Book Reviews, Science Fiction

The Doors of Eden by Adrian Tchaikovsky

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?

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.

The Doors of Eden was my first real foray into science fiction, as I generally keep to the fantasy side of things, scared off by all the technical terms that tend to come with sci-fi. I’d read some Tchaikovsky before, and I knew I enjoyed his style of writing, so I decided to give this one a go – I am so glad I did, because this book gripped me and took me for a wild ride. I loved it!

The Characters

I think in this case it’s worth doing a little cast introduction, because there are quite a few point of view characters, and Tchaikovsky really did an excellent job bringing them all to life in complex and interesting ways.

Lisa Pryor – also known as Lee, she is a cryptid hunter along with her best friend and parter Mal, until Mal disappears on one of their adventures.
Elsinore Mallory – also known as Mal, she disappeared on a cryptid hunt with Lee while on Bodmin Moor, only to return years later as a very different person.
Julian Sabreur – an MI5 officer who finds himself investigating an attack on physicist Kay Amal Khan, which leads him to clash with forces that may not be exactly human. He is very close with Alison, who he calls Matchbox.
Alison Matchell – an analyst working for MI5, she is paranoid about the world and likes to surveil as much as she can to keep a sense of control over her life. After one of Julian’s investigation, she digs a little too deep and finds herself in contact with a “computer” of alien origin that leads to some interesting discoveries.
Kay Amal Khan – a physicist who’s work seemed to be entirely theoretical until she discovered cracks between our world and parallel earths, and is targeted by a group of semi-human looking people for her knowledge.
Lucas May – an ex-army man now working for the shady Mr Rove, doing a lot of questionable jobs and witnessing several things that are decidedly not human.

These are all the point of view characters in The Doors of Eden, each bringing a nice variety of perspectives; what I enjoyed most was the fact that you have characters like Alison and Kay that are very technical in their respective fields and use specific language, but then there are people like Lee and Julian that need things explained more simply, and they act as the go between for readers who would also struggle to understand experimental mathematics. Overly-technical narratives are what has kept me wary of sci-fi in the past, but I found this to be a good entry point for me.

The Story

As you may have gathered by now, this is a story of parallel Earths, and the doorways that lead between them. I won’t speak too much about the actual events that unfold, because that would take the fun out of reading it! But the basis of these parallel Earths was something I hadn’t seen before; essentially, each new Earth was created when evolution in one world split off from evolution in ours. So on our Earth things evolved so that humans became the dominating and intelligent species, but what if things hadn’t happened that way? Then you might have hyper-intelligent cats, or rat-like creatures that take over their whole world and discover advanced technology, or warring clans of lemurs. It’s really quite fascinating…

The book also frames these parallel Earths in a really unique way: in between chapters, there are sections titled ‘Excerpt from Other Edens: Speculative Evolution and Intelligence by Professor Ruth Emerson of the University of California,’ and each excerpt explores the possibilities of diversions in evolution. They start as an interesting aside and an extra element of world-building but then become more and more integrated into the main plot, and really add to the character of the book.

Overall, a fast-paced fun book with some really well-rounded characters, a genuinely intriguing scientific basis, and some really good representation, both human and non-human. Let me know what you think of it if you give it a read!

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