The Doors of Eden by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Tor, ebook, £9.99
Reviewed by Sarah Deeming
Lee and Mal are cryptid hunters. They search for the weird and the wonderful, creatures that most people don’t believe are real. Most of their leads are bogus, but one night they stumble across something that has them certain they have found something. Bird-like creatures who move too fluidly to be a hoax.
But during their investigation, Lee and Mal are separated, lost on the moors and Mal goes missing, presumed dead, until four years later when she calls Lee and asks to meet. Where has Mal been all this time and who were the bird-like people they met all those years ago?
The Doors of Eden is a long story that spans many years and has multiple points of view ranging from Lee and Mal to Julian, a secret service agent, Dr Kay Amal Khan theoretical physicist and mercenaries, with many other characters besides. But despite the size and the vast number of characters, it isn’t an unwieldy story. It has a decent pace, relatable characters, and the stakes are high.
The story is told in two parts as well as many points of view. Running throughout are excerpts from another book written by one of the characters about other universes different, but like our own. I won’t tell you who wrote this book within a book, I’ll leave you the joy of working it out for yourself, but it was one of my highlights. Each except looks at an earth like ours in another universe or reality, where a different species to human rises to dominance and changes the shape of their earth. Fascinating as these are, they serve a purpose and they show us where the book is going without making it obvious.
The Doors of Eden does not fit neatly into any one genre. It starts as a fantastical monster hunt, one more in a seeming surge in cryptology stories that are coming through. But then it changes to high science fiction with large, complex ideas of parallel Earths that are unravelled gradually throughout the book. Initially, some of the ideas took me a while to grapple with, but Tchaikovsky leads us from point to point, giving us time to understand a theory before we’re introduced to a new one.
Tchaikovsky utilises all aspects of society to represent a multi-faceted world where each person has a value, and he does it without ramming down your throat that Mal and Lee are lesbians, or that Kay is a transgender woman. These are just parts of their character, not their whole. Nor does he shy away from showing the prejudice that person might face because of that aspect of their character. It would have been easy to write each character as accepting of Kay, but that wouldn’t have been realistic. The harshness of Kay’s reality, the blatant, as well as the subtle, prejudice she faces draws us to her, keeping us turning the page. Her strength in the face of all the adversity she faces makes her one of the most memorable characters I have come across.
This is a thought-provoking story and another masterpiece from Tchaikovsky making him one of my go-to authors. Highly recommended.