Summary of Children of time

Children of time by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Children of time is a fantastic creative novel by Adrian Tchaikovsky. Since this a summary of a thriller with a suspense ending, you have to stop reading right now if you don't want to be ruined by a spoiler.

Spoilers!!! Spoilers!!! Spoilers!!!

The novel opens with a terraforming project (Brin) in a far away world lead by Dr. Avrana Kern. The goal of the project is a scientific one - to investigate the possibility of giving intelligence to monkeys by introducing a virus that accelerates certain desirable characteristics, primarily around cognition. However, this is not well received by everyone. There's a lot of opposition to it in Earth. Unbeknownst to the crew of the project circling a world many light years away from Earth, Earth has descended into wars between factions that support terraforming and experimentation and those that are opposed to it. Also unknown to them is a mole within their ranks that's intent on destroying the entire vessel and the crew with it.

The world has been transformed and the animals and virus are ready to be deployed to the world to begin the experiment. Kern, who has a huge ego, gives a talk thanking the various teams and people responsible for bringing the project to where it is today and hands it over to Sering for a few words. Sering, the mole from the anti-science faction, reveals his true intent and sets off the triggers to blow the reactor up and destroy the vessel. Kern realizing the futility of trying to stop him makes a dash for the pod that was setup for Sering to stay back and monitor the progress while in a deep hibernation ("the sleep). Kern also launches the payload destined for the planet below - while the virus makes it to the planet, the apes don't make it. As Kern watches from her pod, the vessel disintegrates. Kern goes into deep cold sleep hoping for a rescue but also uploading a part of her mind forming a human-computer composite looking for radio signals for both rescue and intelligence in the planet below.

The author then describes the evolution that happens in Spiders as succintly as possible. Two spiders learn to use the vibrations of their web to communicate and co-ordinate an attach on a prey that's usually too large to tackle by a single spider alone. This is seen as an effect of the engineered virus that makes the spiders feel more kinship than they usually do and encourages collaboration among them instead of competition.

Kern is woken up by the computer after about 14 years by the attack of a virus that renders all electronic equipment useless. Kern's pod is spared by the presence of her uploaded personality. The logical conclusion is that communication is cut off between Earth and the various colonies and also that the colonies that need the electronic systems to survive are likely to be wiped out as well. There's very little hope for the future. The computer needs a new directive on when to wake Kern again. Kern instructs it to wake her up when either a rescue arrives or the planet responds back to the continuous intelligence test being broadcasted. (It's going to be a long sleep.)

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