Alastair Reynolds is a sci-fi author who is typically at the top of the genre lists when looking at the best of modern sci-fi. I read his first book in the Revelation Space universe and found it enjoyable but was not particularly compelled to keep reading. I’ve been wanting to give his work another shot (that was his first published novel after all) and when I saw Eversion was a shorter standalone novel, I had the perfect opportunity.*
Often, if I choose to read a book, I decline to read the synopsis on the back cover. Usually it’s because I know the general plot due to recommendations or reviews I’ve read. In Eversion’s case, I went in pretty much completely blind – and it lead to one of the more fun reading experiences I’ve had in quite some time.
The cover looks like any of Reynolds other books – some generic space shot with stars or a planet. So consider me surprised as I started the book and the story is set on an 1800s sail boat exploring the coast of Norway.
We’re introduced to our protagonist Dr Silas Coade, a doctor tasked with taking care of the crew as they explore a mysterious edifice. We follow him in first person narrative as he interacts with the rest of the crew including a Mexican security officer, a brilliant young cartographer and a mysterious woman who gives Silas grief at every opportunity.
Each character was well written with strong motivations, and you quickly understand the crew dynamics. The prose is very dynamic and served well to immerse me into the story.
Obviously, I knew this was branded as a science fiction book, so I figured something else was going on here. And that pleasure of slowly unraveling the mystery is what made this book work so well for me. This novel is short in comparison to other SFF I typically read, only 300 pages or so, and if you read the synopsis much of the mystery is revealed from the get-go (thus me not including it on this review).
If any of this remotely sounds interesting, go buy it upon release and read it blind. Not only are the reveals awesome, the book is just good despite that. So stop reading the review here and go enjoy the mystery. I think you’ll really like it.
Ok, if you’ve already read the synopsis or just want a bit more info going in, I’ll elaborate a bit further. You’ve been warned.
At several points throughout the novel, Silas is summarily killed and then wakes up and begins to experience the same quest but in a different place in the world and in a different time. First, we have the sailboat, then the crew is on a steam ship, then an airship and so on. It was so fun reading each different era and seeing the characters outfits, language, and minor quirks change as we hopped around in time. I won’t reveal how or why this is happening as it’s the crux of the novel and has something to do with a word that keeps popping up for some reason: eversion.
The story is a mystery – both solving what is happening to Silas, and finding what lies at the heart of the edifice. As the details are slowly unveiled, we have character revelations, interesting sci-fi themes and a great arc for our protagonist.
But at the heart of this story is the exploration of humanity and the relationships that we build among each other. This is a bit of a bleak book, but the way that Reynolds weaves its themes throughout make for compelling reading and a very emotional ending.
I really don’t have a ton of complaints with the book, but I think it could have been a bit longer and fleshed out some of the auxiliary characters. But the pacing of the rest of the book makes up for it and it never overstays its welcome.
Eversion is a great little stand-alone sci-fi novel and I highly recommend it – particularly if the hook sounds interesting to you. Be sure to keep an eye out for it when it releases later this summer.
*Special thanks to the publisher for a copy of this book for review