I discovered Adrian Tchaikovsky back in 2010 when I read Empire in Black and Gold, the first novel in the Shadows of the Apt series. It didn’t take me long to read the rest of the series which remains, for me, one of the most original and effective sets of fantasy novels I have read in a long time. With the Children of Time, Tchaikovsky turned from fantasy to science fiction and showed that he has a sure touch in either genre.
This is useful because The Expert System’s Brother is a science fiction novella masquerading as a fantasy story.
After an unfortunate accident, Handry is forced to wander a world he doesn’t understand, searching for meaning. He soon discovers that the life he thought he knew is far stranger than he could even possibly imagine.
Can an unlikely saviour provide the answers to the questions he barely comprehends?
One of the many things I find so enjoyable about Tchaikovsky’s writing is the quality of his world building, and The Expert System’s Brother is no exception. The world in which the story takes place is rich, detailed and thoroughly immersive and all of this is integrated beautifully into the narrative. We are told only what Handry sees and knows but are able to understand so much more and it really is a joy to watch all of the pieces slot into place.
As a novella, this is not a particularly long piece but Tchaikovsky manages to pack a lot of detail into a very short work and paces it in such a way as to hold your attention throughout.
This all makes for an excellently told tale of humanity, how the struggle to survive can go awry and a thoughtful story about what it means to be human.