This week, I’m thrilled to be part of the blog tour for Shards of Earth, the first book in Adrian Tchaikovsky’s new Final Architecture trilogy. The tour is organised by The Write Reads in association with Black Crow PR, who furnished me with a free electronic copy of the book in exchange for this fair and unbiased review. I’m also very excited to announce that I will be hosting a UK giveaway for the book – keep an eye on my Twitter for details in the next few days!
This review contains an affiliate link to Bookshop.org, which will earn me a commission if used and will help to support independent bookshops.
Humanity has expanded into the stars, coming into contact with a variety of weird and wonderful alien races along the way, such as the wormlike Castigar and the crab-shaped Hannilambra. But one species could spell their destruction. The moon-sized Architects destroyed Earth seemingly effortlessly eighty years ago, with a number of other human settled planets following swiftly afterwards. Then they disappeared. A veteran of the war, Idris Telemmier is an Intermediary – a human being experimented on in an attempt to create a weapon to fight this seemingly invincible enemy. In the years since the war, he has neither aged nor slept, and makes a living piloting a salvage ship through the mysterious realm of unspace. Now the Architects could be returning, and Idris, his crewmates, and the soldier who stood by his side all those years ago are caught up in a galaxy spanning race against time.
Said soldier is Solace, a member of the all-female Parthenon. Genetically engineered warriors, they all bear a close physical resemblance to one another, whilst having distinct personalities. Solace is an extremely capable combatant, and every time there’s a fight – of which there are plenty – it’s very exciting to see her in action. Suspicions from the crew of the Vulture God – the ship which Idris serves on – make it tough for her to find a place among them; the Parthenon are historically a target for plenty of propaganda, despite their brave frontline defence in the face of the Architects, and Solace contends with the mistrust this fosters constantly. Drone specialist Olli is the mouthpiece for much of this cultural hatred, and is a terrifying combatant herself when linked into her scorpion mech.
Clearly, this is no Wayfarers style portrayal of humanity, with its fundamentally moral, loving, progressive attitude. This is a version of humanity riven by internal conflicts in the wake of cataclysmic events, with the Parthenon having seceded from the Council of Human Interests – known informally as Hugh – following the war, and rebel factions of humanity spreading lies and rumours to further their own agendas. Meanwhile, the Hegemonic cult continues to grow, the alien overlords who run it using their human ambassadors to sway colonised planets into joining their empire in exchange for protection from the Architects. The social and political concerns here are expertly woven into the background; although it might feel like there’s a lot to take in at first with the various faction names and their motivations, the underlying message is that fake news and misinformation are just as much of a problem for humanity in the future as they are now – in this case, a lie can run round the galaxy and back again while the truth is lacing up its boots, to paraphrase Mark Twain (and Sir Terry).
And what a galaxy it is. This vision of the future is stuffed with interesting and dangerous places to visit, with the planet-hopping nature of the Vulture God‘s journey having something of a Mass Effect flavour to it – particularly as new characters are introduced at different locations. Olli frequently asks why the crew can’t go anywhere nice, but when Tchaikovsky is this good at writing insalubrious and deadly locations, you’ll be glad they aren’t shuttling between picture perfect postcard destinations. Wretched hives of scum and villainy are just so much more fun, as are planets packed with deadly flora and fauna and ones with a simmering undercurrent of political tensions.
The characters and species are just as varied as the locations, the motley crew of the Vulture God being a prime example. There’s the previously mentioned drone specialist Olli, a human who conquers her physical disabilities with her incredible mechanical interfacing capabilities. Then there’s Kit, one of the obsessively mercantile Hannilambra, who covers his shell and legs in screens displaying advertisements. There’s also Medvig, a hive intelligence composed of hundreds of electronic bugs. Looking out for Idris’ wellbeing is lawyer Kris, formerly a student of the most respected law school in the galaxy, where disagreements are settled through skillful knife fights. Overseeing them all is their captain, Rollo Rostand, whose love for his crew is evident from the start. This is just one small band of characters, the level of imagination and care that has clearly gone into creating them emblematic of the rest of this universe.
Shards of Earth is more than just a promising opening salvo – it’s an all guns blazing, no holds barred adventure across space, with large scale action set pieces, frantically paced skirmishes and likeable characters. It’s a high bar to set for the first part of a trilogy, but if anyone can clear it with books two and three, it’s Adrian Tchaikovsky.
Shards of Earth is out now, published in the UK by Tor. You can order your own copy through this affiliate link. Thank you to The Write Reads and Black Crow PR for the opportunity to take part in this tour alongside some of the best bloggers out there.