The first book in this series was straight up hard science fiction, and completely blew me away, as well as changing my opinion on spiders. The second book explored a new planet, and felt more like a horror story, with the astronauts/settlers discovering the Thing that was on the planet before them. This third book changes the game again, with two new planets, several new characters, and an almost mystery feel. It takes a while for things to settle in, but once our heroes start to figure out that Something Ain’t Right, the mystery is in full swing.
Miranda was once an enemy to Humans (capital H, much more evolved), but is now working alongside them to discover what happened to the other ark ships that launched from Earth centuries ago. The crew also includes Portids and Octopuses that we met in previous books. They follow two signals to possibly terraformed planets with possibly surviving settlements. On the first planet, they find no humans, but their evolved animal protégés (not going to spoil what kind – Tchaikovsky’s glow-ups of the animal kingdom are my favorite part). As part of an ambassadorial adventure, they take some of these new creatures along on the way to their next signal, testing abilities and sentience.
Miranda and her crew go undercover in the village of Landfall to see what’s what, but it soon becomes obvious that all is not as it seems. The answer was a surprise, and I shan’t spoil it.
As always, recapping a Tchaikovsky book seems impossible. I’m only scratching the surface of the dense plot. There are lots of philosophical questions about sentience, helping a culture survive without destroying what makes it unique, and whether pretending to be a thing makes it so. If you liked the first two books, you will like this one. It seems likely that there will be more, and I’m here for however many “Children of X” books he wants to write.