Children of Time, a review by Joanna

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Children of Time

Adrian Tchaikovsky

Published June 4th, 2015

600 pages/16hrs 31m


What an amazing original story! I don’t read much sci-fi, but my husband likes it, so I took pity on him and selected this for our next car audiobook, having seen lots of rave reviews of it over the last couple of years. They are totally justified – I was rapidly caught up in this epic tale of survival beyond the stars, with some very unusual protagonists and a fascinating premise – I don’t think I’ve ever read anything like it.

Far into the future, humanity has finally destroyed planet earth, so to save the species, scientists set about terraforming distant planets to give the lucky few a second chance at survival. In orbit around one promising candidate, megalomaniac biologist Dr Avrana Kern is ready to populate it with special monkeys and release a nanovirus specially engineered to speed up their evolution so that they will be ready to serve their human masters when the time comes. Things don’t go according to plan, and the virus finds another host. Two thousand years later, Ark ship the Gilgamesh is on it’s way there, but Kern, who has uploaded her psyche into the computer and gone insane, refuses to allow them to disrupt “her experiment” – not realising that “Kern’s World” is now the home of some very smart spiders… As the refugees become more desperate, they realise that the fertile planet is their only hope – but which species deserves to survive?
Told in mostly alternating chapters from the perspective of the humans – first the hilariously grandiose Kern, then classicist Holsten, the “old man” who’s job is to translate the language of ancient human civilisations so the crew can salvage their tech, and of the spiders – every generation has a soldier called Portia who bravely defends her rapidly progressing civilisation, as well as Biancas and Fabians who are scientists and leaders. Theirs is a female-dominated society where every action is for the good of the species, but with their accelerated intelligence, they come to the same big questions as humans – but with rather different conclusions.
The audiobook narration was brilliant, reader Mel Hudson (female) copes admirably with all the various voices so you’re never in doubt who’s speaking. Most of the humans are pretty horrid people, so even committed arachnophobes are likely to find themselves siding with the spiders! It turns out this is the first in a trilogy, so while this does have an unexpected but very satisfying ending, I look forward to finding out what happens next. Recommended even if you’re normally not a sci-fi fan – an easy 5 stars from me.

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