Adrian Tchaikovsky’s “The Doors of Eden” is a compulsive and extraordinarily entertaining labyrinth of parallel Earths and alternate dimensions threaded together with endearingly human (and non-human) characters. Punctuated with frenetic action scenes and interspersed with fascinating evolutionary histories of the multiverse’s “other” Earths, this is blockbuster science-fiction writing, as smart as it is exhilarating.
The premise is magnificently uncomplicated: interdimensional cracks are forming in the multiverse. Earths are overlapping; “a pick-and-mix of realities slopping together,” which is causing chaos, and signifies the end of all things. Nothing is safe. Everything is unravelling. Unless a conglomeration of the multiverse’s greatest minds can find a solution.
The cast is suitably diverse: you’ve got Lee Pryor and her girlfriend Elsinore “Mal” Mallory; transgender genius theoretical mathematician Kay Amal Khan; MI5 agent Julian Sabreur (more office administrator than 007); ex-army, now private security goon Lucas May, and his villainous boss; and a whole host of others, who snake in and out of story, which shifts seamlessly between their perspectives, building towards an epically intricate finale. Leaving room for a sequel, perhaps? I’d be down for more.
The science of “The Doors of Eden” stayed just the right side of palatable. Hard science fiction scares me a lot of the time. But despite its complexity and immensity, Tchaikovsky never tries to outsmart the reader. He’s got big ideas, but he understands his role as a storyteller. This is a breathless sci-fi masterclass.
Format: Trade Paperback
Pub Date: 25/08/2020
Imprint: Tor UK
This long-awaited second book in John Scalzi’s ‘Lock In’ series is a murder mystery set in a robot fighting league. And yes, it’s worth the wait.
Years back, John Scalzi released the novella Unlocked: An Oral History of Haden’s Syndrome, which detailed– in the oral history format contemporaneously brought into fashion by World War Z — the onset of a flu-like virus that swept the globe, eventually known as Haden’s Syndrome, which is a devastating meningitis-like disease that leaves its victims “locked inside” their body, able to interact with others only virtually or via sophisticated robots known as “threeps.” Then in 2014 came the first book in the series, Lock In, which introduced Rookie FBI agent and Haden survivor Chris Vance (whose gender is never specified in the text, thus ingeniously leading the publisher to release two versions of the audiobook), and their new partner, Leslie Van. Now Vance and Van are back in Head On, which works perfectly as a standalone sci-fi detective-thriller, but adds much to the world Scalzi began building almost half a decade ago.
When promising Hilketa player Duane Chapman inexplicably dies during a game intended to recruit new investors for the sport, and a high-level league official commits suicide soon afterwards, Vance and Van are brought into the investigation. Hilketa is a violent sport — and that’s putting it mildly, by the way — played by Haden-piloted threeps. The objective of the game is to rip the head off a designated threep and carry it to the goal. Yeah; it’s brutal.
Scazli is less concerned with the mystery — it’s fairly obvious at the midway point who the killer is — but untangling the means and motivations of the killer. The author doesn’t shy away from commentating on prejudice against minorities, disability rights, and the way in which government funding can be taken advantage of, but it never dulls the hilarious banter, or grinds the bullet-fast plot. It’s delicate balance, and Scazli nails it.
Head On is an engaging mix of real-world politics and near-future policing. Filled with detail and imagination, paced with action and witty dialogue, Scalzi takes his readers on a white-knuckle ride but never leaves them for dead. This is science fiction at its absolute best.
Format: Paperback (197mm x 130mm x mm)
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Publish Date: 19-Apr-2018
Country of Publication: United Kingdom