ARC Review: Shards of Earth by Adrian Tchaikovsky


Shards of Earth by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Shards of Earth takes us on an action packed journey through a universe threatened by the return of a worlds-ending threat. It’s a universe where Earth is a distant memory and humanity is scattered across many planets and systems. War with the Architects ended some forty years in the past, and since then no Architects have been seen. But the threat of their return thrusts the crew of the Vulture God and it’s Intermediary pilot Idris Telemmier into a struggle with competing forces all trying to understand, get ahead of, or profit from the Architects potential reappearance.

This is a fantastic read, and it’s a testament to how well it’s written that even at over 500 pages it goes quickly. The characters in the book are well developed and the action-driven plot goes through several twists leading to the final satisfying conclusion. Yet, as is fitting for the first in a series of books, it leaves you wanting more.

There is a lot to this book and it’s impossible to summarize it all in this review. Here are highlights of just some of the “world building” in which the action unfolds:

The main events in the book take place in the year “123 After”. Some two hundred and thirty years before, the alien Castigar race came upon space probes from Earth and became humanity’s first alien contact. The Castigars introduced humanity to the Throughways, paths through unspace that allow for travel across the wider universe. With their help, humans established colonies on many planets and systems, and came in contact with other intelligent species. 

In the Year 0, an Architect (a being the size of our Moon) came out of unspace near Earth and, as Architects do, it transformed Earth into a bizarre massive sculpture, destroying all life on the planet in the process. More attacks by Architects occur on other settled planets as humanity and their alien allies seek to find ways to combat this threat. Through all of this, the Architects themselves remain mysterious foes, as they have made no attempt at contact, and no threats or demands.

No way of contacting them is found until, after many years and multiple planet losses, the “Intermediary Program” ultimately results in humans who are surgically and chemically altered to become empaths capable of contacting the Architects. Their abilities are modeled on those of “Saint Xavienne” Torino, a woman for whom this empathic ability comes naturally. The Intermediaries Xavienne Torino and Idris Telemmier finally establish contact with an Architect threatening the planet Far Lux, at which point the Architects realize that their work has resulted in the loss of many lives, and they withdraw back into unspace.

Beyond their abilities to communicate with the Architects, the Intermediaries are unique among humans in that they can endure the impacts of travel through unspace, which can have life altering psychological impacts. The Intermediary Program continues after the withdrawal of the Architects, supplying unspace pilots. Others aboard ships traveling in unspace must go into stasis so as not to be psychologically damaged.

Now, in 123 After, Idris Telemmier (who for some reason related to his Intermediary experience has not aged since the War) is the pilot aboard the salvage ship Vulture God. When their ship is dispatched to collect the missing vessel Oumaru, the crew find it destroyed, with the distinctive sculptural pattern of an Architect attack. Are the Architects returning? Where will they strike next? Now the action really begins...

I rate Shards of Earth 4 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐ - I really liked this book, and was glad I read it. If you are looking for your next fantasy / space opera, one you can really sink your teeth into, this one is well worth your time. I recommend it.

NOTE: This is an ARC (advanced reader copy) Review. I received a free copy of this ebook in exchange for a fair review. The release date for Shards of Earth is May 27th. [As of 12/2021 the book is available in hardcover, paperback, audiobook and ebook formats.]

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Title: Shards of Earth
Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky
Publisher: Pan MacMillan (UK) and Orbit (US)
Publish Date: November 16, 2021
ISBN-13: 9781529051889 (UK) and 9780316705851 (US) 
List Price: £18.99 (UK - hardcover, Waterstones) and $23.49 (US - hardcover, Amazon) as of 12/2021.

Revised 12/2021