Monday, September 20, 2021

Review: Shards of Earth by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Title: Shards of Earth
Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky
Series: Final Architecture #1
Pages: 548
ISBN: 9780316705851
Publisher: Orbit / Tor
Published: 3 August 2021
Genre: Science Fiction / Space Opera
Source: Library Loan

Idris has neither aged nor slept since they remade him in the war. And one of humanity's heroes now scrapes by on a freelance salvage vessel, to avoid the attention of greater powers.

After earth was destroyed, mankind created a fighting elite to save their species, enhanced humans such as Idris. In the silence of space they could communicate, mind-to-mind, with the enemy. Then their alien aggressors, the Architects, simply disappeared - and Idris and his kind became obsolete.

Now, fifty years later, Idris and his crew have discovered something strange abandoned in space. It's clearly the work of the Architects - but are they returning? And if so, why? Hunted by gangsters, cults and governments, Idris and his crew race across the galaxy hunting for answers. For they now possess something of incalculable value, that many would kill to obtain.

Step aside Firefly there’s a new crew of lovable reprobates in town. Shards of Earth is a brilliant introduction to a brand new trilogy from one of the masters of space opera. After reading the amazing Children of Time I didn’t think Adrian Tchaikovsky would ever be able to match it, but he has somehow managed to surpass himself. You can’t help but be awed by his talent and the boundless scope of his imagination.

It had singled out the system’s inhabited world, as Architects always did. Because they must have their art, and their art demanded death.

Shards of Earth draws you in right from the start with a fascinating universe and a central cast of characters who are diverse in both form and temperament. You can’t help but to fall in love with the crew of the Vulture God, a group of scavengers just trying to make a living and scrounge up enough to keep their ship, their true home, from falling apart around them. They embody found family at its best. Their interactions, which are often quite humorous, and the way they truly care for each other is what makes this such a special experience.

Because I remember… I don’t sleep, I don’t age and I don’t forget—not the big things. I owe you my life. And I owe you double because you kept me sane after Berlenhof, after… first contact. But it’s you I owe, not the Parthenon.”

As a simple salvage mission turns into something far more perilous and apocalyptic you are swept away on an absolutely engrossing journey filled with lots of action and intrigue. The stakes keep escalating as the crew get propelled from one sticky situation into the next with some world-shattering revelations along the way. I had to pace myself otherwise I would've devoured the entire novel in a single sitting. Once the narrative grabs you it has the pull of a massive black hole - it simply does not let go.

Those familiar with space operas will spot many familiar tropes of the genre, but Tchaikovsky puts his own distinctive spin on them making it uniquely his own. There's a rich history to the universe and those that inhabit it. The alien creatures make for some of the most compelling characters. While only a supporting character, I found that the crablike alien Kittering "Kit" had a special draw for me and I enjoyed it immensely whenever he made an appearance. Who doesn't love a ruthlessly capitalist crab?

Shards of Earth is a great introduction to what promises to be a truly epic space opera. The nail-biting ending is satisfying in its own right without resorting to any cliffhangers and paves the way for something much bigger yet to come.

Tchaikovsky has outdone himself once again. I can’t quite decide if I like The Shards of Earth more than Children of time (both, I love both!), but if this is how things start out I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the rest of the trilogy. Highly recommended!

The Rating: 8/10 (Great!)

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