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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Review: Children of Time

Children of Time won the 2016 Arthur C. Clarke award for best novel.  Yet somehow I'd never heard of it. So when it went on sale on Amazon for $1, I picked it up not knowing what to expect.

The novel combines aspects of David Brin's Uplift novels, along with Vernor Vinge's A Deepness in The Sky. Yet it goes beyond them both: it asks the question, "What if there was an accident and what was Uplifted weren't mammals, but instead, spiders?" Looking at Adrian Tchaikovsky's Wikipedia entry, it looks like the man has a fascination for insects, and it shows in the book. There's a wealth of details about how spiders work (yes, including the consumption of male spiders by the female after mating).

The novel then places mankind in a precarious situation: the same disaster that causes spiders to be uplifted was precipitated by a vast schism in humanity over what the rightful approach to terraforming and uplifting is, and what's left of humanity visits the uplifted planet eons later. Inevitably, you'd expect this to turn into an alien contact, military conquest story.

This is where Tchaikovsky throws you for a loop, with a final plot twist that's deserving of high praise in both execution and misdirection. The depiction of the rise of the spider's civilization and the spidery approach to technology is also great.

This is a darn good novel, and deserves its Arthur C. Clarke award. Recommended.

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