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Book Review: Children of Ruin by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Title: Children of Ruin

Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky

Series: Children of Time #2

Genre: Science Fiction

Rating: 2/5 stars

The Overview: Long ago, Earth’s terraforming program sent ships out to build new homes for humanity among the stars and made an unexpected discovery: a planet with life. But the scientists were unaware that the alien ecosystem was more developed than the primitive life forms originally discovered. Now, thousands of years later, the Portiids and their humans have sent an exploration vessel following fragmentary radio signals. They discover a system in crisis, warring factions trying to recover from an apocalyptic catastrophe arising from what the early terraformers awoke all those years before. -Goodreads

The Review:

Children of Time is still my favorite book of 2022. Children of Ruin… not so much.

Truthfully I had a hard time finishing this one. At 80% I was forcing myself through it to the point where I initially called a DNF before deciding to just speed read to the end. I mean, I’d heard it wasn’t as good as the first one, but I wasn’t expecting to be so completely disengaged.

So what changed between books one and two? My theory is character connection. CoT was a brilliantly composed character study that managed to make me care deeply about the creatures involved. It was especially impressive that he managed to evoke that given that it was also a multi-generational story. CoR showed glimmers of good character work at the beginning, but quickly set it aside in favor of extensive theorizing and info dumps. Even the return of some familiar faces didn’t help, and in some ways actually made things worse, as none of them showed any of the depth I remember from the first book.

As you may have heard, CoT focuses on a society of spiders, whereas CoR focuses on cephalopods (octopi). I wouldn’t say spiders are any less alien to human ways of thinking and functioning as a society than cephalopods, but the way Tchaikovsky chose to present both offered wildly different experiences. The spiders came across somewhat relatable, where as the cephalopods’ society and forms of communication were so alien it was hard to form a connection to them. The creatures used complex color patterns to communicate. And the use of general impressions and imagery in place of dialogue was amazing and creative and cool… but it wasn’t engaging in the slightest. My favorite part about CoR was learning more about these creatures, but they weren’t solid, distinct enough “characters” to make me feel more than a curious interest in them.

So without anyone to latch onto, I started to feel disengaged from the story. And then the plot got a bit confusing and I lost even more momentum. So by the time I made it to the end (by the skin of my teeth), I was checked out.

I know this author can dazzle me, and by no means am I finished exploring his works. CoR had a lot of great base elements to it, I just think it lost me on some of the execution choices. I’m still looking forward to Children of Memory, but with perhaps a little less enthusiasm than after CoR.

Recommendations: while the biological components were every bit as cool as the stuff found in CoT, all of the other story elements fell a bit flat. At the moment I’d say consider CoT a stand-alone and don’t bother with this sequel, but that may change after I read the third book.

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by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Title: Children of Time

Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky

Series: Children of Time #1

Genre: Science Fiction

Rating: 5/5 stars!!! <-Rare

The Overview: A race for survival among the stars… Humanity’s last survivors escaped earth’s ruins to find a new home. But when they find it, can their desperation overcome its dangers? WHO WILL INHERIT THIS NEW EARTH? The last remnants of the human race left a dying Earth, desperate to find a new home among the stars. Following in the footsteps of their ancestors, they discover the greatest treasure of the past age—a world terraformed and prepared for human life. But all is not right in this new Eden. In the long years since the planet was abandoned, the work of its architects has borne disastrous fruit. The planet is not waiting for them, pristine and unoccupied. New masters have turned it from a refuge into mankind’s worst nightmare. Now two civilizations are on a collision course, both testing the boundaries of what they will do to survive. As the fate of humanity hangs in the balance, who are the true heirs of this new Earth? -Goodreads

The Review:

Add Children of Time to my very short list of all-time favorites!!

So many things about it worked for me. First of all, I’m especially drawn to Scifi stories with a strong biological component (Julie Czerneda has been a long-time favorite in that regard), and not only was this one bursting with alien flora and fauna awesomeness, but it also had a strong anthropological angle. I read so many Scifi where the most creative they get with world-building is what type of tech is used on this group of ships vs that one, so it’s wonderful to get the same level of expansive creation I usually have to defer to fantasy novels to experience.

This is my first Tchaikovsky, and it definitely won’t be my last. He made so many brilliant writing decisions in this book that I was left in awe. He had really creative solutions to some story logistics that would’ve left me stumped. Like how to tell the story over multiple generations while maintaining your reader’s connection to the characters. Sometimes it’s as simple as giving them the same name – something I never would’ve thought of. He handled the time jumps for the humans with similar grace, establishing a trust with me very early on in his ability to deliver a satisfying story.

What’s more, I found out mid-read that the author majored in both Zoology and Psychology – both of which spark my interest so much I can hardly stand it. And both backgrounds clearly enhanced the story. I love it when authors take a background of deep knowledge and apply that to their writing.

The book had the perfect balance of world-building, character connection, pacing, momentum, and then he topped it all off with a brilliant finish. I’m sure I’ll be talking about this one for years to come.

Recommendations: one of my all-time favorites! If you like Scifi with a good dose of anthropological components and creature creations, this is an excellent pick. It’s imaginative, exciting, and incredibly well-composed – I can’t recommend it highly enough!

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by Niki Hawkes