A Science Fiction Novel-Gender Inequality Through the Eyes of a Spider
4 February 2018
Book Category: Fiction
This is a Science Fiction Novel With Reflections of the Faults of Men Through History.
Children of Time is the best Science Fiction novel I have read in a very long time. It is brilliantly written and is about two races colliding with each other. One is on the brink of extinction and the other is just beginning to evolve.
The Old Empire
‘This is the future. This is where mankind takes its next great step. This is where we become gods.’ The very first few pages introduces the very advanced egotistical human race thousands of years in the future from our current date. These humans we are introduced to are quite different from us in several technological ways.
One being they are in the middle of terraforming their own world twenty light years from Earth for an experiment to uplift a new species of ‘close to human’ monkeys who will evolve to become the servants of humans, to worship humans like gods. Doctor Avrana Kern is the character who is in charge of this project. Of course, she decides to call her own world ‘Kern’s World’.
But not everyone agrees with Kern. Not everyone believes humans should rule the universe. Kern’s plans to seed her terraformed planets get foiled by an undercover traitor of an organization determined to end the ever-expanding human race by sending out an electronic virus and poison that nearly kills everything and everyone, including Earth.
Luckily Kern and her world are able to survive the destruction and near extinction of the human race. She puts herself in a Sentry Pod orbiting her world while her own ship with all her team on board gets blown up. She uploads her brain into the computer system and manages to shoot the nanovirus down to Kern’s World before it is blown up and watches her barrel of monkeys burn up on entry to her precious green world.
Since the barrel of monkeys got blown up, the nanovirus must work its magic on any of the inhabitants already living on the planet. The nanovirus was designed to speed up the evolutionary process of any living being it ‘infects’ up to the level of sophistication set by its creators.
Kern then waits in cryogenic sleep while her uploaded brain waits for a signal from the planet to answer Kern’s complex mathematical equation meant for the barrel of monkeys. She waits for thousands of years…but what answers, is completely not what she expected.
Thousands of Years Later…The Descendants of the Old Empire
Humanity is on its last string. The human remnants of Earth, a frozen wasteland left by the Old Empire, must leave Earth on ark ships, the main one of this epic science fiction novel is called, The Gilgamesh, heading off to one of the supposed Old Empire terraformed worlds. They’ve got no idea if the terraformed worlds even exist anymore because they’re just following Old Empire star charts.
But they have no choice but to risk all of humanity on a long shot. Humanity’s last chance is to travel 20 light years from their destroyed Earth in a mismatched technological behemoth of the arkship Gilgamesh carrying hundreds of thousands of cryogenically frozen human ‘cargo’.
Fairly close to the beginning of the novel after waking up the main characters from cryogenic sleep, we’re introduced to Holsten the classicist, a specialist on everything about the Old Empire including language, history, and culture of their long-gone ancestors. Practically no one else has the knowledge he does on the Old Empire so it pretty much makes his a very special part of the crew since he is periodically needed to decipher dead Old Empire tech they run into, which needs translating.
- To me, Holsten’s character is dry. In fact, all the human characters are dry and unlikeable. Humanity is an ugly mess just trying to survive time and the mistakes of their ancestors. Despite the characters being dry, there are a few places in this amazing science fiction novel where Tchaikovsky helps you to connect closely and feel what the characters feel. This is the only weakness of Children of Time.
Then there’s Lain, who is the chief engineer, kind of Holsten’s girlfriend, and is responsible for keeping the Gilgamesh running all those thousands of years. Both Holsten and Lain are part of the Key Crew who get woken up periodically when needed throughout their long journey across space.
The rest of the Key Crew have their own parts to play in the overall story arc. At one point even arrogant Commander Guyen and leader of humanity’s last hope becomes an extreme case of a nutcase who wants to upload his own brain into the Gilgamesh’s systems after picking up an Old Empire upload facility device (same as what Kern used to upload her brain into the Sentry Pod) so that he can lead humanity eternally as a ‘god’ of some sorts until they make it to a habitable world.
That’s where the story becomes interestingly strange including hundreds of ‘cargo’ who got woken up and could not go back into cryogenic sleep due to cryogenic chamber failure. Those ‘cargo’ had to live out the rest of their lives on the Gilgamesh. And the reality, of course, those ‘cargo’ had babies because it is human nature to reproduce.
You’ve got tons of ship-born children who then create cults around Guyen the Commander who goes in and out of cryogenic sleep while generations of teams are trying to fix the upload facility so he can get his messed up brain inside the Gilgamesh. Crazy stuff there. Imagine being born on a ship, that’s all you would have ever known! Now this is science fiction novel worthy.
The Last of Humanity
Everyone on the Gilgamesh is desperate. Anytime the story focuses on the humans of the story you get the feeling of panic, anxiety, and even pain. Holsten is actually the most level-headed character in the book, which makes him a bit boring as well.
As the Gilgamesh Arrives at Kern’s World to Meet Avrana Kern Herself
Holsten is woken up from his deep frozen sleep after 2,000 years down under. His services as translator are needed to translate Imperial C, the language of the Old Empire. They’ve received an encoded message from the Sentry Pod warning them not to come anywhere near the world.
Holsten actually gets a chance to make contact with Kern’s uploaded brain named, Eliza, and maybe even ‘something’ or someone more. You actually get the feeling that Avrana Kern’s sleeping mind is somewhat alive, but cannot be fully woken up. No wonder, she’s been in that Sentry Pod for something over 3,000++ years and not even the Old Empire tech can withstand that amount of time.
As the communication commences, Eliza refuses to let them anywhere near the planet because it will interfere with the exaltation experiment. The humans plead, but there’s no way the Gilgamesh can defend against the Sentry Pod’s defenses. Something inside Avrana Kern is lenient with her human descendants and gives them coordinates for another Old Empire terraformed world which actually is not completed, therefore uninhabitable.
All the while the Gilgamesh is traveling from Kern’s World to the uninhabitable terraformed world and back they become determined to do whatever it takes to destroy the Sentry Pod and take the world for themselves. What they did not know during all their time traveling is that a race of nanovirus enhanced spiders was evolving to great heights, enough to defend against their approaching attackers.
What will happen when they both collide?
The Life of a Nanovirus Enhanced Spider
Yes, it may seem absurd that the book focuses on an evolving spider race, but once you read it, it all seems plausible. This is what a science fiction novel should be, and it’s the reason why I still read science fiction. The way that Tchaikovsky builds this spider society is very real and on some levels connects with human history. The prominent ones being gender equality and space flight.
As the humans are all flying around in space for thousands of years, the spiders down on Kern’s World are evolving due to the sped up process encouraged by the nanovirus. This part of the science fiction novel focuses on three characters who are named Portia, Bianca, and Fabian and does a great job of building an almost human-like society of spiders yet so alien.
She is considered to be the warrior and a leader. Although interestingly enough there are no set leaders in spider societies.
She is the philosopher, astrologist, and scientist of the group. She loves breaking the rules and is the one who makes the first contact with Kern.
He is the male who has a bright mind and likes to think outside the box. He is the one who brings equal rights to the males in his society.
At first, these spiders are just like any other spider we have on Earth, but then we can actually read the thoughts of the spider. The descriptions of this society are quite real. You also may wonder how the spiders communicate. Unlike us, they communicate through vibrations and signals with their legs and palps.
Tchaikovsky did a wonderful job of researching spiders before writing Children of Time. Portia is actually the real name of a jumping spider on Earth. Also in this society, just like on Earth, males get eaten after mating and even hunted and killed for fun sometimes.
As generations pass the nanovirus gives the spiders a special ability to pass ‘understandings’ down to their offspring in order to evolve quicker. This makes for a fascinating evolving science fiction novel race of intelligent cannibalistic hunting spiders.
Connections to Human History
You may or may not have guessed it, but these spiders also have a religion where they worship the ‘Messanger’ which flies across the sky every single night. The ‘Messenger’ is actually Kern’s Sentry Pod sending the continuous mathematical test which the spiders can feel vibrate down to the surface of the planet, and ever-waiting for a response from the inhabitants.
Spiders build cults and shrines second guessing whether ‘Messenger’ is even a god or something else. Their mantra is repeating the rhythm of the mathematic equation.
A war even starts because of this religion. That’s a no-brainer connection with the faults in real human history.
In our world’s history, women were always looked down upon until more recently but even now it’s not perfect. In this spider society, it’s exactly opposite. Females rule, females even eat males in this society. Scary. At one point in the story, there is a plea for rights of males by Fabian. Here’s a quote to help you understand.
Males have their place; she knows this. ‘Don’t be foolish. You cannot equate every ignorant, crawling male with one such as yourself. Of course, you are protected and valued for your accomplishments. That is only natural, that merit be rewarded. The great host of males beneath us, though, the surplus, what use are they? What good are they? You are an exceptional male. Something female got into you in the egg, to make you thus. But you cannot expect my sisters to blindly extend such consideration to every male in the city just because of you. What would we do with them?’
‘Put them to work. Find their strengths. Train them. Use them.’
Portia: ‘Use them as what? What use can they be?’
Fabian: ‘You can never know, because you do not try.’
Basically, at first, males are seen as worthless and only meant for hunting, mating, and eating. A bit different from the way human society has evolved, but you can make the connection which is what I think the author’s point in writing this was, to make us realize our faults in creating gender inequality in the first place.
This book is filled with moral questions about what choices humanity has made.
Space Age and Technological Advancements
This aspect of one of the best science fiction novel was a bit harder to believe and probably hard to explain as a writer. I’ll just keep it simple then. As generations pass and the Gilgamesh is moving from Earth to Kern’s World to the other terraformed planet and back the spiders go from nothing to building a radio, lifts, telescopes, aircraft, gaseous weapons, to a space satellite. Many are similar to advancements in the history of humanity.
After making contact directly with the ‘Messenger’-Kern helps the spiders advance even quicker and warn them about the approaching threat from the Gilgamesh.
When the Gilgamesh arrives will the spiders be ready to defend their world against the ‘giant god-like’ humans?
Final Thoughts About Children of Time – The Best Science Fiction Novel in a Long Time
There’s so much more to this book then what I’ve covered here in this review, and I hope my thoughts about it have convinced you to take the time to read it.
Surprisingly there are so many connections we can learn from as a race. We are one race, humanity. All of you deserve to be treated equally and treat other equally in return. You must read all the way to the end of Children of Time because the conclusion is what makes this book stand out from others. I literally had tears running down my cheeks on the last page.
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Children of Time leaves you with a lasting impression that will stay with you for the rest of your life.
Always remember to share what you’ve learned with the people you care most about.
Here’s a limited discounted offer of this awesome science fiction novel through Amazon. Click on the link to buy your own copy now.