Adrian Tchaikovsky is a British speculative fiction author with over 25 published works of fantasy and science fiction. He is known for his inventive use of characters that are either non-human or are human but with animal traits.
His books have won awards from both science fiction and fantasy associations. Since his debut release in 2008, Tchaikovsky has been very prolific, with most years seeing two new novels released.
I haven’t read everything he’s has written, but in this introduction to Adrian Tchaikovsky, I’ll give a brief guide to his fantasy and science fiction works.
Where to Start – Fantasy
In fantasy, Tchaikovsky has written everything from standalones to trilogies and even a 10-book behemoth. One of my favourite series is the Shadows of the Apt, released over a six-year period with book 1 (Empire in Black and Gold) in 2008 and finally seeing book 10 (Seal of the Worm) in 2014.
The world is populated by various insect-kinden – each race being mostly human in appearance but having characteristics of their totem insect. Flies are generally small, have a sort of sixth sense for danger and of course, wings. Wasps can also fly and have a deadly sting that shoots from the palm of their hand. Other insect-kinden include Beetles, Ants, Spiders (yes, there are non-insects included in this catch-all), Dragonflies, Moths, Mantids and more.
The series deals with the Wasp invasion of the Lowlands, and a group of spies ultimately trying to stop them. The world is beginning to see technological advances, most notably in transport. There’s a new railroad that plays a major part in the early books, as well as airships and other flying contraptions. If you’ve ever wanted to see Battle of Britain style dogfights between clockwork biplanes and giant dragonflies, this is the series you’re looking for.
In 2021, the Shadows of the Apt series is being relaunched with a new look, so there’s no better time to dive in to this fast-paced thrill ride.
Other Fantasy Recommendations
Spiderlight – a short standalone fantasy quest with a spidery twist.
Echoes of the Fall – a trilogy featuring shapeshifters, beginning with The Tiger and the Wolf. Winner of the British Fantasy Award 2017 – Best Fantasy novel.
Guns of the Dawn – A flintlock fantasy standalone pitching war-machines against warlocks.
Where to Start – Science Fiction
Most of Tchaikovsky’s recent work has been sci-fi, with half a dozen releases over the last few years.
My recommended starting point is Children of Time, winner of the 2016 Arthur C. Clarke Award. This novel looks at what happens when terraforming a new planet doesn’t go quite to plan. We’re given dual perspectives – of the humans waiting to colonise a new world and the spiders who already live there.
It’s hard to find spiders creepy when they seem so human – warriors and scientists with names like Portia, Bianca and Fabian. We follow their evolution over centuries, with memories passed down from generation to generation. Meanwhile, the humans wait above for their planet to be made habitable.
Children of Ruin follows Children of Time, continuing the story while adding further twists and other “8-legged” beings.
Other Sci-Fi Recommendations
Dogs of War – a duology featuring a team of genetically engineered animal soldiers. They are led by Rex – a massive, bulletproof and gun-laden dog.
Shards of Earth – (Released in May 2021) Earth has been destroyed by aliens, leaving survivors spread across the galaxy. Now 80 years later, are the aliens returning to finish the job?
I find Tchaikovsky’s writing easily accessible and at times thought-provoking. His imagination is downright absurd, with space-faring spiders and octopuses one of the most bizarre things I’ve read about in a serious novel.
The range of his work is quite wide within our little corner of fiction, so there really is something for everyone. As well as his many novels, Tchaikovsky has a number of novellas and short stories available, giving his work even greater accessibility for all.