What’s the point of making better people, if they’re still sad and afraid and lonely?
The book follows the story of a space pilot, capable of unique feats, and a soldier, driven by duty and skill, in a futuristic galaxy, where strange aliens seem bound to destroy the universe. In a grandiose space opera, the pilot and the soldier take part in wars and in a motley crew, carried around by the threat of the Architects, the destroyer of planets.
The book is the first part of a trilogy The Final Architecture, but can stand alone and does not finish with a major cliffhanger. Tchaikovsky is increasingly appreciated as one of the best upcoming scifi authors, already winning the Arthur C. Clarke Award and Hugo Award.
Shards of Earth is entertaining, credible and memorable. The reader becomes interested in the fate of protagonists, how the world events are affecting them and how are they responding. The plot is well constructed and there are almost no points where the reader is baffled by the luck or invulnerability of the personages. On the contrary, the heroes of the story do not escape their adventures unscathed. The supporting personages are unique and memorable, with their own motivations and different, interesting backgrounds.
But what impresses most is the world building, creating aliens and separate human species, planets, ships, language, clothes, food – all deeply thought how would they look in the future, and how would they interact. The socioeconomic developments that drive colonization are well-understood. The decision of planets to side with one faction or the other make sense.
Additionally, the dialogue and descriptions are masterfully written, with memorable quotes and presentations. The descriptions manage to create and explain the new space world, without going in too much length – a sign of a great writer.
While the aliens and the worlds created are not uncommon in the scifi literature, the way their interact, the attention to strong motivations, the vocabulary, the editing and, overall, the excellent writing makes the book really engaging and hard to let down before finishing.