THE DOORS OF EDEN by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Book Review)
‘If it was Narnia, it was a Narnia where the White Witch had won. Always winter, forever and forever, in a world that had died a hundred million years before lions might have evolved.’
I’ve heard it said that Adrian Tchaikovsky is an incredible writer. I’ve heard The Doors of Eden hailed on Goodreads as ‘an extraordinary feat of the imagination’. Well, I’m here to say I wholeheartedly agree.
This is a multiple of firsts for me, as not only was this my first novel by Tchaikovsky, but this was also the first contemporary sci-fi I have read. I must note, I had some reservations to begin with – I’ll freely admit to not really being a fan of contemporary settings as I like to escape into worlds that have very little connection to our present. Yet I found Tchaikovsky’s prose to have a captivating quality to it, one that slowly drew me in and allowed me to vividly visualise the scene and the characters. There was also an underlying atmosphere of creepiness, a sort of haunted feeling, which held my curiosity.
The Doors of Eden begins with two best friends and secret lovers – Lee and Mal, deciding to take an expedition to Bodmin Moor. You see, Lee and Mal had an unusual passion, they were both Cryptid fanatics, who loved going in search of legendary fantastical monsters. You know the sort, BigFoot, Loch Ness, Abominable Snowmen, that kind of thing. So naturally, when they discover a YouTube video of a farm where a mysterious creature appears, their need to investigate could not be held back. Without giving away too much, I’ll say that their investigation goes direly wrong when one of the young girls disappears without a trace. What follows is the passing of four years, at which point the girl unexpectedly returns. But where has she been? And why is she eerily unlike herself?
As we meet more characters along the way we see that Tchaikovsky creates a tapestry of interwoven plots, and that the scope is far grander than it once appeared to be. Our world is in peril, but it’s not just our world, it is every world; every earth that exists, spanning many timelines, is on the brink of destruction, and it lies upon humans, aliens and monsters to save the day. Tchaikovsky deftly brings in themes of evolution, prejudice, he explores the Many Worlds Theory, and he blends together multiple genres seamlessly. Part sci-fi, part portal fantasy, even part thriller, Tchaikovsky brings these elements all together to deliver an epic, thought-provoking novel indeed, and it is one which entirely awed me.
Although at first glance all these notions may feel overwhelming, or overly complex – I personally never found myself lost. My knowledge of physics and maths is lacking to say the least, and, yes, there are a lot of those ideas and technical terminology flying around here, but Tchaikovsky handles it all with skill. For example, Dr Khan is a renowned physicist, and she is a fundamental character in the cause for saving the multiverse, so naturally she would explain her theories in a very technical way. Yet there were characters like our two young girls, Lee and Mal, who would either have Khan explain things in terms they understood, or they would explain in their own, more accessible words, relaying essentially what Khan was meaning. My point is, I felt compelled to read on, as it is a fascinating journey, and everything does eventually become clear. There is also much humour peppered throughout, which made even the more complex scenes highly entertaining.
‘Eclipsing the sky like a sign of the end times was a… goddamn gigantic woodlouse thing. Lucas stared and found that it didn’t matter. Things were already so sincerely fucked up that adding extra impossible monsters couldn’t ruin his day any more than it already was.
I mean, why the hell not?’
Yet despite this immense narrative arc, Tchaikovsky doesn’t compromise on his characterisation. Throughout the book, I gained the impression that he is adept at writing characters in a realistic and emotive manner. They each are diverse, have flaws and vulnerabilities, and we grow to understand their motivations – even the villains. I feel that with multiple POVs we were given enough space to really get under the skin of each character, to feel for them, and learn what makes them tick. However, it is the monsters who stole my heart. And I use the term ‘monster’ very lightly here because a lot of these alien creatures were less monstrous and less deadly than some of the humans were!
Hold onto your butts, I’m about to get a little gushy here!
I cannot express enough how amazing, creepy and crazy the world-building was in this novel! I was told that Tchaikovsky has a love for bugs, and yes, a giant woodlouse, and cockroaches, and centipedes do appear, and also yes, they most definitely are gross, but my god, he makes them so cool! Then as we discover other Earths, the reader is treated to an array of birdmen, dinosaurs, colonies of super enhanced rats, aliens, monsters, even killer cats and highly developed lemurs. Sure, at times things got pretty bizarre, but frankly, I loved it because of its weirdness. For a reader who adores monsters and outlandish creatures, this was simply phenomenal.
‘These creatures could meet a thing as alien as a human on their home turf and be curious, not murderous.’
When I began reaching the end of The Doors of Eden, I realised that this ending could possibly be a complete hit or a miss for me, as I’m not usually fond of open endings. You can imagine my relief then, when I actually felt satisfied by the turn of events, even though I was left with many questions. I do believe that the ending was actually quite fitting, I admired its boldness, and it left a myriad of ideas which Tchaikovsky could possibly return to in the future, and so I was content. In fact, you could call me mindblown, because well… I was and still am!
ARC provided by UK Tor in exchange for an honest review. All quotes used are taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication. The Doors of Eden will be released on 20th August 2020 – you can pre-order your copy here: