Book Review: Children of Ruin by Adrian Tchaikovsky
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: Book 2 of Children of Time
Publisher: Orbit (May 14, 2019)
Length: 608 pages
Children of Time was my first experience with Adrian Tchaikovsky, and it was like a revelation. This was a book I loved so much, I wasn’t even sure I had room in my heart for a sequel, so I admit when I heard about Children of Ruin, I approached it with no small amount of skepticism and trepidation.
Well, it seems I needn’t have worried, as Children of Ruin turned out to be a very enjoyable follow-up. I’ll also say that while the first book ended in a very good place, I was surprised to see how much more Tchaikovsky was able to build upon its foundations, adding to both the story and the universe. Essentially, you get everything you loved from Children of Time and further exploration of its themes, including the implications of a future shared by humans and uplifted creatures. Of course, we get to see Kern again as well as the spiders, but to my delight, this book also introduces more worlds and species like octopuses and other surprises. In addition, once again we have a narrative that spans many, many years—the better to examine the growth and evolution of societies, cultures, intelligence and communication over a long period of time.
Following the events of Children of Time, the humans and spiders have formed a mutual but somewhat uneasy alliance. In a joint venture between the two species, a space exploration vessel has been launched after the detection of a series of radio signals indicating the evidence of more life out there in the universe. However, in their quest to make contact, the crew encounters a new world and a hostile reaction from its alien inhabitants, putting all their lives at stake. In another thread, we discover how in the ancient past, another terraforming attempt led to the discovery of a planet the explorers dubbed Nod. Since I want to keep this review as spoiler-free as possible, what happened there is best left for the reader to find out on their own, but what I can tell you is that the connection between past and present will eventually be revealed. With careful attention to detail and balance, Tchaikovsky presents a long and complex (and sometimes disturbing) history of this universe and its intelligent entities, and a few of the developments might even chill you to the bone.
Because so much of this book builds upon Children of Time, it is most assuredly not a standalone sequel. Still, it is a must-read if you enjoyed the first book, and now, it is doubly worth your time to start this series if you’ve been curious about it. I still need to read more books by the author, but so far, with this series and a couple of his fantasy novels under my belt, I’m definitely feeling more of an affinity towards his sci-fi. With every page of Children of Ruin, I just grew more and more amazed at the depth of his ideas and creative genius. In book one, I thought the spiders were cool, but in book two, it was the octopuses who completely stole the show. I mean, come on! Octopuses! In space! Just when I thought Tchaikovsky could push the boundaries of this series no further, he goes ahead and proves me wrong. Furthermore, he does our new octopus characters justice, portraying them as both strange and familiar all at once. We know that as creatures, they’re scarily intelligent, but in their society as imagined in this book, they’re too disunited and fragmented to truly reach their full potential. Reading about them as was fascinating as reading about any alien culture, and the best part was that they were also different enough from the spiders to allow this sequel experience to feel unique, despite sharing similar themes with the first book.
If I had to compare the novels though, I would say Children of Time still maintains the edge. Like I said, there are many parallels, which in part removes some of the novelty. As well, I found there to be more exposition in this sequel, which led to some uneven pacing. On the bright side, however, I thought Children of Ruin did a fantastic job exemplifying the “biopunk” nature of this series, placing much greater emphasis on topics like population biology and social organization, examining a species’ social behavior through an evolutionary lens. Needless to say, the science nerd in me could not have been happier with the new direction.
All told, Children of Ruin follows closely in the footsteps of its predecessor when it comes to providing a smart and fresh take on our favorite science fiction themes, including alien contact and space exploration and colonization. If you loved the first book, I think you will also feel right at home with this one as Adrian Tchaikovsky once again delivers an engrossing storyline with lots of unexpected twists as well as sympathetic characters—human and nonhuman—that you can easily root for. Only two books in, Children of Time series is already proving to be a must-read for all sci-fi fans.
More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of Children of Time (Book 1)