ARC provided by the publisher—Tor UK—in exchange for an honest review.
The Doors of Eden by Adrian Tchaikovsky
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Pages: 608 pages
Published: 4th August 2020 by Tor (UK) & Orbit (US)
Children of Time has won the Arthur C. Clarke Award in 2016, and Children of Ruin won the “best novel of the year” in The British Science Fiction Association Award a few days ago. Tchaikovsky’s newest work, The Doors of Eden, will definitely continue to win him more prestigious SFF awards in the future.
Tchaikovsky has written a LOT of books, and I’ve read only Children of Time and Children of Ruin prior to reading this book. This upcoming statement may not mean too much, but The Doors of Eden triumphed over both Children of Time and Children of Ruin; this novel is, to me, undoubtedly the best book by Tchaikovsky that I’ve read so far.
“We’re here and they trust us.” Mal chuckled. “It’s a million-to-one long shot, and these two desperate lesbians can save the world. Perfect action movie material.”
Four years ago, Lee and Mal—lovers, and young cryptid hunters—went looking for the Birdmen on Bodmin Moor. Only Lee came back from this hunt; Mal vanished. But four years later, in the present timeline, Lee suddenly receives a phone call from someone that sounded exactly like Mal. What exactly happened that day on the moors that caused Mal’s disappearance? Where has she been for the past four years? These are a very small set of questions that teases the large-scale adventures contained within this standalone. When I first started The Doors of Eden, I didn’t expect that the story would end up reaching the grand scale of events it conceived. What started as a simple disappearance story, eventually leads to parallel worlds, timelines, and worlds-changing conflicts. I guess this shouldn’t have come as a surprise; this is Tchaikovsky, after all. And Tchaikovsky did give us hints and information about in the prologue and interludes that the story would end up becoming this big. But wow, the story executions were really well done.
Evolution, biology, diversity, time, science, history, are some of the central themes of The Doors of Eden. I’m not a scientist, but I got the sense that the novel was very well-researched, and most importantly, this book isn’t only about science; it also has heart and emotions. Tchaikovsky uses six—and one interlude narrator—POV to tell this story of exploration, spectacle, and danger. Although half of the main characters took longer than I preferred for me to click with, all the main characters—three of them are LGBT characters, for those who want to know—were fleshed out characters; I found Lee and Mal to be the fastest for me to feel invested in, but I grew to care for the other characters as well the more I progressed through the book. In a way, The Doors of Eden is a large-scale standalone adventure about the fascination with time, worlds, science, cooperation, and saving the world. However, if you’ve read Children of Time or Children of Ruin, you’ll notice that both of those books focus on cooperation as its utmost significance of topic; this applies to The Doors of Eden, too, and I loved it.
“When you told people they were the inheritors of the world, none of them imagined sharing.”
The book also felt very well-researched; every “what if” scenario displayed in this book showed that Tchaikovsky took a lot of care to make sure that he gets his world-building right. He kinda has to, the story he’s trying to tell here would be filled with plot holes. The ending—specifically the last 100 pages— was insane and quite frankly superbly written. That’s all I’m gonna say on this; read and find out for yourself. There’s no stopping Tchaikovsky. At the rate and quality of storytelling he produces, he’s guaranteed to win awards annually. The Doors of Eden is an imaginative, wonderful, and cracking adventure filled with hope and excitement. Need to hear more? I’ll close this review with what Tchaikovsky himself has to say about this book:
“From a young age I’ve been fascinated by the idea of deep time, the millions of years of life that passed before ever a human eye opened to examine the world. I’ve been fascinated, too, by all the many ‘What if?’ scenarios inherent in that span of time. I’ve been inspired by books like Stephen J. Gould’s Wonderful Life and Dougal Dixon’s After Man, looking at the process of evolution and asking ‘Did it have to go this way?’
The Doors of Eden takes the evolutionary world-building I used for Children of Time and Children of Ruin and applies it to all the ‘What ifs’ of the past. It’s a book that feeds on a lot of my personal obsessions (not just spiders*). The universe-building is perhaps the broadest in scope of anything I’ve ever written. At the same time, The Doors of Eden is a book set in the here and now, and even though there’s more than one ‘here and now’ in the book, I spent most of a summer trekking around researching locations like a film producer to try and get things as right as possible. Sometimes, when you plan a journey into the very strange, it works best if you start somewhere familiar.
Writing the book turned into a very personal journey, for me. It’s the culmination of a lot of ideas that have been brewing away at the back of my mind, and a lot of obsessions that have had hold of me for decades. I have quite the trip in store for readers, I hope.”
—Adrian Tchaikovsky on The Doors of Eden
Lastly, do remember that this is Tchaikovsky’s book, you might as well prepare yourself to meet terrifying creatures. And spiders.
Official release date: 4th August 2020
The quotes in this review were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.
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