The Doors of Eden by Adrian Tchaikovsky – Book Review
Blurb: They thought we were safe. They were wrong.
Four years ago, two girls went looking for monsters on Bodmin Moor. Only one came back.
Lee thought she’d lost Mal, but now she’s miraculously returned. But what happened that day on the moors? And where has she been all this time? Mal’s reappearance hasn’t gone unnoticed by MI5 officers either, and Lee isn’t the only one with questions.
Julian Sabreur is investigating an attack on top physicist Kay Amal Khan. This leads Julian to clash with agents of an unknown power – and they may or may not be human. His only clue is grainy footage, showing a woman who supposedly died on Bodmin Moor.
Dr Khan’s research was theoretical; then she found cracks between our world and parallel Earths. Now these cracks are widening, revealing extraordinary creatures. And as the doors crash open, anything could come through.
Published by: Tor
Genre: Science fiction
Review Copy: Sent to me by Tor.uk in exchange of an honest review.
Adrian Tchaikovsky’s latest is a triumph. A perfect jumping-on point for his body of work, The Doors of Eden convinced me I need to explore the author’s previous novels in due haste. Tchaikovsky exhibits formidable skill in every chapter of this 600-page masterpiece, and boundless imagination in every interlude punctuating the text.
The Doors of Eden takes a “big picture” view towards evolution, every interlude serving to develop a singularly gripping idea – what if, in Earths much like our own, the evolutionary lottery had fallen on a different sequence entirely? How about several sequences? Tchaikovsky not only asks, “What if intelligence evolved over the different geological periods of the history of Earth?” but he offers answers as well, with poise and mastery. Each ‘What if?’ scenario is more gripping than the next, every one a piece of the ambitious puzzle he has set out for you, Reader. On the first page before the Prelude, you will find a timeline of our planet’s geological timeline; keep an eye on it. Return to it after every interlude and watch as it all clicks to place.
I have, perhaps, began backward; not with the gist of the story, but with the gaps between its building blocks. But it is all connected, dear Reader, and in what a way! The main story — and if you’ve read the blurb, you’ll have picked up on this — has a lot of moving parts. Much of its first third (or even half) reads as an exceptional thriller would. Some mystery is at work, thinning the barriers between our world and others. It’s a mystery pocked at from several different perspectives. We are first introduced to Lee, who is contacted by her girlfriend Mal, missing now for four years. The second perspective is that of Julian Sabreur and his close colleague, analyst Alison, as they attempt to make sense of unseen forces trying to snatch. The third, follows Lucas, the career henchman to a ruthless billionaire who has his fingers in more than just one pie. He is written so well; though his actions are reprehensible and abhorrent, viewing events from his PoV is persuasive enough you can’t help but have a soft spot for a man who only cares about his own skin. And the forth? It’s scientist Kay Amala Khan herself, the absolute biggest smartass in history. Every time she opens her mouth, it’s like bloody fireworks go off!
Tons of supporting characters make for memorable clashes and encounters with each of our PoV characters – the absolute stand-outs are Sabreur’s boss, Leslie Hind, who is a cold-blooded badass, and Dr. Rat, a mad genius of the most entertaining variety.
I was well-impressed from the very start; the prose is lively, its tone thoroughly modern, its message one of inclusion and acceptance. No one to illustrate this better than Kay Amal Khan, the star physicist of a theoretical branch of physics so alien and new to the science that no more than three scientists in all the world can wrap their heads around it. Kay is trans, and her representation is on point throughout – her portrayal has inspired me, in fact, to write an essay on identity in the book, on the attempt of certain characters to muzzle who Kay is through force, and her retaking it. This is the kind of book The Doors of Eden is, a novel that inspires you to deconstruct and analyse in search of deeper understanding.
Few of the intelligences Tchaikovsky illustrates in the intervals between the chapters are like our own; some of them are as alien and unknowable as the very finest exemplars of science fiction (the AlienPrimes in Peter F. Hamilton’s Commonwealth Saga come to mind, though there is no place for comparison in terms of behaviour, only in strangeness, otherness).
Tchaikovsky strikes the right note in terms of humour, too, which goes a long way to help deal with (at times) tense and heavy subject matter. This novel contains within it the funniest example of a man really needing his phone. Beyond that, I admire that Tchaikovsky makes his political allegiance present and clear. It is the writer’s prerogative to illustrate his view of the world; authors of sci-fi, always with their eye to the future, are well-suited to the task.
I closed the covers of The Doors of Eden with the hugest smile plastered over my face. It’s a big book, and dense with ideas, and without doubt a modern classic of the science fiction genre. Peter F. Hamilton has the right of it: “Tchaikovsky has created a fantastic and highly imaginative new genre: evolution SF.” More impressive yet, he has found a way to fuse with the cold, rational idea of evolution something of the soul. And that, dear Reader, demands attention.