CHILDREN OF TIME – Adrian Tchaikovsky (2015)

Children of Time Tchaikovsky

After writing a 10-book fantasy series, Shadows of the Apt, Tchaikovsky published Children of Time, his first science fiction novel. It won the Arthur C. Clarke award and it is generally considered one of his best novels.

Tchaikovsky seems to be well loved, and he provides much to love: he is even more productive than Alastair Reynolds, that other British commercial powerhouse. In 2021 he published 2 novels and 3 novellas, totaling 1,473 pages.

Science fiction is first and foremost a genre of ideas. Hard SF even more so, and while Tchaikovsky himself might not think in genres, I’ve seen this book described as Hard SF by lots of readers. Color me amazed that I found the ideas in this book severely lacking. My amazement only grew when I learned that Tchaikovsky holds a degree in zoology.

That degree might explain his interest in spiders, but it doesn’t explain the scientific bullshit. And as bullshit isn’t the only problem this book has, it will be no surprise that my review will be a negative one, much to my own dismay.

I really looked forward to reading this: I was promised some solid, original science fiction, with alien aliens and clever evolutionary world building. Even though I know blurbs and hypes should be distrusted, I willingly and knowingly walked into the muck that is Children of Time – hope is a nasty, bitter thing.

You can’t produce 1,473 pages a year if your game is the highest form of quality control. So I’ll just go for a lazy format too, and opt for a list.

1. Tchaikovsky clearly chose effect over the internal logic of his ideas. That’s his prerogative, and I guess it’s even the right commercial strategy. To get his story going, it was easier to have scientists behave in an unbelievable way than come up with a realistic mechanism to get the spiders evolving. Why would you seed a planet with a nano-virus separately, when you just want them in the monkeys you are gonna let loose on the planet? Why not simply inject the monkeys, and lessen the chance that anything might go wrong? This should have been an early warning sign, but I was still enjoying the book, so I read on – one needs to be able to forgive, if one wants to live a gentle life.

2. While the first 200 pages are quite snappy, with a pacing that is overall excellent, it starts to drag afterwards. Part of that is the monotony of the structure. It’s clear and consistent, sure, but the alternating chapters get predictable too. The other part is the prose. The book is 600 pages long, but easily one third of that is repetition. Tchaikovsky sure likes to spoon-feed his readers: a tried and tested way to beef up page count. I could easily skip a few pages and not miss any of the plot development. Some call this style immersive writing. I just call it boring words words words on pages pages pages.

3. The arc of the spiders isn’t alien alien. In the end, it’s anthropomorphic. Become smarter, unlock religion, unlock science, etc. Yes, they are different from humans as they don’t communicate via sound, and yes, their gender roles are reversed, and yes, there’s some clever stuff here and there. But basically, all the behavioral patterns Tchaikovsky comes up with are easily transposed to human patterns. Again, some readers might like it, as the patterns might get them thinking on human patterns, but to me, Tchaikovsky’s analytical powers were pretty superficial: I didn’t learn anything new about the human condition.

4. Speaking of humans, the human arc is a bit daft. Cardboard characters. Pretty unbelievable that they managed to build a near FTL-spaceship with 500,000 humans in cryo while their society has no grasp of basic principles because it is in ruins and never recovered from a total technological breakdown caused by some weaponized computer virus. And, again, sure, a highly advanced future society wouldn’t have firewalls and backups and compartmentalization, so indeed, some terrorist dude with mad coding skills could destroy the entire planet and its outposts with just a few keystrokes. And sure, that terrorist code wouldn’t work on that one sole satellite that has a human consciousness uploaded. Because that’s how computer stuff works.

So indeed – it’s practically a staple of a certain kind of science fiction – the humans on this ship often act as if they are idiots, and there’s also a kind of dictator captain whose whims are obeyed. But hey, actual real world idiots exist! People do elect crazy leaders! We are destroying our biosphere too! You can’t hold that to Tchaikovsky! Unfair!

5. The main thing. The bale that broke the camel’s back. THE BIOLOGY OF THIS BOOK IS TOTAL AND UTTER BALONEY.

Nanoviruses – yeah, right, *nano*-virus – could truly be programmed to enhance evolution in specific ways. They could truly start working on DNA in such a way that their hosts become better, faster, stronger, smarter. That’s how biochemical molecular processes in cells work! Tchaikovsky knows! He has a zoology degree! Who knows what stuff we’ll invent in a couple of centuries!?

But it’s not just that. The spiders manage to exploit said virus and use it to virally gift DNA that carries memories and knowledge via “mental pathways”. It’s the hard scientific biological backbone that Dune was always missing!

“Mental pathways can be transcribed, reduced to genetic information, unpacked in the offspring and written as instinctive understanding – sometimes concrete skills and muscle memory, but more ofte whole tranches of knowledge, ragged-edged with loss of context, that the new-born will slowly come to terms with throughout its early life.”

This DNA is consciously distilled and then gifted to other spiders via packages of sperm.

“Portia’s male scuttles onto the web and distils his Understanding of aphid husbandry into a neatly silk-wrapped packet of sperm.”

But who cares about male spider knowledge anyhow? They are just unimportant underlings on that distant space planet. So I’m guessing the smartsy females can do something similar and distil their knowledge in “silk-wrapped” eggs? How do they share this knowledge with others, aside via their own offspring? If they can’t share it laterally, why is it such a big deal? I have no idea.

Oh, yeah, right, later in the book they manage to just drink “distilled Understanding” and then “the nanovirus she has just ingested begins to fit the purloined knowledge into place within her own mind, accessing the structure of her brain and copying in the male’s memories.” But it’s still male sperm in the instance from which I quoted this? Anyone? Help me?

And mind you: this mind-blowing feat of biotechnology is discovered in the beginning of the book, early in the spiders’ evolutionary arc, before they manage tool use, writing, microscopy, and other big scientific breakthroughs.

It gets even crazier: the spiders use ant colonies as a kind of giant abacus to sequence DNA “from biopsy samples”. I don’t make this up. Tchaikovsky’s imagination was on fire!!

Also: the virus is woke. “There is a place in her mind where the nanovirus lurks and it tells her that all her species are kin, are like her in a way that other creatures are not, and yet the weight of society crushes its voice.” Tchaikovsky doesn’t seem to be able to make up his mind re: the metaphors he uses. Does the virus actually have agency? Or is it just a blind molecular process? I’m guessing the latter, but why write about it as something that has volition? To confuse readers? To make it more literary? To emulate the mythical spider mindset? All of the above!?

What else is hot in biology? Pheromones! Some of these spiders have some mad chemistry skills: a certain Fabian manages to somehow instantly concoct a chemical brew that specifically brings some ants “to the silk side of his chamber, where they cut a neat exit wound for him to depart through. After they are done, he resets them”. How could I forget? Spiders have trouble with their own webbing and Fabian couldn’t have cut that wound himself! Then again, I don’t have a zoology degree!

6. The book chronicles different generations of spiders, but using the same names for different spiders doesn’t make them the same character. It doesn’t solve the problem of reader attachment. While I can imagine some readers to get emotionally attached to the species, I couldn’t care less about the individuals, as it quickly became clear that they would end up dead at the end of the chapter anyhow, again and again. Tchaikovsky’s detached narrative voice didn’t help either. Then again, against the backdrop of cosmic time, we’ll all be dead soon. Never forget!


Ymmv & all of this is taste. Given all the accolades this book gets, I know I’m in the minority position – 81,750 Goodreads ratings with an average of 4.28 is quite an achievement.

So if you are the kind of reader that can stomach all the biological handwavium, and if you don’t mind huge chunks of repetition in your prose, by all means, do check out Children of Time. Lots and lots of people like it, and I can even attest the first third is actually good.

Adrian Tchaikovsky


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48 responses to “CHILDREN OF TIME – Adrian Tchaikovsky (2015)

  1. I am secretly a thousand spiders in a human suit and disapprove of this post, haha. Also, Tchaikovsky’s Klingon eyebrows disagree with you. No, I think if I would reread this book, that the wordiness of Tchaikovsky’s prose will irritate me. It irritated me greatly in the sequel, Children of Ruin. And I agree with you that the human characters are all idiots made out of cardboard. It annoyed me a lot. But I could suspend my disbelief over most of the biological handwavium.

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  2. I’ll never read Children of Ruin, that much is clear, but it all troubled me so much I’m even hesitating to pick up another if his titles – especially as all these problems were the result of a basic attitude.

    The 2021 titles of his you read didn’t suffer from these problems?

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    • Yeah that is the crazy part. I’ve read Shards of Earth and it was a great adventurous space opera with weird aliens and I really liked it. It’s not hard SF at all, but space opera of the Star Wars kind. I’m looking forward to the second book which just came out. And Elder Race was very good and not overwritten at all. The characters and writing were much better than in the Children of… books.

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      • Could Shards of Earth be read as a standalone? And what’s the best of those 2: Shards or Elder Race?

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        • No, Shards of Earth is not a standalone. I think Elder Race is better, and also, it’s only a 200 page novella, and my copy had large font so maybe only 180 pages or so, whereas Shards of Earth is a 500 page first book in a trilogy.

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          • Thanks! I might give Elder Race a shot.

            Btw, didn’t you write something in one of your reviews on Tchaikovsky’s take on humanity? (See my reply to Terence Blake below.)

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            • Yeah in his sequel Children of Ruin, there’s more “humans are bad” fingerpointing that irritated me. But as far as I know, this is not the case in his other series. It might just be an attitude that he found fitting for the Children of… series because of the contrast to the uplifted species, and not something generalized over all of his work.

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  3. Manuel Antao

    Tchaikovsky is a hack. What surprises (or maybe not) is that this guy is winning awards. Has everyone gone stupid? One of the reasons I’ve stopped reading contemporary SF.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I agree lots of contemporary SF isn’t that interesting – then again, much of what was written in the 60ies and 70ies isn’t interesting either. I’m not sure it is a problem of these times rather than a much bigger problem that goes way back.

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      • The crappy writing problem goes way back for sure, but the bloat became worse with the advent of word processors.

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        • Yes, that’s very true. A shame really some authors don’t really use word processing as a way to better self-edit, but instead just type away as it doesn’t cost a thing. I guess bigger books effectively sell better, as publishers seem to enable the practice.

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    • I am currently reading “the Best or Tor.com, 2022”.
      Yes, there is something deeply wrong with contemporary SF&F.
      It’s fucking awful.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I quite liked the book, but you make me try to re-evaluate why! I had a similar problem with the beginning – I started the book several times, only to leave off reading it. However, I was intrigued enough by the basic idea and the favourable reviews to want to give it a final chance, so I began again, this time with the audiobook. After this uncertain beginning I really enjoyed the story. I must admit that despite the scientific trappings I would never have thought of categorising this book as “Hard” SF.

    (On a side note: I think Tchaikovsky gives the game away in a more recent novel, ELDER RACE, where he gives us a sort of “Rosetta Stone” for translating between fantasy and SF tropes. An incredibly advanced human stranded alone on an anthropological outpost to study the human cultural evolution on a “primitive” planet is persuaded to accompany a princess on a quest to find and neutralise a threat that turns out to baffle his super-advanced super-science. The princess thinks in mytho-fantasy terms and there is a certain difficulty to their attempts at communication, given their incommensurable worldviews. In the middle chapter of the story the scientifically advanced anthropologist explains the true history of her world (the interstellar voyage, colonisation, regression, etc.) and she has no trouble understanding it, but translates it automatically into her own concepts. This chapter’s format is two columns side by side with one and the same story in scientific terms in the left-hand column and in fantasy terms on the right. I think that this device is revelatory not only Tchaikovsky’s work but for much of so-called “hard” sf as being basically fantasy in souped-up scientific jargon).

    The account of the evolution of the spiders struck me as “brilliant”, in the sense of clever (intra-paradigmatic) rather than intelligent (paradigm-changing). As you say I come out of the story having re-imagined known elements rather than knowing more, or deeper, about biology or the human condition. The spiders’ evolution follows the line of what we can recognise as progress, at the price of losing their initial alien-ness. Ultimately the spiders become the humanitarian good guys who manipulate the flatly depicted humans for their own good, so we can identify with the politically correct “spiders”.

    I think that this is why that despite enjoying the story I have not yet read the sequel, despite the hype, although I am sure I will enjoy it too.

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    • I guess there’s not that much real Hard SF to begin with. The only true Hard SF – as in terms of realism – I can think of is Kim Stanley Robinson. Even Greg Egan is, when all is said and done, not in it for realism, only for a mathematic rigorousness that disguises fantasy concepts indeed. And Peter Watts had vampires. But Hard SF is a bit of an unclear term to begin with, so it all boils down to semantics.

      Maybe this works better as an audiobook indeed: I can imagine repetition being less of a problem in that format.

      I agree the evolution of the spiders was clever. I suddenly realize Tchaikovsky could have told the exact same story without the Understanding mechanism – maybe even without the nanovirus.

      Re: the identification, it would have been more interesting if Tchaikovsky presented more nuanced humans: in a way it’s indeed a black and white affair as you hint at: humans bad, spiders good. Do you think Tchaikovsky has moral intentions, fingerpointing humanity? Any clues of that in his other work?

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      • I think Tchaikovsky’s moral intentions are made very clear in THE DOORS OF EDEN, with its eulogy of tolerance and difference. The book takes place in multiple alternative earths, and his imagination of radically different courses of evolution is once again very clever and very enjoyable. I did an enthusiastic but mitigated review, where I concluded: “THE DOORS OF EDEN is not a short book, 445 pages long, but I read it avidly over three days. The book is ambitious, clever, engrossing, funny, and self-aware but does not live up to the full speculative potential of its ideas, preferring in the end to privilege the “only a young lesbian couple can save us” adventure”. I think that this sums up my impressions: he has many clever ideas but doesn’t follow through as he is happy with a simplistic moral agenda, so all that complexity remains nonetheless one-dimensional.

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  5. I read this fairly soon after it came out, lulled in by the reviews and Tchaikovsky’s apparent promise as an author..but I have to say that it left me cold, with the “alien” aspects singularly failing to deliver, as you note above, and the sheer amount of slow-paced repetition starting to wear on me by the halfway stage.

    This was probably the point where I started to split from modern SF: having had some thoroughly enjoyable times before then with the pulpy likes of Red Claw by Philip Palmer and the grand scope of James SA Corey, but then Reynolds, Leckie, and their contemporaries started being seen as the vanguard of New SF and Corey went spiralling off the reservations and…I’ve just never felt the need to go back.

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    • It strikes me that lots of readers – even those that liked the book – did identify the same problems as I did. That’s encouraging, as it shows our thresholds might be different, not our perception.

      While I did like Leckie, I’ve abandoned Reynolds (I liked the Revelation Space trilogy and House of Suns, but he seems to have turned to churning out product). I only read Leviathan Wakes, but didn’t pursue the rest of Corey – it seemed a bit to popcorny. Like you, the last few years I’ve read hardly any good recent SF, and each time I try something that won a prize or was hyped, I’m disappointed. Then again: there’s Sturgeon’s law, so what’s to be expected?

      Ada Palmer is an exception that comes to mind, but we’ll see about her last 2 books in the series, I’ll read those soon. (And there’s Stephenson and KSR of course, they generally don’t disappoint me.)

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      • Corey is very popcorny, it’s sort of wonderful to behold. The first five books get stronger and stronger — 3, 4, and 5 might be the best trilogy in modern SF (bear in mind that I say this as someone who reads a tiny amount of modern SF). Book 6 then drives the whole thing off a cliff.

        The upshot of all this is that, when you do eventually stumble onto something modern that you enjoy, I can be reasonably assured that it’s actually a good book!

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        • Have you read any of Banks’ Culture novels?

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          • Yeah, everything up to and including Look to Windward. After that — The Algebraist? — I found them hard going, but that could be my evolving tastes as a reader rather than any failure on his part as an author. Loved Player of Games, Against a Dark Background, Use of Weapons, and Windward. Inversions reminded me of the worst of Peter F. Hamilton.

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            • I thought Inversions and Algebraist were bad too, but I’d thought Matter, Surface Detail & Hydrogen were still fun.

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              • Yeah, I started reading Banks in the mid-90s, so by the time his later works came out I was moving on from SF. Thanks for reminding me about him, I’d honestly not thought about the guy for years. All I need now is the time to go back and try those later works.

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  6. Outside of his Shadows of the Apt decalogy, I have found Tchaikovsky extremely hit or miss with more misses than hits. To the point that I don’t read him anymore.
    I didn’t have the same problems as you with this book, but even I know that his “science” isn’t. For me, I think the problems are more his elementary school type of moralizing without giving us the reasons why. X is bad, X is good, that’s fine. But I want to know WHY you think that. And he doesn’t go that deep. And he started to be a lot more “modern politics” in some of his books so I was done with him.

    But the Apt series is one that I’ll re-read again and again as time allows. It’s definitely in my favorite list.

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    • I don’t think I have the stamina to invest in 10 book fantasy series, but maybe I should reconsider. What’s your selling pitch on that?

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      • I wouldn’t recommend the Apt to you. I suspect that while you’d like parts of it, there would be enough other things that would overpower that enjoyment.

        I will say this though, the first book, Empire in Black and Gold, is a very good barometer for the rest of the series. If you like that, you’ll like the series and vice versa.

        But since you started off on a bad footing with Tchaikovsky, I’m not sure Apt can overcome that.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thanks for the honest reply. I guess you are probably right. Starting on a bad footing is hard to overcome, I’d practically start in hate-read modus. 🙂 Either way, could you be more specific on what you think would overpower my enjoyment?

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          • It’s not “realistic” or “dark” enough. I feel like you’d be picking apart the characters instead of enjoying them. And if you’re a history buff of any sort you’ll recognize WWI or WWII right away

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  7. Pingback: CHILDREN OF TIME: only an ethical uplift can save us | Xeno Swarm

  8. Re “the human condition”…

    The TRUE human condition, or world we live in, is the history of human madness mainly thanks to the 2 married pink elephants in the room and has never been on clearer display than with the deliberate global Covid Scam atrocity — see “The 2 Married Pink Elephants In The Historical Room –The Holocaustal Covid-19 Coronavirus Madness: A Sociological Perspective & Historical Assessment Of The Covid “Phenomenon”” …. at https://www.rolf-hefti.com/covid-19-coronavirus.html

    “2 weeks to flatten the curve has turned into…3 shots to feed your family!” — Unknown

    ““We’re all in this together” is a tribal maxim. Even there, it’s a con, because the tribal leaders use it to enforce loyalty and submission. … The unity of compliance.” — Jon Rappoport, Investigative Journalist

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    • Obviously mistakes and misjudgements have been made during the pandemic. And indeed, some companies have profited. And I agree that there are democratic deficits in most, if not all, countries, and indeed, even leaders that are lying psychopaths. All these things were to be expected, as democracies never have been perfect.

      But such observations are a long way off from thinking covid was planned, or the response by the governments a world wide conspiracy, or the vaccines a scam.

      The best proof of that is the fact that in all Western countries I know, most – or even all – covid restrictions have been abandoned by now, as the constant inflow of patients in ICUs has returned to manageable numbers. I don’t see how wearing a mask in public spaces or having had to show proof of vaccination in restaurants for a year equal “enforcing loyalty and submission”. Moreover, in the media lots of anti-vax and corona doubters have been able to voice their grievances. The vast majority of doctors, scientists and politicians have taken note, and decided their arguments weren’t convincing enough.

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  9. Somebody gave me Elder Race as a present. I’d been avoiding Tchaikovsky until then because my main criteria when buying any SF/Fantasy is brevity (I just scan the shelves of my local bookshop and gauge the width of each book spine – I really do*). I enjoyed Elder Race, albeit maybe not enough to check out Tchaikovsky’s other stuff, but would categorise it as Fantasy with SF trappings. I also felt this was his niche. On that basis, I’m surprised he writes ‘hard’ SF as well, zoology degree notwithstanding.

    * the last long SF book I read was The Ministry for the Future, but only because (a) I’ve read and enjoyed KSR before & (b) you’d recommended it.

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  10. I did. I found the science in particular interesting (e.g. the section dealing with glaciers) and although it was a long book, it didn’t feel particularly long. I do think KSR was maybe overly oblique about industrial terrorism as one possible solution – that is, the morality of it, ends vs means and so on, as I think this would be well worth exploring in further detail. Indeed, it should have been a core theme of the book. Instead, the mc sort of knows that one section of her department is operating outside the law, but is careful not to ask any awkward questions, which I think was a bit of a cop-out.

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    • I think I read somewhere his wife wasn’t too happy with those sections, but he couldn’t not include them as he knows there will be that kind of violence in the future. He also doesn’t want to advocate it, so I think that’s the reason he took this approach – a kind of compromise.

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  11. Which is fair enough, but I think an author can always pose a question without necessarily providing an answer – ie, how far would you go to protect the planet? Is terrorism in certain circumstances justified? What are those circumstances? The purpose would be to make the reader think; well, how far would I go? This in turn would necessitate knowing all the relevant facts, coming up with alternatives whenever possible etc, etc.

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  12. Your review are always great.

    I posted my own review of this back in Oct 2019, which likely means I read it about 6 months before that. Now? I can barely remember much of it. I can’t remember anything about the human characters. I remember the spiders, and the mad human consciousness (I am guessing this was T’s attempt to make a literal god for these spiders. Don’t focus to hard on modern theology and sure, it kind works…) watching over them was pretty haunting.

    I think your issue was one of expectation management. I don’t know who promised you ‘truly alien aliens’ but I could have told you that was not the case. It’s why my review end up using the words “weird, gender-reversed spider feminism”. Like you said, anthropomorphized. But no one is going to solve that problem. Regardless, you shouldn’t be taking into account what people say, particularly when these people may be the same set of barking seals who told you the movie Arrival had interesting linguistics.

    If I enjoyed this book, de Gustibus. I think it was because it was a decent romp of a yarn, but not that deep. I also am a simp for Marvel movies, so what the fuck do I know. But the book didn’t get me to go out and change how I live my life after reading it.

    By the way, this review has me curious about something, if you don’t mind answering. What are you degrees in? You strike me as an educated type.

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    • Thanks, much appreciated!

      You are right, it’s partly expectation management, but the problems were bigger for me. Thinking about it some more the last couple of days, the main issue for me (contrary to what I wrote in the review) was the repetitiveness and the bloat. If that wouldn’t have been there, I could have dealt with the fantasy science and the handwavium and the plot holes. I wouldn’t have thought it was a great book then, but entertaining enough for a beach read. So that’s not really dependent on expectations.

      As for Marvel movies: don’t really like most of the recent ones either, often bloated as well, so indeed, as you say, taste again, I simply can’t have much of it, it makes me nervous.

      As for my education: I’ve been at uni 7 years, one year law, 5 years of linguistics and literature, with a heavy dose of postmodern philosophy on representation and the ethics of art, and one year preparing for a PhD which I ultimately didn’t pursue because I was burned out in academics. Most debates were about “2 inches of ivory” as they say, and I couldn’t commit anymore. A few years after I started working, I started the first year of philosophy in an evening program, but stopped after a year, more or less because of the same reasons. Aside my formal education, I’ve been a news junkie for about my entire life, and I’ve read nothing but non-fiction for about 10 years, and I consider both of these things at least as important as degrees.

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  13. I been wanting to read this book. Sound like the book has some good ideas but are poorly exacted.

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  14. I enjoyed it when it came out, even despite the cons. I never would’ve thought to classify it as hard SF, though, and I doubt even Tchaikovsky would welcome it. It’s more of a parable, IMO, than anything very scientific – the main human, after all, is a social scientist watching the cyclical nature of civilization unfold before his eyes, both in human and in humanized spiders. I disliked the ending, though, too on the nose even for me. I will have to second Bookstooge here, though – for me, Tchaikovsky’s best books are his earliest: the Shadows of the Apt series.

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    • I agree Tchaikovsky wouldn’t classify this as Hard SF either. Either way, the science is just idiotic, it’s just used as a pretext for magic. Why not just write magic instead? Or else try to come up with something scientific that is believable? It wouldn’t be that hard, and he couldn’t have told the exact same story. So for me that simply amounts to lazy writing, or otherwise to Frankfurterian ‘bullshit’, and I dislike both lazy & bullshit.

      Re: parable, a valid approach I guess, but as I didn’t learn anything from it, so, at least for me, that mission failed too.

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      • I guess it all boils down to expectations. I agree with your review, and yet none of the things you criticize bugged me as much as they did you. I wanted an entertaining SF (for a given value of S 😉) and for the most part got just that. I think you also overestimate the amount of effort that goes into preparation period for writing. The authors who sacrifice months and months of their time for research – like KSR, for example, are IMO the exception, not the rule. Most seem to know the end result and just plot how to get there.

        A question: at your age/experience, do you still manage to learn a lot from fiction? It’s a genuine question, because I struggle with it (too?), and find myself veering more and more into non-fiction territory lately.

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        • Not sure if it is merely about expectations, it is rather a question of different quality standards – but I guess one’s standards are part of one’s expectations, so in that sense you are right. It’s very striking to me that everybody that commented here that liked the book also agrees with the review, and it again shows how diverse taste is. It also proves that we all can read, but just have different tresholds. For me, the bloat and the repetitions is what kills the entertainment.

          I agree lots of authors don’t plan/prepare/etc. That needn’t be a problem, but if it results in repetition, plot holes, illogical stuff, etc., it is a problem for me. I think most of the problem with Children of Time could have been remedied with better editing afterwards – not before. Then again, publishers seem to favor long, big books, so the editor might not have an incentive to get all the bloat & repetition out.

          Interesting question there! I don’t think I learn that much anymore from fiction indeed. The authors that I still learn from, are those that do research (Egan, KSR, Stephenson). But to say that I learn “a lot” from them would be overstating the case – even though Stephenson changed the way I look at climate change completely with Termination Shock, so in a way, it was a lot, if I’m honest.

          Occasionally there are also authors that make knowledge that I already had a bit more sharp/distinct in my mind, like McKillip did with how romantic relationships function in The Forgotten Beasts of Eld. But that’s becoming a rare thing indeed.

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  15. Someone above calls Tchikovsky a “hack”. It’s a mean word, but that’s how the prose felt to me as well.

    This was a hugely popular, hugely marketed novel, but to me it felt reheated, generic and lowbrow. Some of this negative reaction is probably due to my expectations, and the hype, but I’ve tried the sequel and couldn’t get far. His prose just strikes me as very uninteresting (almost like a caricature of a type of SF writer).

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    • Manuel Antao

      It was me Trent. Hack through and through imho.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Now that you mention the prose, I had this book in my hand in a bookshop when it just was out, and I read the first two pages and thought, nah, not for me, there’s something off with the prose. It’s only 7 years later when I was in for a shot of supposedly good old decent scifi that I decided to take the jump because a lot of reviewers I normally align with gave this an 8 or so. Some of them responded here as well, and guess what, they generally think my criticisms are valid, but still found it entertaining. I just don’t think it was an entertaining book, I thought it was repetitive & boring.

      Lowbrow, generic, overhyped, market product. Sums it up indeed.

      Liked by 1 person

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