An intriguing, twisty portal fantasy
They thought we were safe. They were wrong.
Four years ago, two girls went looking for monsters on Bodmin Moor. Only one came back.
Lee thought she’d lost Mal, but now she’s miraculously returned. But what happened that day on the moors? And where has she been all this time? Mal’s reappearance hasn’t gone unnoticed by MI5 officers either, and Lee isn’t the only one with questions.
Julian Sabreur is investigating an attack on top physicist Kay Amal Khan. This leads Julian to clash with agents of an unknown power – and they may or may not be human. His only clue is grainy footage, showing a woman who supposedly died on Bodmin Moor.
Dr Khan’s research was theoretical; then she found cracks between our world and parallel Earths. Now these cracks are widening, revealing extraordinary creatures. And as the doors crash open, anything could come through.
In his latest novel, Adrian Tchaikovsky takes his imagination into a new area of SFF: portal fantasy. It quickly becomes clear that this is more evidence that the author really can turn his hand to anything. An intriguing mix of mystery, fantasy and science fiction. I enjoyed this.
I started reading The Doors of Eden when I was in quite a book funk. Typically, this can prevent me from enjoying anything I try to read. Luckily, this novel is packed with interesting and cool ideas, an engaging and diverse cast of characters, and some fantastically imaginative elements. As a result, and coupled with Tchaikovsky’s excellent, clear prose, this was a good read. That being said, I think the pacing wasn’t as even as some of his other novels, which did trip up the momentum on occasion.
I don’t really want to go into the plot too much, as there are plenty of surprises and developments that change things up quite frequently. What I would say is that it’s excellent: I loved exploring not only the lives of the characters in the real world, but also as the weird and otherworldly starts intruding on their lives — some of them are maybe semi-prepared, most are… not — seeing them adjust and adapt. (You know, I think this is the first book by Tchaikovsky that I’ve read set even a little bit in the now.) The author’s prose and descriptions are kept in control, and things never get out of hand, overly descriptive, or info-dumpy. The transitions between worlds, in particular, was very well done — disorienting, yet also subtle at times. The author does a great job of writing his characters’ confusion, bafflement, horror, and wonder at this reality.
If you’ve only read Tchaikovsky’s sci-fi — for example, his superb and award-winning Children of Time — and aren’t sure about something more in the fantasy genre, then I’d recommend giving this a try. It has a nice balanced feel of fantasy and sci-fi. I also liked the elements from British crime and mystery fiction dropped in (sure, some of this is just because characters are cops, but still, I liked it). There are also some good moments of social commentary, expertly woven into the story. If you enjoyed the evolutionary science portions of Children of Time and Children of Ruin, then I think you’ll also find a lot to like in the interlude “excerpts”.
The Doors of Eden isn’t my favourite of Tchaikovsky’s novels (although, I’m not sure how I’d pick a favourite — perhaps Guns of the Dawn and/or Children of Time), but it’s still a very good novel. If you’re a fan of portal fantasy, or sci-fi novels with a contemporary setting, then I’d definitely recommend it.
Also on CR: Interview with Adrian Tchaikovsky (2012); Guest Posts on “Nine Books, Six Years, One Stenwold Maker”, “The Art of Gunsmithing: Writing Guns of the Dawn”, “Looking for God in Melnibone Places: Fantasy and Religion”, and “Eye of the Spider”; Excerpt from Guns of the Dawn; Reviews of Empire of Black and Gold, Guns of the Dawn, Spiderlight, Ironclads, and Children of Ruin