The novel “Children of Ruin” by Adrian Tchaikovsky was published for the first time in 2019. It’s the sequel to “Children of Time“.
An expedition reaches a star system with the aim of terraforming a planet that has an interesting potential to develop. However, the scientists discover that a biosphere already exists on the planet, so terraforming should begin with its elimination. As a result, it’s decided to terraform the neighboring planet, where it’s possible to create a favorable habitat for modified octopodes. The life forms on the planet they discarded are more complex than humans imagined.
Millennia later, from a distant system comes another expedition of humans who formed an alliance with sentient Portia spiders, attracted by radio signals. Instead of finding a human colony, the new expedition ends up in the midst of a war, and it’s difficult to understand its causes. Contact is difficult, with the consequence that understanding which factions are fighting and avoiding being destroyed by one of them requires the skill of both species.
In “Children of Time”, Adrian Tchaikovsky introduced a catastrophic future for Earth in which the survivors search for other planets to live on and sometimes find more than they bargained for. In particular, looking for the results of a terraforming expedition, they find spiders that have become sentient following induced genetic mutations. Reading this novel is necessary to understand that future, the strange alliance between humans and Portia spiders, and characters such as Avrana Kern, the result of the upload of a human scientist’s mind after all that’s told in the first novel.
“Children of Ruin” is in some ways the same kind of story with an expedition that aims to terraform a planet where octopodes can live after their intelligence was artificially increased. In this sequel, the story is told again in two different periods developed in parallel. However, Adrian Tchaikovsky adds further complications based on the existence of a native biosphere of the planet close to the terraformed one and the arrival of another expedition from the planet to the center of the first novel.
The result is a novel in which the characters belong to different species each of which has its own peculiar characteristics. In the course of the two stories developed in the two different periods, there’s a series of encounters between different sentient species that lead to various more or less serious conflicts. It can be said that this represents both the strength and the weakness of “Children of Ruin”.
The upside is in the development of extremely diverse characters. This means that the problem of communicating with creatures that have different thought processes becomes much more important than in the first novel with the exploration of various possibilities related to the problems that may arise. The parts about the octopodes are in my opinion the most interesting for their way of communicating and relating to each other.
The downside is that “Children of Ruin” is fragmented into several subplots in which many characters appear while none of them are really the protagonists. From this point of view, Adrian Tchaikovsky magnified the first novel’s flaws with many events being summarized. Despite this, the novel is almost as long as the first, well over 400 pages, to reach an ending that is frankly predictable.
“Children of Ruin” gave me mixed feelings. “Children of Time” was certainly not perfect, but my impression is that, in this sequel, above all the negative elements have increased. Nevertheless, if you aren’t afraid of the complexity greater than in the first book, you might like it.