If there are any core concepts more central to the genre of science fiction than mind-bending ideas, awe-inspiring vistas, and grand adventure, I don’t know what they are. In the relatively short time period since the fantasy genre has split from it, and stories written under its guise have taken us up and out into the cosmos, many authors have endeavored to fill the space with their version of the best kind of fiction. I may be biased, but in my view there is no better fiction than great science fiction. And Alastair Reynolds is writing some of the best science fiction there is.
EVERSION is a stand-alone novel that, at first, doesn’t exactly read like science fiction, as it starts in a very large ship. On the ocean. In the 1900s. There are, however, several constituent parts of that tale which feel like familiar echoes. And as this tale proceeds, stepping out of one echo into another, we approach what is a very fine science fiction tale indeed.
Doctor Silas Coade is an occupant of the sailing vessel Demeter, that is plying the waters off the Norwegian coastline. He, the doctor of the inimitable crew. Under the direction of their captain, they are in search of a cove, hidden from the rest of the world, and known only to a single man who has hired them to take him there. His promises are extravagant, the voyage has been fraught, and Silas Coade could hope for nothing more than that they would abandon the search and return him to his comfortable home.
Then, just when it seems that the valiant efforts of the ship and crew have not been in vain, but have indeed led them to the elusive cove, the ship is dashed upon the jagged face of a cliff, and in the chaos, the mast cracks and falls on Doctor Coade, sending him into what looks like death, but feels like a dream, and instead seems to be a doorway that leads… to another expedition. A zeppelin expedition, where he is the doctor of a crew set to dive into a deep shaft within the icy surface of Antarctica…
The problem? Only Silas seems to be aware that anything has gone awry.
From the creaky wooden ship, to the twangy metal zeppelin, to the silent reaches of the void, this tale is woven through the eyes of our illustrious doctor. I think I went into this one a little too excited to get to the part of the story that actually felt like science fiction, instead of enjoying the journey as much as I could have otherwise done. In fact, I think I’d really enjoy reading this one a second time, whereas that typically isn’t the case for me.
There are some absolutely brilliant aspects of this book, not the least of which was the setting. Descriptions were on-point. The voyage of the ship through the narrow passage. The zeppelin down the icy throat. Each of the numerous scenes that the author portrays were completed really well. Making it easy to be absorbed by what the doctor was experiencing. And while it’s not always clear where the story is going, it is vitally important that you trust the author to know what they’re doing. Because, people… Alastair Reynolds knows what he is doing.
A story of several excursions across space and time, all doomed to failure. The only commonality between them? Doctor Silas Coade.
The book reads much like a mystery book, where something is definitely afoot, and Dr. Coade spends a good deal of time wondering about it, then double-guessing himself, and then actively trying to figure out, what exactly might be going on. It’s a fantastic exercise in the revelation of small details through repetition. The best part? Every repetition is something else different and grand.
Characterization of Silas was great. Secondary characterization is fairly sparse, but sufficient for the tale the author is trying to tell. Several characters of interest play parts across the various scenes, and the positions they play in the grand scheme are familiar enough that it’s easy to follow them through the narrative. It’s difficult to explain much more at the difficulty of not spoiling any more of the mystery. Even the details I’ve already spilled would likely be quite a lot for a book by another author. In this case, the above comprises about the first five chapters, and it’s essentially all also detailed on the back cover. Yeah. He really packs the story in tight.
Come for the adventure. Stay for the characters. This guy always brings his A-game. One of, if not, my favorite science fiction author that is writing today.
- Recommended Age: 14+, for violence and profanity
- Language: Very little, but spans the entire gamut of mild to strong
- Violence: Some gun violence and threat of death
- Sex: None