Adrian Tchaikovsky introduces Shards of Earth, the first novel in his new trilogy
'Unspace', starship battles and an archeologist made of bugs. Adrian Tchaikovsky introduces Shards of Earth, the first thrilling installment in his new series, the Final Architecture trilogy.
We all know about the art of world-building. But for his latest novel Shards of Light, Adrian Tchaikovsky decided to take things a bit further and galaxy-build, creating 'unspace' as the means of hyperspace travel from one space place to another. All this plus weird aliens, starship battles and hapless hero Idris trying to navigate it all.
Here, Adrian tells us what sci-fi fans can expect from the first installment in his new series, the Final Architecture trilogy.
Basically, it’s all about going faster than light.
Children of Time has been described as space opera in some reviews, but it was certainly written with the intention of being bound by scientific principles as we currently understand them. For most of the series, the idea of travelling faster than light simply isn’t an option. Going to another star system can take from decades to millennia depending on the distances and relative levels of technology. Which worked very well for those books, but did have me yearning to take the tech up a notch and write something about cultures and species spanning the galaxy, not just a little knot of neighbouring stars.
Of course, once I’d decided on that, I had to complicate things and think through even the rather speculative hand-wavy science I was conjecturing and. . . well, the precise shenanigans used to get from star to star in Shards of Earth aren’t just a convenient shortcut, but turned out to be rather integral to everything that goes on in the series, and especially to the life and problems of its lead, poor old Idris Telemmier. In this universe, you get from place to place via unspace, a hyperspace-style deal, so a short trip there covers light-years of real space. All well and good, except that unspace is sufficiently nasty to the sentient mind that you need to be put under for the trip or risk going mad. Of meeting the thing that lives in unspace, that everyone knows isn’t really there except for navigators like Idris whose job it is to stay awake through the voyage.
And unspace is also where the Architects come from, whether they live there or just travel its reaches freely. They turn up above populated planets – only populated ones – and wring them into hideous works of abstract art, which doesn’t go well for anyone living there at the time. The first humanity knows about them is when they do it to Earth.
Idris was an Intermediary, a surgically enhanced navigator and weapon in humanity's war with the Architects. Although ‘war’ is overstating the case because the Architects quite possibly didn’t understand that ‘humanity’ existed per se. Now the Architects have gone, as mysteriously as they arrived, and he just wants to live out his unnaturally prolonged days out of the spotlight. Humanity is slowly recovering from the generations-long PTSD of living in the shadow of the Architects, but at the same time is losing the cultural unity the war bred, fragmenting into parties and factions, at the brink of conflict both against alien polities and other human groups. Idris, working as navigator for the deep space salvage ship Vulture God, wants nothing of it. Which is unfortunate as he and his crew discover evidence that the Architects are back, and that the war might just still be on…
The universe of Shards of Earth and the Architects was enormous fun to create. I enjoyed cutting loose a bit, having humanity butting heads and shaking hands with a whole range of other spacefaring species – whilst at the same time ensuring that the aliens in question were still, well, alien. To the extent that many of them don’t even have heads or hands. And, while I did actually get to do some truly bizarre space combat in Children of Ruin, I’ve never really had the chance to script a great big starship battle before, and the series certainly has a few of them. I’ve always been a lover of the Great Doomed Last Stand sort of scenario, and when the enemy is a moon-sized monster come to reshape your planet, you get a lot of those.
So you can look forward to plenty of weird aliens, and alien worlds with some truly bizarre environments (although the second book in the series frankly hits the peak on that one!), some brutal politics and intrigue, bizarre tech, the ancient Originators even the Architect seem scared of, an almighty alien empire that’s apparently too polite to invade people and an archaeologist made of bugs. And that’s just in the first book. . .