Children of Time (2015), the first book in Adrian Tchaikovsky’s CHILDREN OF TIME series, is an expansive and visionary epic that speculates about the future of humanity.
In the first chapter, we meet a scientist who has managed to extend her life so that she can create her own world. Her plan is to drop monkeys on a terraformed planet, let loose a virus that will uplift them, wait until they evolve, and then introduce herself as their god. Without her knowledge, something goes wrong and evolution goes off in a very different direction than planned.
Next we meet a spaceship whose crew is in grave danger because Earth, which has been ruined and is at war, has cut off resources and support, purposely stranding all of its space-faring brethren. The spaceship crew twice attempt to land on the scientist’s planet, but are thwarted. Generations pass as the universe’s last humans look for a new place to live.
That is the short version. As I mentioned, this story is epic. It spans millennia and Tchaikovsky evokes a sense of huge amounts of time passing by using long descriptive passages interspersed with bouts of action. In one plotline, the spaceship crew experiences captures, battles, mutiny, crash landings, deep sleep, and drastic changes in society and culture.
Meanwhile, on the scientist’s planet, a species is gradually evolving but, thanks to the virus, it’s going faster than usual. Tchaikovsky presents a case for how the triggers and pressures of the planet would drive evolution of both the species’ physical bodies and their society. It’s fascinating.
Children of Time requires some patience. The story is long — 640 pages in the paperback version and 16.5 hours in the audiobook version I listened to (produced by Audible Studios and nicely read by Mel Hudson). Some scenes seem unnecessary or go on way too long, yet I found the story intelligent, thoughtful, and never dull. I’d recommend Children of Time especially to readers interested in biology, anthropology, sociology, and evolution. Next I’ll be reading the sequel, Children of Ruin.