As the novel begins, human technology is at its apex, and with it, human hubris is also at an all time high. With biotech and other advances, humanity is ready to spread out across the universe, creating life as they see fit and even guiding evolution. At least, that’s the plan. While some are obsessed with what humanity can do and taken it to all its conclusions, a resistance group is more than ready to end it all because humanity has made themselves god.
Just as Avrana Kern is about to start the experiment that will be her legacy and the culmination of her work, the resistance forces make their move universe wide. While the sabotage kills off the chimpanzees that were supposed to colonize a new planet and provide the work force for humans in several generations, the virus makes it to the surface, and kicks off an accelerated evolutionary path for the life forms that are on the planet – mostly arthropods and other non-mammalian species.
Avrana also survives in the lone escape pod to launch from the space ship but she fuses with the ship’s AI as she continues to watch and monitor her planet. The isolation turns this already cold woman into an obsessed and slightly crazed individual and planet guardian so when the remains of human society show up thousands of years later, she is resistant to let them interfere with her experiment.
The novel spans thousands of years, going back and forth between the evolution of the spiders on the planet and their evolving cultures and societies (this was absolutely my favorite part even as I felt so bad for the male spiders of the species), and the humans in the space ship. At the same time as the attack on Dr. Kern’s original ship, the resistance made a combined strike, leading to a bit of a nuclear holocaust and an ice age on Earth. It’s taken years but it has become clear that the Earth will not recover, and humans have finally understood enough of the previous human society’s technology to be able to launch a ship into space to save humanity.
While I liked the hints about what happened to Earth, I honestly didn’t care nearly as much about the spaceship with the last remains of human life as the spiders going through the various stages of civilization. The humans just kept having conflicts and did not seem to learn much from historical precedence.
I was surprised how much I enjoyed this one, especially given who half the main characters were – I don’t find spiders as creepy as some types of insects but I still don’t exactly enjoy finding them in my living spaces. Definitely worth checking out! While parts are rather dark and pessimistic, I still felt like overall, the novel went more with a message of hope than despair.