Adrian Tchaikovsky‘s sci-fi novel Children of Time crafts a stunning narrative about the bounds of human nature and evolution’s power across cosmic timescales. In a desperate attempt to preserve life on a dying Earth, humans seed potential planets with monkeys to rebuild civilization across the galaxy. On one planet, things evolve in unexpected ways as giant spiders gain intelligence over millennia after the monkeys perish.
Children of Time constructively challenges anthropocentric worldviews through a mind-bending narrative where relatable, flawed humans observe another species’ dizzying march of progress. Tchaikovsky uses imagination to prod readers into philosophical insight.
The book in three sentences
- The sci-fi novel depicts spaced-out humans struggling to rebuild civilization as they monitor spiders evolve intelligence over millennia on a distant, planted, terraformed world.
- Adrian Tchaikovsky uses this imaginative premise to introspect on the nature of progress and the contingency of identity across cosmic timescales.
- The epic evolutionary tale pushes philosophical questions about human nature, technology’s role in advancement, and the fragility of sentience.
Tchaikovsky alternates between following the small remaining human population struggling to find a new home and the exponential evolution of spiders on a terraformed planet orbiting a distant star. After a virus wipes out the seeded monkey population meant to spawn a new civilization, the planet’s nanotechnology instead uplifts its spider species over generations.
As the spiders progress from individuals focused purely on survival to establishing a complex collaborative society, Tchaikovsky evokes insightful themes around the meaning of progress, the contingency of intelligence, and the bounds of human nature.
The timescales allow the spiders to progress from primitive to spacefaring beings while only a few human generations pass trying to rebuild civilization. Eventually, the two connect in an encounter, highlighting the fragility of sentience.
Who Should Read
With imaginative worldbuilding and prose that balances scientifically grounded speculation with resonating themes, Children of Time offers a gripping evolutionary tale perfect for any science fiction fan.
- Radically accelerating evolution pushes us to rethink intelligence as a timeline-bound concept.
- Technology shapes evolution as much as random mutations.
- Humanity and human nature may just be semantics amid vast cosmic change.
About the Author
British author Adrian Tchaikovsky is known for sci-fi exploring themes of human evolution. His books have won the Arthur C. Clarke Award and the British Fantasy Award.
If you’d like to stay on top of areas like this, you should be reading my weekly newsletter. You can follow here.