"A world building epic that is one of the smartest, most gripping evolutionary tales I think I have ever read"
Title: Children of Time
Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky
Publisher: PAN Books
If someone had tried to explain the plot of Adrian Tchaikovsky's world building epic to me before having read it, it would have been quite hard for them not to make it sound like a bad B-Movie idea you would find on a direct to DVD title in the local pound shop. Thankfully no one attempted such an explanation, allowing me to come into the novel blind and ultimately be treated to one of the smartest, most gripping evolutionary tales I think I have ever read.
Any explanation of plot that I attempt is not going to do the book justice, but I will say that I would have loved to have been in the meeting where Tchaikovsky pitched the idea, just to see the reactions of those upon hearing "Imagine spiders... but in space".
On paper the idea is so unusual, but Tchaikovsky has such a skill that he has you whole heartedly believing that everything described is entirely possible; judging by who he thanks in his acknowledgement section plus the amount of research done in the creation of this book, I am now completely convinced that such events described in his novel are completely possible. This just goes to show how much of an impact the book has had, the fact that I have gone from thinking its B-Movie fodder to actual probable science in around 600 pages.
I have not been a big reader of this kind of science fiction in my life, not out of any dislike but due to always finding something else I would rather be reading. Yet Children of Time had me enraptured throughout, more than any other book of its kind that I have ever read.
(Thank you Bethan for suggesting it)
Past evolutionary world building novels just haven't done it for me, even the ones that are considered classics. This is not to say that they are bad, but just that they tend to focus on the wrong thing. I admit I was worried starting out Tchaikovsky's book, especially as it is the first of his that I have ever read, yet my worries subsided within the first few pages; not chapters, PAGES. It has been a while since a book has grabbed me so tightly so quickly, leading to many of my reading sessions to last until the early hours with more than a hundred pages consumed.
Concerning the subject matter of the plot it could have been very easy for Tchaikovsky to fall into the heavy jargon trap, blinding the reader with ultimately unneeded elements just to make the novel feel futuristic, but thankfully he does not do such a thing.
Despite taking place in a technologically advanced future I never felt lost, never blindsided by the created futuristic tech that other authors are guilty of overloading their novels with (See Brave New World and Solaris). Even when this novel does toe the line with its technological - or should I say organic - creations, it was written in such a way that I completely understood everything that was being explained, cementing my earlier statement that I am now convinced something like the plot of the book could easily happen given the right circumstances.
As the entire premise revolves around the evolution of its characters (both figuratively and literally) those chosen to be the harbingers of its plot needed to be something more than just a narrative tool, and Tchaikovsky does not disappoint. By masterfully utilising rather simple techniques (for example the naming of his characters), he effortlessly allows his narrative to stretch beyond the generations described within. Even then, when his characters share an ancestry, each new iteration feels unique, each new generation holding the complexities and flaws of a well rounded creation. This is truly wonderful especially considering who his characters are. What originally could prickle a readers fear quickly turns into understanding and acceptance of his creations, providing an unusual joy in finding out how they ultimately grow across the thousands of years detailed within the book.
Even though the timeline stretches across multiple millennia and despite the book sitting comfortably at 600 pages, Children of Time never feels long or drawn out. Every event and every plot point feels important, necessary to the narrative as a whole, there inclusions helping aid the evolutionary world building that this book has become acclaimed for.
I don't know what else to say other that that this book is wonderful and is a must read for any science fiction fan.