34. ‘Child of Time’ by Isaac Asimov & Robert Silverberg

I picked up this book in the awesome Richard Booth’s secondhand bookshop in Hay on Wye. The blurb began: Child of Time is the story of a Neanderthal child snatched from his own time and people and brought forty thousand years into his future in a daring and controversial scientific experiment.

‘Yes,’ I thought. ‘Yes, that is undoubtedly a book I would like to read.’ So I bought it. It’s ridiculous and very enjoyable. Come on, who wouldn’t want to read about a Neanderthal child brought to the 20th century?

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The little boy is brought through time into a ‘stasis chamber’. He is named Timmie by his newly appointed nurse, Miss Fellowes, who is told that Timmie can never leave the chamber because of science-y reasons. At first Miss Fellowes is afraid of the little monster child, and much of the story focuses on the question of whether or not Timmie is ‘human’.

Interestingly, there are also ‘interchapters’ which tell the story of the Neanderthal world from which Timmie was ripped. The tribe he leaves behind are struggling against the cold, lack of food and a mysterious tribe of tall creatures who don’t speak their language.

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Nothing about this book is great, but it is a thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining read. The concept alone is enough to carry the story through to its somewhat predictable ending, and the character of Miss Fellowes is nicely fleshed out so her motivations and actions seem genuine.

I don’t know quite what to make of the question: is Timmie human? Miss Fellowes discovers all sorts of wonderful things about him – he can speak and he even learns to read – but surely the fact that he is not homo sapiens means he is, by definition, not human? He’s certainly very closely related to us, perhaps even of equivalent intelligence, but technically is ‘human’ a word that can apply to him? I find myself conflicted, as do many characters in the book.

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I always like a bit of high-concept sci-fi, and if that’s what you’re into then you’ll probably love Child of Time. Besides, the masterful hand of Isaac Asimov is at the helm – what’s not to love?

“Picture tapes might keep him amused for a time, but he was bound to outgrow them. Now, though, as he grew older, he would have access to the full, rich world of books.”

If you liked my review, why not read the book and let me know what you think?

3 Comments on “34. ‘Child of Time’ by Isaac Asimov & Robert Silverberg

  1. I would wonder whether “Is he human?” is a relevant question. I don’t get why species is really a relevant label. Personhood sure, but species?

    • I know, it’s strange – we know he’s not human by definition, but they keep talking about it. Personhood is definitely what they mean. It is a pretty exciting book though!

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