This book was provided for free by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to NetGalley and Pan Macmillan for the opportunity to review this book.
Please note that the villain of the piece is a horrible bigot who throws around homophobic and transphobic slurs as well as deadnaming a transgender character at one point and forcing them to wear the clothes of their former gender. The Doors of Eden is an LGBTQ+ positive novel and this character is the one exception. I just don’t want anyone to be caught unaware.
There are some authors that draw me in by their name only and Adrian Tchaikovsky is one of them. As soon as I saw one of his books listed on NetGalley I hit apply. I’ve only read one other book by Tchaikovsky (Empire in Black and Gold, the first book of his Shadows of the Apt fantasy series), however, I had the pleasure of interviewing him at Sci-Fi Weekender 10 a few years ago. It was a wonderful interview in which I got a chance to see the mind of a creative writer at work and from that point, I knew that any new releases I was going to check out because I knew they would be incredible.
So yes, I did go into this book with a high level of anticipation. As the synopsis states, Tchaikovsky is an Arthur C. Clarke Award-winning author, after all, and there is a certain level of writing you expect from that even if you aren’t familiar with the author. Familiarity aside I’d have picked The Doors of Eden up based on the synopsis anyway. It’s filled to the brim with a mystery which is something I love and poses so many questions that I would just keep coming back to it wondering about the answers. Missing people, MI5, powers, parallel earths and… theoretical physics?! It’s a delicious mix of questions, plots and intriguing characters and that’s just the synopsis!
The Doors of Eden is an imaginative science fiction novel that asks the ultimate question of “what if?”. If one tiny thing went differently at the very start of existence what would that mean? It’s a question I hadn’t really considered until I read The Doors of Eden and afterwards I was a little overwhelmed by the colossal ramifications suggested by Tchaikovsky. It’s all fictional, yet it’s also completely theoretically possible and that is the part that gets to you.
I’m no stranger to the idea of alternate timelines. To the idea that for every decision we make there’s an alternative timeline where we made the opposite one. In The Doors of Eden Tchaikovsky has not gone beyond that concept; it’s gone before it. The events that split the timeline happen before sentient species even occur and they significantly shape the species of each of the parallel earths. Some of them are species you may have considered as possibilities before, and some of them you won’t have come up with in a million years. That’s the beauty of a creative genius at work and this is Tchaikovsky at his best with no holds barred.
Alongside the parallel earths is something just as remarkable; everyday people. Yes, I’m saying that ordinary people are interesting and the reason for that is because Tchaikovsky’s human characters are as skillfully written as the rest of the novel. They’re also wonderfully diverse with the cast featuring a lesbian couple, a transgender character, and a character with severe anxiety. Through these everyday characters, Tchaikovsky reminds us that the British secret service can be anyone; they’re not all James Bond super agents. In fact, it’s mostly filled with analysts and investigators.
As they are drawn into a mystery surrounding top physicist Kay Amal Khan the agents find their investigation going beyond the scope of anything they could ever have imagined. Unlike the other characters, these are the two outsiders, and it’s through their experiences, their feelings that the reader is able to truly feel the fascination, wonder and at times horror of what is happening. There is no review that can prepare you for that aspect of this book; you will come out with more questions than answers. With more thoughts regarding the world we live in and the possibilities of science than you ever thought possible.
As The Doors of Eden is a science-heavy book, specifically physics, there is a lot of mathematics and jargon in the book. I have dyscalculia so I fully understand if that sentence has just made anyone reading this think ‘uh, no this one isn’t for me’. I don’t just dislike numbers; they terrify me. They’re completely alien and unyielding. With that in mind, I still stand by my 5 star rating of The Doors of Eden because while it is a book about calculations, it’s not only about calculations. They are a fundamental part of the plot, and if you finish the book you’ll understand exactly what I mean, but this is still very much a book about life and people.
Despite my initial excitement and interest in this book, it took me a long time to finish it. There are several reasons for that and I wanted to talk about this because it’s something that can easily dissuade people from finishing the book. The Doors of Eden has multiple moving parts which for quite a while seems really fragmented. While there are the separate narratives of the different players (Lee and Mal, Julian Sabreur, Kay Amal Khan and others you meet along the way) there are scientific interludes in-between them. These are excerpts from a Professor from the University of California and some of them can be quite dense, full of scientific jargon and if you’re not interested in that kind of thing, really dull. I found the early ones difficult to read and scanned through them quickly (a skill I picked up at University), and as the book progressed I found the later ones really fascinating.
They seem utterly random, a fun little add-in by the author until you get to the final stages of the book. That is the ultimate beauty and skill of Tchaikovsky’s writing. All those random stories, facts and bits of information come together and suddenly it all makes sense. So my advice to anyone reading The Doors of Eden, if you’re struggling with it; keep going! It’s one of those books that has a very slow buildup.
The Doors of Eden is simply mindblowing. It has everything you want from a science fiction thriller, and then even more. It’s a mystery, it’s a story about people and their search for answers, and it’s about saving everything before it’s too late. If you’re looking for a book that will keep stick with you after you’ve finished it, and open a whole new world to you, then The Doors of Eden is for you.
Interested in more books by Adrian Tchaikovsky? Check out a selection of titles in my store.
Over to you
Thanks for reading my review of The Doors of Eden by Adrian Tchaikovsky, I hope you enjoyed it and if you have any questions then let me know in the comments!
If you’re interested in learning more about Adrian Tchaikovsky and his writing process then don’t forget to check out my interview with him where he talks about roleplaying, writing ideas and more!
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