Within the Sound of Silence

Children of the Divide — Patrick S. Tomlinson
Children of a Dead Earth, book 3

Children Of The Divide

2017’s Children of the Divide is the third but probably not final volume in Patrick S. Tomlinson’s Children of a Dead Earth series.

A generation after their ark parked in orbit around Gaea (one of Tau Ceti’s life-bearing worlds), the refugees are well on their way to building a new civilization to replace the one they lost. There are just two problems:

  1. Tensions between humans and Gaean natives could result in civil war.

  2. The aliens who destroyed Earth may have once lived in the Tau Ceti system — and may return.

The benefits of industrial development have been unevenly distributed. Humans are assured of power and potable water. The Atlantians are not, even though they provide much of the labour on which the new society is based.

Also, the humans have (sometimes unthinkingly, carelessly and sometimes deliberately) committed numerous affronts against Atlantian cultural norms. Native traditionalists are preaching violent resistance.

Bombs explode during a human-Atlantian community celebration. During the chaos that follows, Atlantian separatists kidnap Benexx, an Atlantian adopted by a human couple. What use the terrorists might have for this symbol of human-Atlantian integration is not clear, but it cannot be anything good.

Up on the moon Varr, what should have been a routine trouble-shooting mission to the helium-three1 mines takes an unexpected turn when Jian Feng and his companions stumble across a complex buried beneath the moon’s surface. The ancient moon base is obviously the fruit of high technology (as high or higher than that the humans brought with them). Not only that, the base’s automated systems, and its AI, are still functioning. The base is deserted. Who built it and where did they go?

  • It could have been built by a previous civilization, one native to Gaea. Gaea is subject to frequent asteroid impacts. A large impact could have thrown the planet back to a bare subsistence level. But no other evidence of such a precursor civilization has been found.

  • Tau Ceti has two other life-bearing worlds, neither of which has been well explored. Perhaps the base was built by a lost civilization native to one of those worlds.

  • The aliens who killed Earth may have reached the Tau Ceti system well before the humans, at least a quarter of a million years ago. If so, they have abandoned their outpost … but they may return.

Jian’s father, Captain Chao Feng, believes that if there is any chance that the third possibility is the case, drastic action is the safest course.

Jian is convinced nuking the base from orbit would be a terrible mistake. To prevent this mistake, he will have to raise a mutiny against his stubborn father.

Down on Gaea, Benson, the adoptive father of the kidnapped Atlantian, hasn’t had much luck finding his missing daughter. Benexx will just have to rescue herself….


I had no idea this was book three in a series. I have not read the first two books. As it turns out, this can be read as a standalone book.

It’s a rare version of the generation ship trope in which where the ship actually manages to reach its destination intact and on mission. Go team human!

You all know about the Fermi Paradox, right? If there is life out there in our galaxy, why haven’t we heard from it? The author of this book knows about the paradox as well. He posits intelligent life on several worlds2, but points out that the galaxy is creepily silent. The fact that the Earth was destroyed by a black hole lobbed at it at 1.7% C suggests that someone out there might be destroying other space-capable civilizations.

Who or what is not explained in this book, which leads me to believe that a fourth volume in the series might be forthcoming.

Adventure stories (and crime thrillers and mysteries, and … and …) often rely on the “rogue agent who saves the day by breaking the rules” trope. This book uses it too. That said, I appreciated the realism of the denouement: mutiny even for the right reasons is neither forgiven nor rewarded.

Meanwhile, down on Gaea, humans are cheerfully upending Atlantian culture to suit human values3 and goals. The humans see their role as beneficial. The fact that inter-species relations have gone from first contact to open revolt in eighteen years suggests that this might not be true. The next book in the series, if written and published, will probably address this issue, among others. I’m guessing that plucky Benexx will play a central role.

Children of the Divide is available here (Amazon) and here (Chapters-Indigo).

1: eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

2: It isn’t a Protector-style scenario [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pak_Protector]. Humans and Atlantians are nothing alike. Even their biochemistry is different.

3: Atlantians produce large broods; to keep the population at manageable levels, most of their offspring were culled at birth. Benson intervened to put a stop to this practice. On the one hand, infanticide is cruel. On the other hand, going from four surviving children per litter to over thirty is causing a population boom. One hopes that someone, somewhere, is researching how to supply voluntary birth control to Atlantians. At least the humans increased the food supply, which has put off the reckoning for a time.

Atlantians also have a caste system, which is just fine from the POV of the people at the top. Benexx, the kidnapped kid, belongs to the bearer caste, the lowest. The Atlantian traditionalists are pissed that she gets to enjoy all the considerable privileges of humans, which is just … wrong. What they don’t realize is that Bennexx’s privileged life barely compensates for the burdens of her role as a symbol of human-Atlantian cooperation.


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