I'm happy to say that I was completely unspoiled about many details of the story and thus was completely surprised and engrossed when the full ambitious scope of Tchaikovsky's novel slowly revealed itself. I have endeavored to keep those aspects of the story out of this review so that others can experience the book and enjoy it as much as I did, which was considerably.
Essentially Children of Time is two (very good!) science fiction books in one; The first book is about the events and people on an ark ship containing 500,000 frozen humans who are the last remnants of a devastated Earth and the decline of human civilization (somewhat reminiscent of Kim Stanley Robinson's Aurora) and the other book is an uplift story with incredibly realistic descriptions of an authentically alien culture (reminiscent of Vernor Vinge's A Deepness in the Sky and David Brin's The Uplift War) developing into a formidable civilization.
Time is a key component of the story (hence the title), as we follow multiple generations of the aliens as they evolve and their culture slowly develops technology. On the ship a great deal of time also passes, with the use of cold sleep allowing the audience's main characters to avoid most of the effects of time's arrow but the story follows multiple generations of descendants of the original ship's crew and defrosted cargo.
Much of the compelling nature of Children of Time is based around the reader's connection to the fate of humanity and the skill with which the author has presented the alien culture so that when the inevitable clash between the two factions occurs it is difficult for the reader to know who to root for! (The ending is pretty surprising, even if the resolution of the conflict is a tad too neat to be completely satisfying. But this is a minor quibble after spending nearly 600 pages engrossed with these characters and situations.)
Overall, Children of Time is an incredibly original, intensely compelling, standalone novel of hard science fiction which is an instant classic in the grand tradition of other memorable (and award-winning) works like Neal Stephenson's Seveneves, Vinge's A Deepness in the Sky and Isaac Asimov's The Gods Themselves.
Title: Children of Time.
Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky.
Paperback: 600 pages.
Date Published: June 4, 2015.
Date Read: August 8, 2016.