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Unbeknown to me until very recently, Adrian Tchaikovsky has already published well over 170 books. He seems to be more artistically prolific than Remigiusz Mróz, who is known to produce two more books in any series before you finish reading the first one 🙂
I recently finished reading the first part of 'The Final Architecture' series, titled as in the title. I started with a slight concern: for if 'Shards of Earth' turned out to be weak, it would already be the third dud this year - and it's still January.
(the two duds so far were "Sundiver" by David Brin and "The Peripheral" by William Gibson)
If, on the other hand, it turned out to be an absolute hit, one that I couldn't put down, this would mean - assuming that the rest of his work remains up to par - ploughing through another hundred plus books by the same author, which wouldn't be a problem in principle if it weren't for the fact that I'm slowly but inexorably reaching my fifties, so that even by the most optimistic calculations I won't be able to get through more than 200, maybe 250 books before I kick it. Somehow it feels a waste to use up most of that time on just one author. Or maybe not?
Anyway, my fears proved to be unfounded, as 'Shards of Earth' turned out to be kind of …. average.
It is quite well written SciFi action, with a single thread told from the perspective of several different narrators. Possibly a flashback to several decades ago can be taken as a plot number two.
The book consists of five main parts or 'big' chapters divided into 'small' chapters, each titled by the name of the narrator telling it. The narration is in the third person.
--- SPOILER ALERT ---
(don't panic though, I'm only revealing some facts from the very beginning of the very first chapter)
At the very start, we learn that (A) some time ago mankind mastered interstellar travel because we discovered un-space (a nice change in the naming from all the hyper- and sub-spaces) and (B) we were visited by Architects, moon-sized beings whose sole task seems to be to transform planets inhabited by humanity into abstract works of art. Unfortunately, a planet becomes uninhabitable afterwards, so whoever doesn't evacuate in time dies. They have already wiped out quite a few humans this way. There is no way to contact them or fight them.
Somehow though, some seventy years ago it happened that a man made telepathic contact with one of the Architects and asked it to stop. This apparently was enough and the Architects "ceased fire" and never appeared again.
The man who did this was the then young Idris, one of the two main characters in the novel. The other is Solace, a female commando who was around Idris 70 years ago when he 'spoke' to the Architect and was tasked with protecting him from any danger. Three quarters of a century later, Idris is still a young-looking introvert (he has a thing in his genes that makes him age very, very slowly - if at all), while Solace, on the other hand, has hibernated most of her adult life, so when she finds herself in the conundrum of events 70 years later, she also looks pretty much as she did back then.
There are quite a few other characters as well. There are all sorts of worlds inhabited by various fractions of humans (and non-humans), a bit of politics (thankfully not too much), plenty of technology, travel (both by traditional means and in un-space), chases, extended fight scenes (on both a large and small scale), there are aliens, sympathies, antipathies, a bit of harsh military language, a solid dose of humour and general space-bending.
It took me about a week to read the whole book. I kept coming back to read it quite eagerly, but…. well, I don't know. In my opinion, it lacks freshness, or new ideas. Basically all the motifs that appear here I have already encountered in other books.
The ending is written cleverly and opens up a wide passage to the next pieces of the series, which I am sure I will be reading at some point. No cliff-hanger there, but it will be interesting to find out what the Author is planning.
My personal rating: around 7/10.