Adrian Tchaikovsky – Eyes of the Void (2022) Review

7.5/10

The author went to his basement, sweat a lot, and oozed out another novel! And it’s a doozy this time, marketing says. None of that milquetoast science fiction for tiny babies and mooncalfs! This is the real McCoy so get reading you tree weasels! Some people (a subset of The People, known as Some People also known as Those People) have called this book bad. Do not listen; their thoughts are amorphous, like bad cheese.

Just kidding.

The Final Architecture universe is shaping up to be a pleasant and interesting space opera setting to spend some time in. Not for the characters, perhaps, but I am thoroughly entertained. To quickly sketch the setting, it’s about various alien races and empires living together or alongside each other and everyone has to deal with a shared overwhelming existential threat, the Architects. Like the inhibitors in Alastair Reynolds’ Revelation Space series, but more theatrical. And where Revelation Space is dark and nihilistic and Gothic, this series is more bright colours and motley found-family crews and weird crab and slug and clam aliens. Sort of, Becky Chambers’ A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet meets Lovecraftian Eldritch Big Dumb Objects.

Notice how Tchaikovsky keeps using Earth creatures as templates for his alien races. There is very little difference between his aliens in one book and his uplifted Earth creatures in others. He also reuses his idea from Children of Time (2015) of swarms of insects creating a computational matrix. But this time the swarms inhabit blocky, retro-futuristic robots. In Eyes of the Void, though, he shifts focus to the stranger inhabitants of the universe with aren’t so much like Earth animals, to the enigmatic Architects and the alien Hegemony, of which we still know so little but has all these other unknown alien races living inside it. These are two elements of the series that speak most to the imagination and I love learning more about them.

Tchaikovsky uses a very easy-going, non-demanding writing style here. To the point where he’s a bit too repetitive sometimes, where he over-explains things. The book is indeed a bit on the long side at nearly 600 pages, but he’s not as tiring as he was with the wordy, dispassionate writing in Children of Ruin (2019). Characters are allowed to interact with each other, at least. And while the easy-reading space opera style also brings to mind James S.A. Corey’s Expanse series, I find Tchaikovsky to be much, much better in presenting interesting, layered characters, and the tone of his writing is wittier than in the Expanse and in Children of Ruin, and altogether a bit more refined. It reads as if he had more fun writing it and enjoyed creating this crew of outcasts.

This middle book reinforces the feeling that humanity is a newcomer in the galactic neighbourhood, and when more advanced species also have to deal with the same Architect threat, then we’re just kids at the table while the adults are talking. We don’t understand their mathematics anyway. There is an action set piece in the middle of the book where all those advanced aliens start messing around and the sense of awe and wonder that comes with it is delightful. There is commentary on human nature hidden in that part of the story, about how humans squabble endlessly amongst themselves or stick their head in the sand while the planet around them is literally about to be destroyed, but Tchaikovsky is pretty laid-back about messaging here and doesn’t let it overshadow his plot or universe-building. 

One major theme that runs through the entire series is that of trust. In the face of extinction-level danger, humanity still finds itself divided into various factions and no one trusts the other sides. Everyone fights over the same resources, which also include Idris, the Intermediary. And the crew of the Vulture God is a microcosm of all these political powers and trust doesn’t come easy between these crew members. Hopefully companionship through adversity can win the day, but even that is not always a given.

Speaking of that action set piece, it could have been the epic ending of a novel and Eyes of the Void indeed has the structure of two novels pasted together. Which also means that it is a little bit longer than really works for me. There is a long middle part where every player has to be manoeuvred into the right position for the second and final climax at the end of the novel. While that middle part was still enjoyable with new characters and new locations, I was starting to lose some reading momentum. Looking back at the entire book, the climax sits halfway through the novel. The second half was not as interesting in contrast to it, and the ending was not as spectacular. A lot is still left open for a final novel.

I rather liked it. It’s a kitschy space opera trope festival that goes for the easy strategies of motley crews and large epic events to win readers over. And it worked on me, because Tchaikovsky did most of it right. But it is getting a bit long and the action is starting to get a bit samey, so it is in need of a conclusion.

<– preceded by Shards of Earth – followed by Lords of Uncreation –>

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10 Responses to Adrian Tchaikovsky – Eyes of the Void (2022) Review

  1. Bookstooge says:

    Pretty good stuff. Too bad he’s not for me anymore 😉

    Even in the Apt books he was definitely fond of his own words, so this being as long as it is doesn’t surprise me one bit.

    Liked by 1 person

    • So far I haven’t found any Tchaikovsky book that I truly found great. It’s always almost great, but in the end just a bit flat and wordy and tiring. All of his books are like that for me.

      There is nothing in this about religion, you don’t have to worry about that.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Bookstooge says:

        That may be, but Tchaikovsky has dug that knife in too many times now, so I’m just avoiding him.

        I really don’t like when a novel is obviously two books put together for the sake of publishing it at once. Just write two 350 page books and have done…

        Liked by 1 person

        • The two books put together is because Tchaikovsky has a structure that he follows in his writing that goes like this: build-up, build-up, climax with teaser at the end! Build-up, build-up, climax with teaser at the end! Very erotic. You could easily take some scissors and cut the book up after each climax.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. bormgans says:

    Thanks for this. I’m glad you liked it, but the more I read reviews about Tchaikovsky, the more I think I’ll just leave it at my experience with Children of Time.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sadly, while I loved Shards of Earth, Eyes of the Void proved to be something of a disappointment and I set it aside without finishing it: maybe it was a momentary “mood thing”, but I could not find it in myself to keep interested in the characters and the journey. I will give it another chance one of these days, but I felt as if the… magic of the first book was gone…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Too bad. Where were you in the book when you put it aside? You know, I was losing more and more interest towards the end, so I understand where you’re coming from. I felt that the characters stayed a bit flat and a bit the same without them having really interesting journeys. And the action parts went on for many pages but didn’t really have an impact on any character development.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I believe I was one third of the way in when I gave up – and I really struggled to move up to that point. The characters’ flatness you mention might have been the main factor of my disappointment, because they felt so different from the first book, where they did really drive the story. Given that I also loved Children of Time while I was bored by Children of Ruin, I wonder if Tchaikowsky should rather stay on single-volume stories and avoid sequels – but that’s just me… 🙂

        Like

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