The Doors of Eden, by Adrian Tchaikovsky, published by Pan Macmillan, is a fascinating and extraordinary work exploring the quirks of evolution and the possibility of multiple parallel earths. In an amazing feat of literary physics Tchaikovsky has written an almost 600 page work so engrossing that it seems to take little or no time to read.
The fabric between multiple earths is weakening allowing multiple portals to open between various timelines. Four years before the events in the story take place two young women, Lee and Mal, cryptid, or monster, hunters, went out searching for a mysterious ‘bird-man’ who had been caught on a farmer’s CCT cameras. Unfortunately not only did they find them, Mal disappeared.
Lee was devastated, not knowing what had happened to her friend. She thought her lost forever, until four years later she receives a phone call from her friend asking for a meeting. While this is happening a top British scientist, Dr. Kay Khan, has recently begun to theorize there are not only multiple realities, but the fabric between them is wearing down resulting in holes allowing ‘others’ to slip through.
Her work is considered sensitive enough she is constantly being monitored by the United Kingdom’s (UK) security forces under the careful watch of Julian Sabreur, a stolid and very middle of the road intelligence officer. Unfortunately the government aren’t the only people monitoring Dr. Khan, and when a white supremest attack on her apartment goes seriously wrong – the attackers are all beaten to death – we start to find out about the non-governmental forces who want to make use of Dr. Khan.
When Sabreur discovers the missing Mal and a very large, almost inhumanly large, companion on Dr. Khan’s personal security cameras he starts his own personal journey down a very narrow and twisted rabbit hole. Seeing a woman who has been missing, presumed dead, show up at the scene of a violent incident involving one of the UK’s top scientists, leads Sabreur to Lee to find out what she knows.
While Tchaikovsky is spinning this mystery for us, he’s also supplying us with vital information in the form of interludes called excerpts from the book Other Edens: Speculative Evolution and Intelligence by Professor. Ruth Emerson. In these excerpts Tchaikovsky lays out evolution scenarios on various parallel worlds which allowed for different dominant species to develop. On one world are the bird people, another neanderthal, another large rodents and so on.
While it might be exciting to think of new people and different worlds, the problem Tchaikovsky gives his characters is that the fraying of the fabric is also leading the the end of the universe. If the joint minds of science from all the dimensions can’t figure out a way to control the holes it won’t matter what you evolved into, all life will be dead.
Tchaikovsky has done an amazing job combining scientific theory, evolution and maths, with fiction to create a spellbinding and incredible story. The characters, from Mal and Lee to the various people from other dimensions, are all believable. There’s a great villain, the head of a shady private security firm – read mercenary – who is looking to control the situation and preserve a world without any of these freaks and monsters and make England for the English again.
For with The Doors of Eden Tchaikovsky has created something which is not only a great story, but manages to make it relevant to what’s happening in our world today. He not only shows us the ugliness of nationalism and bigotry, but gives us the message we have to change the way we are if we’re going to survive.
For the only way to save the universe is for all the beings in it to get along. Co-existence not isolation will have to be the path forward. Something it would do all of us well to remember.
The Doors of Eden by Adrian Tchaikovsky is not just a great piece of science fiction, its a great piece of writing with a valuable lesson for all of us.