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Children of Ruin by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Vertigo

Mad Mountain Man
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This is the sequel to Children of Time and begins on another planet to which a colonisation expedition had been sent by Earth (before it self-destructed). This time it is octopuses that have been elevated to higher intelligence but there is also a truly alien intelligence to deal with. And the arrival of the descendants, both human and arachnid, of the characters from Children of Time soon creates a fascinating dilemma for all concerned.

Despite a rather slow and distinctly un-hooky start (Children of Time had me hooked pretty much from the first paragraphs), in which the writing just didn’t seem to flow and felt somewhat clumsy, Children of Ruin did eventually find its feet and having done that it races away to even greater heights than its predecessor. Tchaikovsky manages to find a comfortable balance between the hard sciences of biology and psychology (both of which he has studied) and a cracking first contact story that is not shy of addressing both the practicalities as well as the idealism of that situation. He develops the sentient intelligences of both octopus and spider believably and intriguingly, though I did get rather tired by the number of times he felt it necessary to remind the reader of the emotional nature of the octopuses, and then adds to that by creating a truly intriguing intelligent alien slime mould analogy, whose child-like lack of any societal conditioning and a total absence of anything remotely akin to empathy innocently creates the most horrific consequences. Beautifully encapsulated by their slightly chilling catchphrase of “We’re going on an adventure.”

These two books are very good, intelligent works of hard science fiction that manage to be both serious pieces of speculation and cracking pieces of space opera. I shall certainly be returning to the works of Mr Tchaikovsky!

4/5 stars
 

Cat's Cradle

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Good to read your thoughts on this, Vertigo. I loved Children of Time...really thought it was amazing. Will now be investing in this soon. Thank you, CC
 

Jo Zebedee

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blah - flags. So many flags.
Would be interested to know if you agree with my assessment that the start was weaker than the previous one, but once it got going it was, if anything, better.
I think the first one started with such a blast it was hard to match up to, but I thought the tension was ratcheted up pretty quickly and I was hooked pretty soon. What I am finding it the humans more likeable and believeable and that's much to the betterment.
 

Vertigo

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I think the first one started with such a blast it was hard to match up to, but I thought the tension was ratcheted up pretty quickly and I was hooked pretty soon. What I am finding it the humans more likeable and believeable and that's much to the betterment.
Yes, I do think the second book is better overall and I agree it would have been hard to match the beginning of the first one! And I'd also agree that the characterisation of the humans in the first book left something to be desired. At least one completely likable character isn't too much to ask is it? I think all the characters in this book have at least something likeable to offer the reader!
 

Bugg

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Yeah, I absolutely loved Children of Time so am looking forward to reading this. I may re-read CoT first.
 

Jo Zebedee

Aliens vs Belfast.
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blah - flags. So many flags.
Yeah, I absolutely loved Children of Time so am looking forward to reading this. I may re-read CoT first.
I didn’t find the need to - he quickly brings things up to speed and this one isn’t quite a follow on in terms of action.

Anyhow I thought it was fabulous. Best sf I’ve read in ages (although I have Chris Beckett and Ian MacDonald lined up so that might change!) - @Vertigo , why only 4 stars?
 

Vertigo

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I didn’t find the need to - he quickly brings things up to speed and this one isn’t quite a follow on in terms of action.

Anyhow I thought it was fabulous. Best sf I’ve read in ages (although I have Chris Beckett and Ian MacDonald lined up so that might change!) - @Vertigo , why only 4 stars?
My overall average rating is 3.67, I quite rarely give out 5s; a book must strike me as truly exceptional for me to give it 5. In my system a 3 is a good book, even a 2 is a book just worth reading. If I look at my last 12 months reading I've read 50 books (a little low for me) and of those I've given just four 5 stars:
Robert L Forward - Dragon's Egg
Chronicle of a death Foretold - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Terminal World - Alastair Reynolds
T J Bass - Half Past Human
Each of which is exceptional in its own way. Children of Ruin and Children of Time are both very good books, excellent books even but, for me, they're just not on that truly exceptional level. On the other hand I've given out a lot of 4s during that period.

To be honest a 5 star rating system is really a little too crude for something as complex as book reading. I also have a problem with rating creep in any rating system. In fine wine there is a scoring system for wines which goes from 0 to 100. No wine ever gets 100 so in reality 99 is a pretty much perfect wine. However, and this is where it gets silly, I've never, ever seen anyone using this scoring system give a wine less than 70 and less than 80 seems to pretty much mean undrinkable and nearly every half decent wine is scoring at least 90. What on Earth is the point of a 100 point system where rating creep has gone so far that two thirds of the scoring system are not used any longer.

Bottom line most books I read are good to very good, a very few are exceptional. I would concede that Children of Ruin is probably in the upper range of 4 stars; maybe 4.5-4.6.
 
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