Book Review: Dreams Before the Start of Time by Anne Charnock | Clarke Award Shortlist 2018 #6

This review is a bit late because the winner was announced this Wednesday but, at the same time, I couldn’t have concluded this series with a better book since Dreams Before the Start of Time is the winner of this year Clarke!

In case you want to check out my reviews of the other five books, here they are:



Genre: Science Fiction

Publisher: 47North

Length: 226 pages

Format: ebook

Rating: 4 stars

Publication Date: April 18th 2017





Publisher’s description

In a near-future London, Millie Dack places her hand on her belly to feel her baby kick, resolute in her decision to be a single parent. Across town, her closest friend—a hungover Toni Munroe—steps into the shower and places her hand on a medic console. The diagnosis is devastating.

In this stunning, bittersweet family saga, Millie and Toni experience the aftershocks of human progress as their children and grandchildren embrace new ways of making babies. When infertility is a thing of the past, a man can create a child without a woman, a woman can create a child without a man, and artificial wombs eliminate the struggles of pregnancy. But what does it mean to be a parent? A child? A family?

Through a series of interconnected vignettes that spans five generations and three continents, this emotionally taut story explores the anxieties that arise when the science of fertility claims to deliver all the answers.


Book Review

    Set in a near-future London, Dreams Before the Start of Time is a multigenerational saga following families and the impact of technology on their day-to-day lives. It is mainly focused on the advances made in childbearing since, in this future, men can have children without women and vice-versa. Moreover, women aren’t expected to carry children anymore: most pregnancies are made with the aid of artificial wombs. Charnock’s novel shows us snapshots into people’s life with a series of vignettes and how such changes impact their concept of family.

This book is an interesting science fiction novel because it features very few speculative elements. Of course, it is set in the future but if you take away the technological advances, each character’s life is quite normal, they could almost be living in our days. It’s a slice of life book so don’t expect a plot that will keep you at the edge of your seat. To be honest, nothing really happen in this book. I didn’t mind it because I wanted to know more about the life of the protagonists involved and I don’t mind quiet stories but that’s something you might want to know before going into this book.

I liked a lot of things about Dreams Before the Start of Time: the writing is fantastic and the characters felt real. Everything about them felt believable, from their thoughts to their reactions. I felt immersed in their life and it was almost as if I knew them personally. As I mentionned, not a lot of things happened but still, I never found myself bored. I really liked the discussions surrounding pregnancy and how each character has a different opinion on what should be done to a child in order to make his life a easy as possible from birth. It reminded me a lot of the movie Gattaca that I saw probably ten years ago but that still sticks to my mind. The wealthy are indeed able to alter the genome of their children to lessen their chances of having illnesses but they can also control their appearances and IQs so of course, you can imagine how that would increase inequalities.

However, I wish we had more information about this future. It seems that all the characters were only focused on having children and we didn’t get much more about this world. We didn’t learn about the political situation or the other technological advances made in this future. If you take away the changes surrounding pregnancy, this book could almost be set in 2018. Since it’s mainly focused on a single idea, I think this book would have worked better as a shorter work because, in the end, I wanted more for the lenght.

If this sounds like something you would like, I would recommend this book. It has really interesting ideas and discussion about parenthood and it’s definitely well-written. It’s not the book I wanted as I winner but it’s still a good one and I get why it was chosen by the judges. I will definitely read other works by Charnock.


4 stars.

6 thoughts on “Book Review: Dreams Before the Start of Time by Anne Charnock | Clarke Award Shortlist 2018 #6

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