I thoroughly enjoyed Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky and (perks of the job) had an ARC of Children of Ruin to read. I dived straight in. The book starts with an Old Empire terraforming project in the past. For a while there I thought we were about to get a replay of the previous book and again looked at the brick of the thing and wondered if I might give up. I should have had more trust in the writer.
The ‘present’ timeline is set a couple of Human generations after the previous book with characters voyaging to a signal they had detected at the end of that book. The only remaining character is Kern – a human amalgamated with AI and subsequently copied to organic technology. But the portiids are there with all their enjoyable interplay, as are the humans.
Again I’m struggling here to review this without giving too much away, so I’ll get a bit general. It’s packed with excellent technology well-imagined from its sources, be they portiids, humans and some other creatures they find. The world-building is sometimes gobsmacking in that respect, but what is especially good is the detail of the thinking and communication of nominally alien creatures. The writing is easy and drags you in, and you know you’re in for a ride. About a third of the way in, however, I began to wonder how the narrative, enjoyable as it was, could be sustained with the story thus far. Adrian didn’t let me down, switching gear at about this point and accelerating with a plot twist (lightly signalled beforehand) that was horrifying, fascinating and truly alien. And this all slots neatly together for a suitably stonking ending. Reading the final section and epilogue was needed as a cool down.
I’ve had some trouble over recent years finding SF books that fully engage me and have often wondered if I’m just a bit jaded by it all. A problem with being a writer is reading something that doesn’t switch the editing head on and thus expel one from a book. This book thoroughly engaged me. Children of Ruin is a humdinger of a book I enjoyed immensely.