Children of Time is a truly unique space opera. Set somewhere in the Sun's stellar neighborhood far from a polluted and uninhabitable Earth, Adrien Tchikovsky tells the story of two species.
On the one hand we have the jumping spiders (descendants from Portia labiata to be precise) who have been rocketed to sentience as a result of a 'nanovirus' (of questionable biological plausibility, but we'll suspend our disbelief) deployed as part of a strange terraforming project. On the other hand we have the human inhabitants of the ark ship Gilgamesh, a decaying old vessel that houses the last surviving members of the human race.
The story jumps between the points of view of Portia and Holsten, the representative characters for each of their respective species. Over the span of millenia we are brought along on a high stakes journey across the stars. Portia and her progeny (also named Portia for our convenience, since spider language is mostly composed of complex substrate vibrations and thus her true name would be impossible to communicate through text) must defend themselves against armies of ants, navigate complex and ever-changing social dynamics, build a technological civilization, and ultimately uncover the secret of their own origins. Holsten and the crew of the Gilgamesh are desperate for a new home for humanity, and must travel interstellar distances, thwart attempts of sabotage, maintain a decaying ship, and be willing to risk it all in one final hail mary.
The book is fantastic. There is no need to spend five hundred more words waxing poetic about it. The characters are incredible, the prose is dazzling, and the ideas are enduring. As an entomologist myself, I found myself vacillating between wanting to hug him for putting so much care into getting the biology right, and absolute wonderment at what he did with the spider civilization. It is difficult enough to write interesting human characters, but Tchaikovsky has managed with Children of Time to occupy the absolutely alien mind of a sentient jumping spider. Not only that, but the consideration he put into thinking about how technology and civilization would develop in the context of an entirely different umwelt is just... phenomenally well done.
On to Children Ruin now, to complete the duology. Simply can't wait.