Book Review: Children of Memory 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: 2.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: Book 3 of Children of Time
Publisher: Orbit (January 31, 2023)
Length: 512 pages
We have now reached the third book in the Children of Time series. If we travel back to the spring of 2017 when I read the first book, which incidentally was also my first novel by the author, I had to this to say: “Children of Time is one of the smartest, most remarkable and innovative science fiction novels I’ve read in years and now I can’t wait to read more by Adrian Tchaikovsky.”
Fast forward to today, and I find myself struggling to put my feelings into words about this latest installment. Because the truth is, if I was rating it solely on my enjoyment, I would be forced to rate this book much lower than I want to. As much as it pains me to say this, and I have a feeling this will be an unpopular opinion, but the story just didn’t do it for me. While the writing was superb, which is nothing less than I would expect from Tchaikovsky, I can’t say I really enjoyed myself. The most I can say about Children of Memory was that it was okay.
Set many years after the events of the previous book, Children of Ruin, this third volume in the sequence once more focuses on the different species of uplifted creatures as well as a line of enhanced Humans who have bonded closely with the arachnoid aliens known as Portiids. The octopoids have also come into their own to feature in a major role alongside a new race of life form discovered from the planet Nod, and the joining of these disparate spacefaring species has amazingly created a new society in which all of them coexist in relative peace. Together, they now look outwards to the greater universe beyond in search for even more civilizations and intelligences.
In their explorations, they come upon a colony where thousands of years before, their ancestors had arrived on the spaceship Enkidu carrying its precious cargo of sleeping passengers preparing to settle the planet. Instead of paradise though, the colonists found hostile conditions and hardship. Generations later, the descendants of a small cohort from the original crew of the Enkidu have still yet to make the planet completely habitable, but then that’s when the visitors arrive. They have come to help humanity’s colonies, or so they say, yet there’s more to them that meets the eye. But then, perhaps not all is as it seems with the colony either.
So, what made this a miss when the first book was such a hit? To be honest, I felt the series was already in decline with Children of Ruin, a sequel marred by uneven pacing and heavy exposition. Unfortunately, these issues have only gotten worse in Children of Memory. I felt the main plot dragged and was encumbered by over lengthy descriptions and too many meandering side discussions and other distractions. Ultimately, as much as I wanted to like this book, the story was made to feel unnecessarily complicated and difficult to follow at times.
Also more diluted in this installment was the “biopunk science” which put the first book on the map, especially with regards to the population biology and social organization aspect. The evolution of human culture took on a more central role, an intriguing topic in its own right, but just a little too off the track from what got me interested in the series in the first place. In as much as there is a main character, I was also not too impressed with Miranda. On the surface, the potential for this unusual character would appear to be limitless, but without spoiling anything, I suppose it shouldn’t have come as a shock that the character development might be on the weaker side.
Will there be more books after this? Well, seeing as the announcements of the sequels to Children of Time actually came as a surprise to me both times, I think it will be hard to say. But then, personally I saw little point in trying to improve or expand upon the already perfect, and we all know what they say about quitting while you’re ahead. I write all of this as someone who is a fan of Adrian Tchaikovsky, but as Children of Memory has proven to me, there’s little doubt that we are straying farther and farther away from everything I loved about the first book. If it does turn out we’ll get another sequel, I expect I’d probably be nervous instead of excited.