CHILDREN OF MEMORY (Children of Time #3), by Adrian Tchaikovsky

I received this novel from Orbit Books through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review: my thanks to both of them for this opportunity.

I have to confess that I approached this book with some hesitation: while I enjoyed Children of Time (despite the spiders, which is saying a lot!), I was less sanguine about Children of Ruin, mostly because of the pacing, which at times felt a little too slow for my tastes.  Children of Memory does suffer slightly from some pacing problems and from a few lengthy philosophical digressions, but the mystery at its core was so intriguing that it kept me motivated to read on until the very end.

Unlike its predecessors, this third installment in the series focuses more closely on humans, and in particular on the humans of an ark ship, the Enkidu, traveling the long distance toward one of the promised terraformed worlds with its huge cargo of frozen colonists. When they reach their destination, a planet they will name Imir, the ship has suffered grievous damage and lost a significant part of its cargo – both people and machinery destined to the creation of the colony – while the crew also discovers that the terraforming project partially failed its goal: Imir is a cold, harsh world with extreme weather patterns, and it will require an enormous effort to establish even the basic living conditions. 

After a temporal jump of a few generations, the novel follows the colonization of Imir through the eyes of Liff, a pre-teen girl whose strong spirit is fueled by fairy tales of adventures and great discoveries: thanks to Liff we learn that the colony never truly took off beyond mere survival in what looks like a frontier environment, the constant breakdown of modern tools and machinery forcing the colonists toward a more primitive society than the one they hoped for. What’s worse, there is a strange obsession in the populace toward “Watchers” or “Seccers”, i.e. people outside of their limited community, who might be actively working against its survival: although it seems more myth than reality, this belief fosters an acute climate of suspicion that verges toward paranoia.

A different narrative thread focuses on the small crew of an exploratory vessel from the arachnid/octopus/human civilization we encountered in the two previous books: having reached Imir they debate on the best way to approach the colony, deciding that one of them will try to monitor it in incognito, posing as one of the colonists from the outlying failed farmsteads: Miranda, a combination of human appearance and Nodan consciousness (the parasitic life-form discovered in the previous book) joins the people of Imir working as a teacher, and on her meeting with Liff forms a strong bond with the keenly curious young girl.

Here is where the strangeness begins, because we are presented with often contradictory evidence about life on the planet: several generations have elapsed since the first landing, and yet Liff seems to think about Captain Holt (the expedition leader) as her grandfather; or she is seen living with both her parents while in other narrative segments she’s an orphan living with her inattentive uncle, and so on.  This is the mystery that captured my attention and led me to wonder what was truly happening on Imir, not forgetting the further element of a strange signal coming from the planet that leads the onboard A.I. patterned on Earth scientists Avrana Kern (a constant presence throughout the series) to investigate it with the help of the new uplifted species of Corvids we get to know in Children of Memory.

It’s not easy to recap this novel in a handful of spoiler-free sentences, because this book is as complex as it is intriguing: the main attraction for me was the solution to the contradictory experiences of young Liff (and here I have to admit that my own theories did not even come close to the reveal), but there is much more here to keep a reader engrossed.  Faithful to the pattern exhibited so far, Adrian Tchaikovsky presents us with a new uplifted kind of creature, the Corvids from Rourke’s world, another planet that proved hostile to humanity but where these birds’ intelligence evolved in a unique pattern of paired individuals forming a collective whole and represented here by Gethli and Gothi, whose discussions about sentience are nothing short of fascinating, besides offering some sparks of humor thanks to their peculiarly worded exchanges that at times reminded me of the chorus elements in Greek tragedies.

Equally intriguing are the observations on the composite society originated by the joining of humans, arachnids, octopusses and Nodan parasites who have learned to coexist peacefully and create a space-faring society whose curiosity about the rest of the universe is the main drive toward exploration. In this respect, the human-looking Miranda is a perfect example of this commonwealth of species: her search for knowledge is somehow marred by the dichotomy between outward appearance and inner substance, which leaves room for some interesting, and at times poignant, considerations about self-image and identity.

The colony on Imir offers other chances of commentary on human nature: the regression to a more primitive way of life, forced by the lack of equipment, seems to have brought on a parallel regression in mindset, since the inhabitants of Landfall (the sole planetary settlement) look more like villagers from a Medieval era rather than the inheritors of a modern society. Their dread and distrust of the “other” (which comes from a very specific reason) brings about a tragic “us vs. them” mentality that is depicted in a few dramatic scenes which effectively display the dangers of mob mentality when paired with fear and ignorance.

Children of Memory is however slightly weighted down by some philosophical digressions on the nature of sentience, which are intriguing on their own but – in my opinion – take more space than necessary in consideration of the need to learn the solution to the mystery that Imir presents to the visitors. Still these digressions were not enough to keep me from forging on and reaching the intriguing reveal: if that was the challenge that the author presented to his readers, I can say that I was able to meet it head on 😉

My Rating:


22 thoughts on “CHILDREN OF MEMORY (Children of Time #3), by Adrian Tchaikovsky

    1. I have no idea about any plans to continue the series, but given that each book is set on a different planet with different issues, that’s quite possible.
      And despite not being thrilled by the previous book, I choose to give this one a chance and I’m now happy I did 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  1. After Ruin I kind of lost interest in this series. I think Tchaikovsky writes too fast and takes too little time to whittle down his stories to nice, well-paces ones. If this one is again 600 pages or so (is it?) while having a story that could be told in 400, then I won’t pick it up.

    Another thing that makes me hesitant is that the humans were by far the most tedious and badly written parts of Children of Time and Children of Ruin. Tchaikovsky totally went for the humans are dumb and violent message in those books. If this new one is about humans a lot, then I fear the worst. Their distrust and mob mentality seems in line with how he saw humans in the previous books.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This book is not a proverbial door-stopper, since it was 391 pages on my e-reader. That said, there were some lengthy philosophical dissertations that – in my opinion – were a little overlong, or looked that way because I wanted to go back to the main story (and here I confess I skipped some….)
      As for humans yes, a good portion of them, here, exhibits those not-so-enlightened attitudes that we saw previously, so that might not work for you.
      Maybe a few more reviews might help you in your choice, once you have gathered more information about the story… 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Children of Memory does seem to be shorter than the other ones… I’ll keep it in mind. Maybe if I hear a lot of positive reviews over time. It’s not the kind of trilogy where you have to read the final part to get a finished story.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Hmm hmm hmm. I didn’t even read Ruin, by all accounts it’s not a good book and I second Jeroen’s thoughts on Tchaikovsky over-producing stuff and lacking quality in his later creative endeavors. I’ve been burned! This one sounds like an improvement, though, so I’ll keep my options open 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m having a really hard time figuring out how I feel about this one! If I was rating solely on my enjoyment I will probably have to rate it lower than I want to. I just didn’t enjoy it. I think I was expecting too much, to be honest. The first book was a masterpiece and I keep hoping the series’ layer offerings will reach those heights again. The last book was good but definitely the magic had faded a little. I feel like he probably should have quit while he was ahead and more books in this series will inevitably water it down further. I’m hoping to finish writing my review this weekend, needless to say it’s been hard!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve been conflicted as well when it came the time to rate this book, because the long philosophical digressions turned out to be a little too much for my tastes, intriguing as they were, and what finally won me over was the mystery at the core of the story and the fact that my hypotheses turned out to be wrong, so the “surprise factor” helped the book gain some points…
      Looking forward to your review!! 🙂


  4. I need yo start this series, and I need to start it soon! I keep telling myself that but so far I didn’t have any luck!
    But I am glad to see that you enjoyed this one so much, even with the philosophical parts dragging things around a bit!!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great review, Maddalena. And as you already know – I heartily agree with the long philosophical interludes. I’m intrigued that the dratted corvids reminded you of a Greek chorus – perhaps I would have had more patience with their repetitious meanderings if I’d made the same comparison. But yes – I found the overall story fascinating and loved the mystery, despite the pacing issues in places. Though, like you, I think the first book is the best in this series.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was indeed the comparison with a Greek chorus that made the corvids palatable, because there was indeed a bit too much of them for my tastes. Seeing them in that light helped me go through their overlong discussions, although that did not spoil my enjoyment of the novel 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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