(click on the link to read the story online)
I’ve been hearing about Adrian Tchaikovsky for some time now, especially in connection with his novel Children of Time, and if I’ve yet to start reading it, it’s because of the usual pressures of time and TBR piles – and the fact that spiders are among the main characters of that novel, but that’s another matter…
So, sampling his writing through a short story sounded like the best way to start, not least because the presence of the world “children” in both works seemed to hint at a similarity in theme, and I though it would be a good form of… exercise before tackling the novel: in this story the author postulates that global warming will cause massive floods that change the face of the planet, driving the survivors inland as the tides keep rising. Children of Dagon is set in London and is told from the perspective of a new breed of humans, one that’s been created in a lab by a scientist who saw where the world was headed and wanted to modify humans so that they could survive in a profoundly modified environment.
This unnamed creature – clearly an amphibian – recalls how areas of London went under water one by one, and how he and his kind are slowly reclaiming the territory that once belonged to ‘original’ humans, now a sorry remnant of Earth’s previous owners, decimated by hunger and increasingly cruel living conditions.
Your little island enclaves are almost all gone now.
These are our places now; you have forfeited your stewardship of them.
Of course, baseline humans hated and persecuted these lab-engineered creatures, sowing the seeds of a hate that has now turned into all-out war, a racial conflict, if you want, but also a battle for resources and living space. What it all comes to, however, is a profound sense of sadness, the awareness that things could and would have been better with some foresight and less greed: there is a moment in which the narrator looks at human children playing on the edge of the water, blissfully unaware of the radical changes of the world, and he considers how similar to the new breed’s own children they are. For a moment, a sense of closeness, almost pity, seems to prevail, only to be washed away (the term seems painfully appropriate) by the need for survival and the awareness of the profound rift between the two diverging branches of humanity.
It’s a hard, harsh story, but one that left a lasting impression on my imagination: if this is indeed a good sample of Adrian Tchaikovsky’s writing, I’m certain that I will find the rest of his works equally fascinating.