Children Of Memory – Spooky And Uplifting

We flipped a coin to determine who would get to review this and I said the quarter would get caught in a time paradox so here we are. Children of Memory is the third book in a series that Adrian Tchaikowsky keeps promising won’t have sequels (and I am very glad he wrote them despite his promises). What is truly amazing about these books is that they all have a clear throughline focusing on what it means to be human and the nature of evolution, yet they are different in narrative focus, storytelling method, subject, and style.

If you are unfamiliar with the books I am talking about (Children of Time, Ruin, and now Memory), they all take place in a universe where scientists tried to restart evolution with monkeys on fresh terraformed planets to see what new kinds of humanity would evolve. Earth then explodes, all the uplift projects get out of whack, and different animals start achieving sentience and civilization over thousands of years. The remnants of Earth’s humanity get on arc ships and travel thousands of years to new planets to see how the terraforming/uplift projects are doing. The first two books focus on discovering new forms of life that evolved through Earth’s old web, but Children of Memory focuses on finding a shard of the original humanity that has been in isolation for a long time and things have gotten…weird.

As I mentioned before, there are many similarities in theme and message between the three books, but Children of Memory very much has its own vibe. In this third entry, Tchaikovsky has dialed up the mystery and horror elements that were present, but less of a focus, in the first two books. Something strange is going on down on Imir and the story is confusing, to say the least. The narrative is told through a number of broken minds—some native and some from our group of star explorers—experiencing strange occurrences on the planet’s surface. Events repeat themselves. Sections contradict each other. People’s identities and personalities change at the drop of a hat. It’s a real cornucopia of “what the hell is going on” and I love it.

The message of the story still focuses on expanding the idea of what it means to be human, with an added emphasis on the concept of sentience. While Memory focuses on a group of original Earth remnants, our crew does find an additional planet on the way there and picks up a fun new group of uplifted animals that add a lot of spice to the mix.

As always, Tchaikovsky has a brilliant mind for taking animal facts, science, and the belief that the idea of being human is always expanding and shoving it all into a strangely heartwarming story. Yet, if I had one thing to complain about it would be that Memory spends a lot of time reveling in its mysteries and a little less time focusing on the big ideas and concepts it brings to the table for discussion. The ideas are definitely there, but they share the space with a spooky “what’s going on” vibe that just means they are deemphasized compared to the first two books. The exploration of these big ideas is the special sauce that really elevates these books personally, so I ended up enjoying Memory slightly less than the first two books, even though I still loved it.

Tchaikovsky has done an incredible job continuing to iterate and breathe life into a book idea that I thought had reached its end. It has become increasingly obvious to me that Tchaikovsky has built a playground with this series that has an established world rife with mysteries for exploring and he can use it as a whiteboard for any number of ideas. I sincerely hope that more of these books keep coming because every single one is a delightful surprise and never seems to get old.

Rating: Children of Memory – 9.0/10

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An ARC of this book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The thoughts on this book are my own.

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