Claudia's 1-star review:
I didn't hate it quite as much as she did. But it's pretty bad. Read her review before you try the book, and a few of the other 1 and 2-star writeups. Then read something else, is my advice.
"It's a sin to waste the reader's time" -- Larry Niven

Here's Ann Leckie's writeup, which led me to read it:
Profile Image for Justine.
1,158 reviews312 followers
November 29, 2017
An absolutely brilliant and fantastically imaginative piece of science fiction. This is one of the best books I've read this year.
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