The Doors of Eden by Adrian Tchaikovsky

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The Doors of Eden by Adrian Tchaikovsky

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Category: Science Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Stephen Leach
Reviewed by Stephen Leach
Summary: A sharply-drawn science-fiction mystery taking place in our own world and across parallel Earths.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 608 Date: August 2020
Publisher: Tor
ISBN: 978-1509865888

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Wow – this novel is gigantic, in every sense of the word. "Epic" is a word that's thrown around a lot these days, but if a book ever earned the name it's this one. It's a doorstopper full of big ideas, and at times it almost felt too big for my brain.

Told from six different points of view, it opens with two explorers stumbling across a mysterious phenomena and gradually brings in another plot – two MI5 agents on the trail of a missing mathematician – which gradually and cleverly starts to interweave with the first. The mystery and the tension builds beautifully, and Tchaikovksy's writing style is beautiful to match – there are some fantastic descriptions, and exceptionally vivid imagery of the countless parallel earths in which evolution has taken very different turns.

Tchaikovsky's imagination is wonderful and dazzling in its spectacle, but also colossal; the story feels almost too big to accurately summarise. We come into contact with hyper-intelligent evolved rats and gigantic insects bigger than buildings. To describe these things so broadly feels like a disservice to the incredible, complex, and extremely clever images built up throughout the book. One clever aspect of the novel I particularly liked were the frequent interludes in the form of essays or articles detailing how life has evolved differently on other worlds. Since their relevance to the narrative isn't immediately relevant the temptation to skip over them was occasionally quite strong but the context and understanding they bring to later chapters is invaluable.

This is hard sci-fi, and has a very distinct style. It's understandably not going to be for everyone. But I thoroughly enjoyed Doors of Eden. I'm kicking myself for never having heard of Adrian Tchaikovsky before, but I'm sure I'll be reading him again soon.

The last science-fiction novel I read before this one was Beyond the Void by S.K. Vaughn. It has a very different outlook and tone to Doors of Eden but is every bit as grand in scale. Highly recommended if you like adventure novels with strong protagonists. Also, I recommend you read Existence by David Brin, for a similarly large scale portrayal of a science fiction world. You might also appreciate Zero Bomb by M T Hill and Planetfall by Emma Newman. We found the story in Plastic Jesus by Wayne Simmons a little patchy.

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