Eversion by Alastair Reynolds
Publication Date: August 2nd, 2022
Paperback. 432 pages.
"From the master of the space opera, Alastair Reynolds, comes a dark, mind-bending SF adventure spread across time and space, Doctor Silas Coade has been tasked with keeping his crew safe as they adventure across the galaxy in search of a mysterious artifact, but as things keep going wrong, Silas soon realizes that something more sinister is at work, and this may not even be the first time it's happened.
In the 1800s, a sailing ship crashes off the coast of Norway. In the 1900s, a Zepellin explores an icy canyon in Antarctica. In the far future, a spaceship sets out for an alien artifact. Each excursion goes horribly wrong. And on every journey, Dr. Silas Coade is the physician, but only Silas seems to realize that these events keep repeating themselves. And it's up to him to figure out why and how. And how to stop it all from happening again."
This was the first books I've read by Alastair Reynolds, and it is definitely not going to be the last. Based on what I've seen about Reynold's other books, Eversion didn't end being anything like what I expected it to be, but I really loved it and was captivated by his masterful storytelling and ability to take my mind on a trip I hadn't expected. Eversion is going to be a hard book to review because so much of it banks on the reader's gradual discovery and slow dawning of what's going on. For that reason, I'll give a basic rundown of what the book's about and then try to keep things a bit more vague when it comes to details.
In Eversion, Doctor Silas Coade is in charge of making sure his crew stay healthy and safe while they venture out across the galaxy to find a mysterious, unknown artifact whose purpose is not fully known. The weird part is Doctor Silas' role in a myriad of disasters that occur across time and crews who are all trying to discover some unknown artifact. Something extremely eerie and uncanny is going on, and Doctor Silas seems to know something is wrong, but he can't quite put his finger on just what the problem is...
This concept was so fascinating to me and this entire book felt like a slow burn of realization and wonder. We start out in the 1800s on a sailing ship with a crew embarking on a new mission to find the missing artifact that seems to be the center of this entire book. This is the first time we get to meet Doctor Silas Coade himself, as well as the rest of the crew, including Coronel Ramos, who quickly became a favorite of mine, Captain Van Vugt, the lead researcher/mathematical genius Dupin, Lady Ada Cossile, the instigator of the entire journey, Topolsky, and a few more. I really liked getting to know this entire crew and found that, with the exception of Topolsky, I found myself growing fond of quite a number of them. I thought Reynolds did a really good job of developing them and creating very consistent personalities that made sense in all scenes and scenarios. I particularly liked getting to see the relationship develop between Silas and Ramos and found scenes featuring the two of them some of the most compelling. Silas is an especially compelling character that I found myself easily rooting for and wanting to know more about, as well as eager to see how he would handle each new situation and what new actions he might undertake and/or discover.
Reynolds also excelled in developing an atmosphere that was at times creeping and full of the unknown, while at others time full of potential and the had a constant air of discovery. I love sci-fi and horror, and I love adventure and stories of exploration, so the combination of these elements all worked absolutely perfectly for me. Reynolds has a great narrative style that gives readers just enough to keep them hooked on each and every word without giving too much away. I always had some sort of inkling that something was off or was going to happen, but I never knew exactly what it was going to be. This is one fo those books that really thrives off of the reader slowly making a realization and then looking back to earlier parts of the book and having those big light bulb moments that suddenly make sense. I think this would be a book that's a lot of fun to re-read and discover all those tiny moments that suddenly mean something else, given the context of what has been discovered later on in the story.
Eversion has a bit of a slow burn to start, but as you find yourself slowly becoming more and more immersed in the story the pacing really starts to pick up and continues fairly consistently from there. Things may feel as if they are going to be repetitive, but Reynolds does a great job in making sure that that is not the case and that there is always something new to discover and experience. This all might sound a bit weird and vague, and I apologize for that, but if you read the book I promise it'll all make sense. I also found Reynold's prose much more descriptive and thoughtful than I expected, and I don't mean that to say I thought the prose would be bad or simple, but it just isn't quite what I expected from this sci-fi novel and I think it fit the settings very well.
If I had to say what this book most reminded me of, I'd say to it has elements and the occasional atmosphere of Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness, mixed with the voyage and discovery of any classic adventure–maybe some Journey to the Center of the Earth?–and a touch of any modern sci-fi that really plays with new technology and considers what its role will be in human life. I also wouldn't consider it very far amiss to call this a bit of a mystery as Silas works under great pressure to figure out why things keep going afoul in his missions.
Overall, I've given Eversion five stars! I thoroughly enjoyed this sci-fi/horror/adventure/mystery story and can't wait to dive into more of Alastair Reynold's work.
*I received a copy of Eversion courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*