Tor | 2020 (20 August) | 608p | Review copy | Buy the book
Some time ago girlfriends Mal and Lee headed to Bodmin Moor in search of the Birdman. They are cryptid hunters, searching for the creatures, the monsters, of myth and legend. They discover far more than they bargained for and only Mal returned. Four years later, Mal sees Lee in London. Lee is on the run, something terrible is happening. Mal pursues her determined to discover the truth but she isn’t alone. There are others on her trail. Meanwhile, physicist Kay Amal Khan is attacked in her lab and M15 agent Julian Sabreur is put in charge of the investigation. He finds himself up against agents that he can’t identify. There’s something not quite right about them. And then he discovers grainy footage of a young woman who is believed to have died on Bodmin Moor.
I am a huge fan of Adrian Tchaikovsky’s science fiction – Children of Time is one of my very favourite novels (please read it if you haven’t already!) – and so I read The Doors of Eden as soon as I could. It has a stunning cover and it’s every bit as good on the inside. It’s a substantial epic read, which is just how I like my science fiction, which perfectly suits its plot and ideas, which are magnificently ambitious and mind bending.
There is so much going on in The Doors of Eden, there are several storylines and characters to follow, as various people try and work out what is going on, find out what is broken with the world. We move between them but we also fall within the fractures of the world, where we come across incredible sights – intelligent and really rather revolting rat creatures (I imagined them as meerkats), enormous insects, bird men, Neanderthals and more. The fear that characters feel on encountering these extraordinary beings is palpable. These alternate worlds are ridiculous in some ways and absolutely chilling in others. We are regularly given extracts from Other Edens: Speculative Evolution and Intelligence by Professor Ruth Emerson (University of California), which makes it all seem plausible, backed up by the work of Dr Kay Amal Khan. It’s a fantastic weaving of fantasy, myth, science, evolution and… something else.
The novel is extremely entertaining and thrilling but it is also driven by the most wonderful characters whose feelings for one another are tenderly treated. The love affair between Mal and Lee is so beautifully portrayed. Soon they are nothing like the daft girls we meet at the beginning as they are changed forever by what they find in the mist. Kay Amal Khan is transgender and that adds another layer as this is used against her by the evil forces at work. These are people that we grow to care about.
As you’d expect from Adrian Tchaikovsky, The Doors of Eden is a beautifully written novel. Its descriptions of places and creatures are hugely atmospheric, frightening and, when needed, humorous. This is a book to immerse oneself in fully. The language is gorgeous, the characters are varied and intriguing, the story is immensely appealing and thought-provoking, and there are moments to make you shiver and others to make you laugh. One of the top books of the year for sure.
I’m currently listening to the audiobook of Adrian’s Cage of Souls – it is fabulous.
I can heartily recommend you read David’s excellent review of The Doors of Eden over at Blue Book Balloon.