The Children of Ruin


Adrian Tchaikovksy


Science Fiction / Fantasy


Date Reviewed:

September 5, 2019

he Children of Ruin is the sequel to the very successful Children of Time, and it is just as enjoyable at the first. The first book featured human colonists encountering "uplifted" spiders. In Children of Ruin, we learn the fate of a different colony ship (in Children of Time, Tchaikovksy led us believe that only one colony ship had survived, but now we see that wasn't true. A second colony ship arrives at the Tess solar system which has two potential terraform-able worlds, which they call Nod and Damascus. Unfortunately, for the plans of the human colonists, one of the worlds already contains alien lifeforms, and so it would not be morally right to terraform it. The other planet is a icy covered world, beneath which is a giant ocean. Damascus could be warmed with terraforming tools utilized over long years. The crew splits up, Captain Baltiel travels with half of the team to Nod to study the primitive alien life, while the remaining crew orbits above Damascus.

In the ship above Damascus is Senkovi. He works as the primary maintainer of the computer systems, but in his spare time he works with a population of pet octopi that he brought along from Earth. Just like in The Children of Time, humans have an "uplifting" nanovirus. In short order, the octopus are getting much smarter, and Senkovi has to take drastic steps to save the ship from their inquistive explorations and games.

Meanwhile, on Nod, the crew studying the Nodian life are attacked by an alien virus. This virus is terrifying, it takes over the brain of whatever creature it infects and then it can direct the movements and actions of that new host. The virus can also quickly absorb the knowledge of its victim; with the infection of humans, the alien virus realizes that there is an entire galaxy to explore, something it never suspected. Like all viruses, it wishes to expand without limits, and filling an entire galaxy would do nicely...This alien virus is the source of much of the tension in the plot, because infection is irreversible and the consequences are so devastating.

The humans and spiders, who joined into an alliance at the end of The Children of Time have scaled up their civilization. They build telescopes, and rocket ships - and hear a strange radio signal coming from another system. Could it be another human civilation, did someone else survive the collapse of Earth? They construct a new ship, the Voyager, to journey to this strange solar system. Going along for the ride on the Voyager is the intelligence called Averna Kern. She has abandoned the old computer system which hosted her personality, and now has been downloaded into the brains of a giant horde of ants.

Much of the pleasure of The Children of Ruin is watching the rise of octopus civilization. Vast years flow past. The octopus build their society, unaware that on their neighboring planet a virus plans to conquer the galaxy. Captain Baltiel knows that the virus must never escape Nod, but it is a wily entity and determined to explore.

The humans and spiders from the Voyager encounter the octopus society, which has grown to be a powerful space civilization with different factions. There is a lot of exploration of how to communicate with creatures that communicate by flashing colors across the surface of their body. The octopus don't trust the humans, one faction is distinctly hostile, which is understandable, because something terrible has happened in the giant ocean of Damascus, the octopus home world.

Tchaikovksy seems fascinated by insects. He has written a 10 volume series called Shadows of the Apt, which features different insect-based societies. I have not read any books in that series yet, but I do like Tchaikovksy's writing, so perhaps I should try it. What I would really like to read is a third book in The Children of ... series; I hope he makes it a trilogy. So far, Tchaikovksy has "uplifted" eight-legged spiders and octupus, I am trying to think of another Earth creature with eight limbs (Tardigrades? They a microscopic. Scorpions? He loves insects...) Tchaikovksy could easily invent a third colony ship and send it to a new solar system, and entertain us more world building and civilization. But if the series ends after just two books, it is still well worth reading. Highly recommended!