Hodder & Stoughton | 2019 (23 April) | 294p | Review copy | Buy the book
The demise of the Sun was believed to be billions of years safely in the future but now, just a few years from the present day, the Earth is far darker than it should be. The forces that power the Sun are failing, resulting in the so-called Helios Event and the imminent extinction of life on Earth, including humanity. In just a few weeks radiation and severe cold and ceaseless night will end life. This tragedy is felt keenly by Emily. Emily is an Artificial Consciousness. She feels intensely and is able to move through transmitters into the consciousness of others, reliving their memories, taking their experiences as her own. She also has the mind of a computer and she is determined to do all in her extraordinary power to save the species she loves.
But these last days are dangerous as people try to deal with their imminent destruction in ways that they can handle – or not. A disaster puts Emily’s existence in jeopardy and she must run for her life alongside two human beings who have more to teach Emily about humanity and what it would mean were it to be completely lost.
I’m a big fan of speculative fiction, apocalyptic novels and techno thrillers and Emily Eternal has an irresistible premise. It largely succeeds because the whole novel is filled with the spirit of Emily, who is such a wonderful, memorable creation. The story is told in Emily’s own words and she tells two stories – of the approaching apocalypse, which is darkly fascinating, and of her own personal tragedy – that she is becoming fulfilled at a time when it’s too late. But her voice is never gloomy, even if it can be sad, because she is on a journey to learn all she can about the human race and be as close to them as possible.
I loved the descriptions of Emily’s exactly patterned daily routines. She lives as a virtual human and she has learned human emotions. As a result, Emily Eternal is perhaps even more of a romance than it is speculative or science fiction. Emily falls in love and these feelings are almost consuming. The depiction of her relationship with Jason is beautifully drawn, even if it did feel a little unlikely.
The novel is thrilling and very exciting. It’s also poignant and reflective as the world faces its end – the sadness of parents with newly born children, for instance, is just one situation brushed upon. There is a good mix of future technology, science and human emotion. But, fundamentally, Emily Eternal is a novel about what it means to be a human by someone who wants so desperately to be one. As a result of this, there is a sense of hope because humans, for all their many faults, are shown to be worth the saving.
I have my issues with the ending of the novel, which becomes rather muddied. All sorts of science fiction ideas are thrown into the mix, rather too rapidly to make as much sense as they could. It all goes a bit mad! But, nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed Emily Eternal. I loved Emily and she’s a joy to have in a novel that could have felt bleak and gloomy but instead she makes it sad yet hopeful. It’s as a science fiction apocalyptic romance that Emily Eternal succeeds the most. Emily will be very difficult to forget.