Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky

This is a remarkable science fiction novel. It’s quite a story, quite a work of imagination.

What happens is that human beings have been screwing up the Earth to the point that it’s becoming uninhabitable. One response has been to try to create Earth-like conditions on planets in distant solar systems. It’s hoped that these planets will eventually become new homes for humanity.

The terraforming work on one such planet is sabotaged at the last moment. This leads to an enormous unintended consequence: some of the planet’s spiders rapidly evolve, becoming bigger, smarter and much more sociable than the spiders back on Earth.

Before the Earth becomes uninhabitable, giant spaceships are launched with thousands of people aboard. Most of the passengers are stored away as “cargo”, hibernating in an unconscious state, waiting to be resuscitated when their ships finally reach inhabitable worlds, many years in the future.

Throughout the book, the author switches back and forth between what’s happening to the spiders on their planet and what’s happening to the people in one of the spaceships. I felt closer to the people, but the author does a wonderful job explaining things from the perspective of the spiders. As you’d expect, the two species eventually meet.

Somebody is supposedly trying to turn Children of Time into a movie. It really deserves a TV series, possibly with multiple seasons. The author has also published a sequel, Children of Ruin. It’s probably remarkable too.

The Future Gets a Little Closer

The British government has announced it will invest 60 million pounds to support the development of a “spaceplane”. This will be a spacecraft that can take off and land at an airport, just like a jet plane. But it will have the ability to escape the earth’s atmosphere, delivering passengers and 16 tons of cargo to space stations orbiting earth.

As planned, the spaceplane won’t need to carry lots of heavy fuel when it takes off, like today’s rockets have to do. It will use an extremely efficient engine that allows it to reach Mach-5 (five times the speed of sound) using oxygen from the earth’s atmosphere, and then use a small amount of on-board oxygen to reach Mach-22 in space. The technology has been proven in the lab. Now an actual spaceplane needs to be built and tested.

The article below suggests that the spaceplane technology might eventually be used to make regular air travel faster, allowing tourists, for example, to fly from England to Australia at an average speed of 2,500 miles per hour (i.e. fly 10,000 miles in just 4 hours). That would be 300 miles per hour faster than the fastest military aircraft, the SR-71 Blackbird, has ever flown (according to public records).

A futuristic passenger plane would have to accelerate and decelerate rather slowly, however. Otherwise your Aunt Sally and Uncle Bob would experience a g-force like an astronaut does.

It doesn’t exist yet (and isn’t expected to start flying until 2019), but it still looks really cool: