Children of Time
Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky
Page Count: 600
Format Read: Audiobook
Genre: Science Fiction
Keywords: Spiders, Space, War
Kid Appropriate: No
My 2019 reading goals included trying to read some science-fiction books, not a genre I particularly have liked in the past. Children of Time is my second science fiction pick of the year and I was pleasantly surprised by this nicely paced space drama about the future of the human species when faced with extinction and a dead planet.
I enjoyed the familiarity of a space drama centered around people fighting for survival on a spaceship but mixed with the unexpected twist of massive and highly intelligent spiders. The way that they develop as a species from the earliest pages to the concluding remarks was both fascinating and unexpected. A careful reader could find many parallels to modern Earth debates to discuss as the arachnids and the world they create is explored on each page.
Book clubs could easily use the struggles of the spiders to discuss concepts such as sexism, equality, science, environmentalism, religion, and war. As someone that generally avoids political discussions, I thoroughly enjoyed the approach the author took of examining the issues through such a unique avenue. By exploring the issues through spiders it is easier to discuss.
If you are worried about the science part of this science fiction novel I wouldn’t be. While at first glance the tech seems like it would have to be complicated, it really isn’t. I would say most of the terms the author uses would easily be understood by most people that made it through seventh or eight-grade general science. Even if those were struggles the author provides enough context to make everything clear.
As far as whether or not this one is appropriate for children it is debatable. Sex is referred to very rarely but there is an amount of profanity littered throughout the book.
I recommend this space odyssey full of nightmarish intelligent arachnids. If science fiction is not your normal genre I also give high praise to the audiobook narrated by Mel Hudson. Her reading is calm and well-paced, never distracting from the story itself. This novel is smart, interesting, and at times heartbreaking. I fully intend to read the sequel, Children of Ruin, due out May 2019.
Author: Kim Newman
Page Count: 424
Format Read: Paperback
Keywords: Vampires, London, Victorian
Kid Appropriate: No
When I stumbled across Anno Dracula during a Barnes & Noble run I was surprised that I had never heard of the 1993 release. It has a great mix of nearly all my early loves in literature: vampires, Dracula, Victorian England, the Holmes brothers, Jack the Ripper, Scotland Yard, and much more commonly associated with the era. I tore through the first thirty pages with my hopes high.
Unfortunately, my feelings were a mix of indifference, confusion, and boredom with the closing pages. While the world built by Newman was an interesting mix of popular literary characters and the concept of vampires being out of the coffin as is seen in shows like True Blood, there was a lack of consistency in the story and random revelations with no build up that left me scratching my head trying to figure out how the story ended up where it did. Much of the ending seemed out of place, possibly even rushed, and made me wonder if I had somehow missed portions of the book.
Another thing I am unsure of is how this 1993 book’s humor would be taken by today’s readers. At times the terms used and jokes made veer fairly far from being politically correct. Some of them were fairly common jokes that I have heard in more modern works but others I was even a bit surprised by. It was difficult to tell how seriously the author meant them as well since large portions of the writing do come across as being humorous.
Many of the characters were a bit on the two-dimensional side but the three that stood out to me were the elder vampire Genevieve, Dr. John Seward, and the prostitute Mary Jeanine/Lucy. These three go through the most growth with sanity and identity being hit upon most heavily with the latter two.
Anno is the Latin term for “year” or “year of” so this book about the year Dracula is ruling Victorian England sounds like a great fun read with plenty of old faces to keep readers interested as detectives chase down the elusive Jack the Ripper. Despite this fun and intriguing premise the book is often quite slow with uninteresting scenes and ends oddly. Characters veer from what we know of them, events seem to happen with no build up, and scenes are added for interest rather than coherent plot.
I will not be continuing with the other works in the series. Read it if you are interested in vampires and looking for a slower read that can veer towards goofy. Otherwise, you can safely skip this one