CHILDREN OF TIME: only an ethical uplift can save us

I found Adrian Tchaikovsky’s CHILDREN OF TIME slow going to begin with. I disliked the first chapter (but this is in fact understandable as the point of view character, Dr Avrana Kern, is deliberately quite antipathetic) and I put the book down for a while before trying again. Finally, the book was a very rewarding read, so I advise anyone with doubts at the beginning to persist.

The plot takes a while to pick up, but I found the speculative narrative of the social and technological evolution of the spiders both interesting and enjoyable. There was a very interesting attempt to imagine plausibly how the very different subjectivity of the intelligent Spiders could evolve and progress, in ways similar but not identical to our own evolution, towards greater civilization, despite their “uplift” being due to an accident.

The parallel plot of the decadence and devolution of the humans provided a predictable but satisfying counterpoint.

The imagination of a biology-based technology was well done, but it had the defect of being based on biological determinism. Humans are by hypothesis glorified monkeys genetically lacking in empathy, and so are biologically doomed as a species to self-extermination, unless some sort of ethical, as opposed to cognitive, uplift can occur.

This speculative premise is reminiscent of that underlying Octavia Butler’s XENOGENESIS TRILOGY, and Tchaikovsky’s intelligent Spiders with their genetic technology recall Butler’s genetic-engineering Oankali, except that their encounter with the Other is not driven by the self-serving drive for trade of the Oankali but by their capacity for empathy.

See also:

4 thoughts on “CHILDREN OF TIME: only an ethical uplift can save us

    • Yes it is the standard moralist’s fare expressed in genetic terms. This is not the best part of the book. The biological and then social history of the Spiders is very well done. As I explained I was initially offput. I got through the slower parts thanks to the audiobook, and I am glad I did.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. A bit late here, but the best thing about this story – aside from the Spider’s alternate form of language – is that the psychotic Avrana Kern character whom Terry mentions is ultimately cured from her Imperial-C deformities by the Spider’s alternate, biological download approach.
    – Mark (still facing the wall of Cixin Liu’s DARK FOREST, a novel I’ve had to put aside and come back to several times ; )


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