Children of Time
Video Length 1:18
Who Should Read It
All fans of science fiction and action/adventure
Why Should We Read It
This novel has a unique plot in which remnants of humanity must confront an ascendant and intelligent spider society for control of a planet.
What Will We Learn
Who is superior, humans or spiders?? Also a dabbling of multiple philosophical conundrums to ponder.
"Nowadays, science fiction stories set in space tend to fall into two different categories."
Nowadays, science fiction stories set in space tend to fall into two different categories. The first type of story imagines a universe in which interplanetary travel is mundanely common, and interspecies relations among humans and alien(s) are a matter of personality fit within the confines of each species' biology. Star Wars, Star Trek, and Guardians of the Galaxy are prime examples. The other type of story involves two alien civilizations at the height of their power who have initiated first contact and are heading toward inevitable conflict. In these stories, the species with the best blend of technology, military tactics, and psychobiology will emerge victorious. Ender's Game, StarCraft, and Starship Troopers come to mind here. Adrian Tchaikovsky's Children of Time defies clean categorization into either of these two themes. In this novel, the human race became so self-destructive that its interstellar population is reduced to a single ark ship blindly wandering space for a new home. Humanity's only hope is an exoplanet terraformed into Earth's image by their ancestors with technology long-since lost. The only problem- that planet has evolved intelligent spiders who know they are coming.
"Both spider and human are "Children of Time", but for uniquely different reasons."
Mr. Tchaikovsky takes great care in Children of Time to develop the adventures of the remnant human survivors and the histories of the burgeoning spiders prior to the inevitable first contact. The contrast could not be more starkly different. The spiders steadily rose from simple invertebrate hunters to self-aware sentient beings who mastered and molded their expansive world to their whim. The humans, on the other hand, were confined to a single spaceship and struggling to prevent ambition and tribalism from plunging their species into further ignorance; extinction is only a single pressed button away if no one can remember how to run and maintain a spaceship. The book literally spans tens of thousands of years, and yet the reader only needs to remember a handful of names: Portia, Bianca, Fabian for the spiders; Holstein, Guyen, Lain, Karst, Kern for the humans. It is a tribute to Mr. Tchaikovsky's imagination and literary prowess that a ten thousand-year story of two different species, already a masterful feat on its own, can be compellingly told using only a handful of character names. Both spider and human are "Children of Time", but for uniquely different reasons.
"The novel mercifully never tangentially indulges in philosophical pontification, and remains firmly grounded and focused on the plot implications of the beliefs of the competing sects."
Embedded in the meticulous world-building in Children of Time are multiple transcendent philosophical struggles that each generation of humans and spiders must confront, address, and resolve. In order to advance their society, the spiders needed to come to terms with their own gender bias, a refreshing exploration in no small part because male spiders are considered the weaker sex. The humans had to learn, as we always do, to beware the corrupting influence of absolute power in our struggle to balance the desires of our selfish selves with the demands of the greater good [Also refreshing is the lack of a Luke/Han/Leia love triangle]. Interestingly, both species had to contend in their own way the dueling roles of religion and science, faith and logic. In both worlds, a singular figure emerged who assumed near god-like status, forever altering the course of each respective history. The novel mercifully never tangentially indulges in philosophical pontification, and remains firmly grounded and focused on the plot implications of the beliefs of the competing sects. Nonetheless, these larger overarching themes are poignantly relevant questions to ponder for our own real-life 21st century world.
"Children of Time is not your average science fiction novel."
Children of Time is not your average science fiction novel. It definitely has no shortage of action and adventure to satisfy the casual sci-fi fan girl/boy. But in imagining the human race as a pathetic former shell of itself on the cusp of extinction through its very own hand, we are also given opportunity to reflect on our inherent fragility, the universe’s harsh indifference to our existence, and the hubris of our own supposed superiority. The spiders themselves are neither perfect nor pacifist. To their core, they are predators who are prone to kill first and ask questions later. And yet somehow, their march to modernization exudes a nobility and respectability that our own real-life human history lacks. Very rarely do I ever come across a book in which I wish to keep an actual copy at home after finishing. Children of Time is one of those exceptions. A humble word of advice: whatever you do, do NOT read the end of the novel first. Read it from start to finish without knowing what happens at the end. You will not regret it.