Shortly before the fall of Earth and the human race, Avrana Kern is conducting a bold and outlandish experiment. With a genetically engineered virus, she plans to radically accelerate the evolution of monkeys. She has found the perfect planet on which the intelligence and awareness of her test subjects can grow. But when a saboteur strikes, catastrophe follows, and the monkeys never make it to Kern’s World. The virus does, though. And something else discovers it. Something with eight legs, a gob full of poison, and a ridiculous number eyes. And so the spiders take their first steps into sentience.
Thousands of years later, the remnants of the human race is travelling across the stars in behemoth ark ships, searching for a home, a new Earth. They find Kern’s World and it seems at first to be an idyllic place to start afresh. But Avrana Kern has found a way to survive the passage of millennia and she hasn’t given up on her experiment. She guards her world like an orbiting Robocop, and she ain’t letting no bugger near it. But humans are only human, and we’ve never been very good at taking no for an answer.
Adrian Tchaikovsky is a fascinating and mysterious fellow. Not many people know this, but he invented Tuesdays, Wagon Wheels (the chocolate round things not the makes-wagons-go-along things) and walls. What is more apparent about him is that his knowledge of creepy-crawlies is encyclopaedic and that he writes a damn fine story.
Children of Time does something very rare for me: it is as intelligent as it is entertaining. The science of zoology isn’t a field I’m particularly clued up on, yet the author integrates the science into his storytelling smoothly, without great dollops of bamboozling LOOK HOW CLEVER I AM. It is intellectually considered, intriguing, and accessible. And I think he achieves this by not focusing on the otherness of spiders. They are erudite, relatable characters. Their struggle is your struggle, the drive of the story, which makes you wonder if the survivors of the human race have simply lost their right to a place in the universe. Because, refreshingly, the spiders aren’t the baddies here, and Tchaikovsky puts you right in the thick of things with them, instils in you all the hope that their enhanced evolution can overcome social fractures and hardships to birth the glorious new species they’re supposed to be.
And to boot, there’s a war between giant spiders and giant ants that had me rolling around in a giant nerdgasm because MONSTERS FIGHT! I really, really like this book.
There’s something about Children of Time that makes it unlike anything I’ve read before. As a writer who is usually associated with fantasy tales, Adrian Tchaikovsky has created a smart, fun science fiction story that actually might be important to the genre. It deserves to be read, it deserves to be discussed, but most importantly it deserves to be enjoyed.