Review: The Doors of Eden
I've found this review quite difficult to write, not because the book is not excellent or had interesting themes, it is and it does, but because I am, by inclination, a functional writer rather than a descriptive one. This means I want to use the least possible words to convey the needed information. If the function of a book review is to give potential readers enough information to decide if they wish to read it, then I feel that simply pointing out that this book has giant trilobites in space should be enough for everyone to know they need to read this book. Sadly, I have been told that this, in fact, is not the
case and that I would be remiss in my duties as a book reviewer should I only do this. It turns out it may even be a result of a mostly forgotten and largely unused geology degree that I consider it would be.
So, this latest novel, The Doors of Eden, from Adrian Tchaikovsky is, as far as I know, a standalone science fiction novel set in a contemporary time, mostly.
The storyline has many strands that are woven together under Tchaikovsky's expert care. The story of Lee and Mal, best friends investigating rumours of impossible creatures and unexplained theories. Lee is mostly there for the adventure rather than the mystery, by her world is rocked, when Mal doesn't come home. Julian Sabreur is a hardworking member of the British Security Services. Alison Mitchell is an analyst who, in Julian’s opinion, relies too much on instinct rather than provable connections, but whose conclusions are correct far more often than they are wrong. Dr Kay Amal Khan is a mathematical genius, uniquely useful to the government, but her lifestyle attracts attention from the right-wing activists, giving Julian reason to employ Alison’s services to look into the connections. The threads of the story continue to weave, interspersed with excerpts from a lecture by Professor Ruth Emerson on Speculative Evolution and Intelligence.
I am, perhaps, in a position to comment on the scientific background of this piece, which is the evolution of species and intelligence through time and factors affecting natural selection. There are a number of theories, but given that my university dissertation was based on the theories from a couple scientists and one of those scientists is mentioned by Tchaikovsky as an inspiration for this book, it is perhaps not surprising that the logic of the premise makes a lot of sense to me. However, you don't need a long-neglected university education to follow the concepts as they are set out clearly and explained as the story unwinds.
One of the themes of the story is the contrasting political agendas from those who seek advancement only for themselves and those close to them and those who see the bigger picture. The futility of protecting one's own position while the fate of the world you are relying on is in question is perhaps not the subtlest message, but it is well presented within the plot.
One of the characters, Dr Khan, is a trans women. This is presented in a relatively matter of fact way, Julian narrates that this is the case and notes that his colleagues have not all reacted well, he also notes that Kay seems happier after her change. We very much need diverse characters in stories which are not about their diverse characteristic. This is not a story about Kay being trans, this is a story in which one of the characters happens to be trans. It does affect the plot, but only because of how other people respond to that, our society in real life and therefore mirrored in fiction are not always accepting, but it is society which are the obstacle to be overcome, not the fact that the character is a trans woman.
It is difficult to say how this story all comes together without giving too much away, but I can say that it is an action packed plot, starting as a conspiracy theory, then a bit of a police procedural but ending up as race to save the world and a number of other worlds at the same time, despite shadowy forces who seek to exploit the situation for their own gain. It is a fresh perspective from an author who has written a huge variety of novels and not to be missed by those who already love his work or even those who have yet to try.
In conclusion, you should read this book, it has giant trilobites in space.