Fiction Reviews


Eversion

(2022) Alastair Reynolds, Gollancz, £20, hrdbk, 306pp, ISBN 978-0-575-09076-7

 

This is Alastair Reynolds – master of widescreen, hard-ish space opera – not quite as you know him, usually floating in a tin can, far above the world...

Doctor Silas Code is a medic on the sailing schooner Dementer in the sub-Arctic waters north of Bergen, seeking a hidden inlet to an unchartered lake on the shores of which lies a mysterious edifice. He is part of a small band of explorers. They find the inlet and also the remains of another ship, The Europa on the rocks. As they go further in disaster strikes…

Doctor Silas Code wakes from a dream. He is a medic on the steamship Dementer off South America, Patagonia, seeking a hidden entrance to an unchartered lagoon on the shores of which lies a mysterious edifice. He is part of a small band of explorers. They find the entrance and also the remains of another ship, The Europa on the rocks. They explore The Europa to find it deserted as a Mary Celeste as if the crew suddenly vanished. All there is, is a written warning to get away. Then disaster strikes…

Doctor Silas Code is a medic on the zeppelin airship Dementer which is seeking the entrance to the hollow Earth below. Finding it, they descend. Beneath the Earth, they find the remains of another airship, The Europa, pinned to the hollow Earth's ceiling…

I guess you are beginning to sense a sort of pattern here?

Now, I can't say any more about the plot without a major spoiler, but the above summary takes you over half-way through the book! (Normally I only cover the first third, or a quarter, of a book as this is a book review and not a critique, but with Eversion the set-up is a substantive part of the novel.) Nonetheless, you can see that this novel is considerably different to the usual Reynolds' fare and seems to be a sort of fantasy cum steampunk-ish fable. Do not let this put you off, Reynolds has not forgotten his SFnal roots, or strengths.

We have had this sort of thing before. Recently, Alastair Reynolds went all pirates and galleons in space with Revenger, yet at its core there was a hard-ish SF space opera with Solar-sail-powered craft seeking alien baubles between giant space station's, with rail guns for cannon. And the dedicated Reynolds reader might at first think that Eversion was something in a similar vein, a departure from his SF norm, but actually it is not.  Two-thirds in, Reynolds suddenly goes Philip K. Dick on us, exploring identity reminiscent of Do Androids and Flow my Tears…, or analysing perceptions as in The Cosmic Puppets and The Man in the High Castle.

Now, we at SF² Concatenation adore Reynolds' wide-screen space operas and there is usually a bit of a scramble to review his books. Indeed, on those occasions we get the paperback in addition to the hardback, we have no difficulty coming up with a second review: we reviewed Revenger three times!

If you like a steam-punkish riff that underpins much of this novel then you will love Eversion.  Conversely, if you are not that into steampunk then, nonetheless, do stick with it: there's a more central SFnal core.  Like Bowie's Major Tom, Reynolds needs something to break the ice, and when he does, and you are through, you are into another world entirely…

Jonathan Cowie

 


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