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Children of Ruin (The Children of Time Novels) Hardcover – May 16, 2019
Children of Ruin follows Adrian Tchaikovsky's extraordinary Children of Time, winner of the Arthur C. Clarke award. It is set in the same universe, with a new cast of characters and a thrilling new narrative.
It has been waiting through the ages.
Now it's time . . .
Thousands of years ago, Earth’s terraforming program took to the stars. On the world they called Nod, scientists discovered alien life – but it was their mission to overwrite it with the memory of Earth. Then humanity’s great empire fell, and the program’s decisions were lost to time.
Aeons later, humanity and its new spider allies detected fragmentary radio signals between the stars. They dispatched an exploration vessel, hoping to find cousins from old Earth.
But those ancient terraformers woke something on Nod better left undisturbed.
And it’s been waiting for them.
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- Publisher : Tor; Main Market edition (May 16, 2019)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 576 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1509865837
- ISBN-13 : 978-1509865833
- Reading age : 18 years and up
- Item Weight : 1.89 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.38 x 2.09 x 9.45 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,304,498 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Reviewed in the United States on September 21, 2019
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Tchaikovsky's logopraxis is excellent, and the arc he draws is very much a book of ideas, with a firm, albeit not hard, science foundation. One principal theme is interspecies communication, and he does a competent and enjoyable job of conveying perspectives of intelligences - primate, spider, octopus, and slime mold - in the process developing distinctly textured characters of each species, albeit increasingly shallow as the departure from human baseline compounds.
The space opera element is competently developed as a coherent background for the interplay of characters and ideas, but is quite lean. The focus throughout is on character perspectives and adventures, on the embodiment of consciousness, cognition, and communication, with physics playing much less of a role than biology, sociology, and network science.
Reader downtime does occur sporadically, and the author does occasionally lapse into telling, rather than showing, but overall it has a good flow, with frequently vivid scene setting and dramatic action. One could describe this as Redwall for literate and scientific grown-ups.
5 stars instead of 4 simply because it stands clearly above 95% of it's contemporaries. This sequence will be a speculative fiction benchmark for decades to come, on par with all time greats from the scifi back catalogue.
The first book, Children of Time, followed the accidental development of a sentient arachnid civilisation on a planet terraformed and abandoned by humans and its inevitable stand-off with the last survivors of the human kind fleeing from a ravaged and uninhabitable Earth to a planet they think is rightfully theirs.
Grand-scale, epically ambitious and, most importantly, biologically plausible, Children of Time was an enormous reward to read. However, it was also sleepy and long-winded, with a somewhat languid plot and entire chapters that read more like a Discovery documentary than genuine fiction. This is why I was hardly ecstatic when I found out that there was going to be a sequel—but, boy, was I proven wrong!
The plot of Children of Ruin kicks off exactly where Children of Time ended: with a joint expedition of humans and arachnids, long living side-by-side peacefully, to another human-terraformed world, which has been sending inscrutable radio signals. This expedition’s timeline goes side-by-side with the timeline of the human terraforming crew millennia before, as it starts terraforming one of the two Goldilocks planets in the system and makes a terrifying discovery on the other one.
The plot reminds very much of and its structure copies, for the most part, Children of Time, with the same uplifting of a sentient Earth-based species, this time octopuses, and with the same imminent stand-off between civilisations. But despite this lack of originality, Children of Ruin does all of this brilliantly, while the added horror subplot and a much, much tighter writing ensure a much more engaging plot. Adrian Tchaikovsky more or less takes what was best about Children of Time: the audacious scale and the plausible biology, and infuses it with so much more dynamics and energy as to you keep you on edge the entire time, something the first book was only able to do at the very end.
What is perhaps most appealing about both Children of Time and Children of Ruin though is Adrian Tchaikovsky’s incredibly optimistic view of the universe, where the unknown is an opportunity rather than a threat and where differences do not necessarily need to be resolved by conflict, but can end up in mutually beneficial cooperation. This is an incredibly different outlook than that of most modern authors and also a very likeable one, considering the times we all live in.
The book begins somewhat confusingly switching back and forth between several timelines. It is set in the same universe as Children of Time, with some overlapping threads and others millennia in the future. In this look into Earth’s future, Earth civilization is split between those who wish to terraform distant planets and those adamantly opposed. As terraforming is taking place, a man made cataclysm returns the Earth to a virtual Stone Age. Terraforming has taken place, however, and these outposts of human contact exist in a kind of limbo, generating life forms which become the subject of this work.
If you are a fan of page after page of stream of consciousness writing, this is the book for you. I’m not sure I ever fully appreciated the term, “navel gazing” until I read this book. Either the author is scarily intelligent, or he wants us to think he is. Whereas I found Children of Time to be captivating and very well presented, I found this work to be borderline unreadable and extremely difficult to understand. It is just a mess.
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So, I loved the first one, yes it was a little slow in parts and the ending was over too quickly, but overall it was a fun book to read, and I liked the effort the author went to with the descriptions of Portiid society including the spider-centric figures of speech etc. I enjoyed the first book so much I immediately downloaded the sequel and started reading. Okay, what do we have here, another human ship just before the disaster, good start (there's a huge range of great books which could be written from this starting point). What's that, the main character is experimenting with octopuses, octopii, squid things, and and also the uplift virus from the first book.... good, I can see where this is going. But then it quickly starts to suck, it's just far too drawn out, and infuriatingly it keeps jumping back and forth in time for no reason except to draw it out as much as possible. There are just whole chapters full of nothing but filler - you can tell where the plot is going and you are almost shouting at the book trying to get it to hurry up and get there but it just meanders on with irrelevant detail and skipping back in forth in time and perspective. There are some interesting ideas surrounding water dwelling creatures making spacecraft, but apart from that this this book is an underwhelming sequel. Avoid.
Children of Ruin expands well on the story initially told in Children of Time, but still manages to hold onto the things I loved from the first book. I can go on and on about how brilliant the storytelling in Children of Time is, as well as the incredibly intricate way he manages to show an entire culture evolving from primal hunters to a space-faring society. I absolutely loved the way that the spiders were presented and how they evolved in the first book, and was so worried that we wouldn’t get anything as interesting in Children of Ruin. However, he manages to show a similar evolution of a non-human society that doesn’t feel like a rehashing of the Portiid society. I loved the way life was explored, expanded on, and evolved on both Nod and Damascus. I loved that this book had so many horror elements to it. I loved the way the Portiids and humans interacted not only among themselves, but toward a new species. I loved the backstory of the terraformers. Basically, I just loved this book.
We get a good mix of our favourite Portiid descendants — Fabian, Portia, and Bianca — as well as human descendants of the Gilgamesh’s crew. It was so interesting to see how humans and Portiids are still getting to know each other and adjusting to each other’s customs, despite the generations between first contact and their present situation. Seeing them, particularly Helena and Portia, attempt to communicate with each other and with the the new species was just fabulous.
If you liked Children of Time, I really think you’ll enjoy Children of Ruin. Although it feels a lot like the first book in terms of general plot and story structure, Children of Ruin introduces so many new elements and continues to expand and explore familiar themes. Children of ruin combines elements of creeping horror with some of my favourite science fiction tropes — space exploration and first contact. Throw in a healthy dose of linguistics, and you have this absolutely brilliant book.
The story unrolls like a tide, flicking back and forth between two time periods, mixing classic horror/sci fi, linguistics tropes in the vein of Arrival, more insight into the twisted mind of Dr Avrana Kern from the first book, and a unique take on a whole new species. It weaves together four different perspectives seamlessly, but that split focus means it doesn't quite have the same impact as Children of Time, or as devastating an ending, but nothing ever will. It doesn't matter - Children of Ruin is a masterpiece. I read it over a weekend and immediately went back to read Children of Time again.
I also enjoyed the subtle nod to the ship naming in the Culture novels. When the ship names first appeared the smile that spread across my face was like greeting an old friend. I miss Iain M. Banks so much!
I have a sneaky feeling that Adrian Tchaikovsky is slowly fulfilling my Culture novel hunger.