I finished Children of Time, the standalone novel by Adrian Tchaikovsky. It was probably one of the best science fiction books I have read in years. I need to warn you though, the book will creep many people out (especially me), since it deals with spiders. However, by the end of the book, you are are actually rooting for the spiders to win. I should probably explain what I mean, there may be some spoilers.
The story begins in the future. Humanity has colonized parts of the solar system and mastered so much of the world and technology. A scientist has terraformed a planet and wants to experiment with a nanovirus she has created that will uplift a species of monkeys and allow them to rapidly evolve. She will then go into cryostasis and wake up when they are smart enough to receive her radio signal. Unfortunately, her plan is interrupted by a group of humans who do not believe in this sort of thing. There is a battle and in the end all of the technology of the Earth is wiped out, the colonies fail, and bad things happen.
On the planet though, something interesting happens. The monkeys die in the spaceship, but the nanovirus makes it to the planet and infects many of the insects there. The book then jumps through time as we see the spiders evolve. At first they are smart enough to form partnerships with each other in order to hunt and stay alive. Then a few generations later, they start to build a society. And as time goes, they come up against problems and figure out different solutions.
In between this generation jumps, we also are introduced to the last humans. They are on board an Ark Ship (the Gilgamesh). It has been thousands of years since the humans fell. The technology stopped and the planet went into an ice age. It took a long time, but these remaining people were able to figure out how to make the older humans stuff work and have decided to set off to find one of the terraformed planets. The humans on board wake up from their sleep every so many hundred years and each time there seems to be some kind of in-fighting that will destroy the entire race. Eventually they come into contact with the spiders and the battle that ensues is crazy.
I highly recommend it if you have not read it. If you have read it, then keep reading and let me know what you thought about it. Also, what were some of your favorite parts?
One of the things I loved about the book was how Tchaikovsky presented a vastly different world view from the spiders and how they would deal with problems as opposed to humans. One of the great moments comes when the spiders board the Gilgamesh and they feel like the ship is so alien because everything is right angles and straight lines. The rooms are boxes. That is something totally odd to the spiders.
My favorite part though is the ending (I am about to spoil it). The spiders attack the ship and you think all of the humans are about to die (and yes, I was pretty okay with it, I mean, I did not want Mason & Lane to be eaten, but it seemed like Mason finally acknowledged that maybe humanity was always doomed from the beginning). Then we learn that the spiders do not think in destructive terms like humans do. When they learned the Gilgamesh was coming, they engineered the nanovirus to rewire the brains of humans. The spiders see everything as a possible tool to be used, why would these giants be any different? The ending is years later, we learn that together the spiders and humans are about to head off out into space in a newly designed ship. The nanovirus helped the humans get over their destructive mindset and see the spiders as part of them.