Adrian Tchaikovsky’s 2020 The Doors of Eden is a stand-alone science fiction novel.
First-generation Brit Lisa Prior1 and posh Elsinore “Mal” Mallory befriended each other in school thanks to a shared interest in Forteana. Over time they became more than friends, something that they kept secret from their families. How the relationship would have played out in the long run remains a mystery, because one day the two teens ventured out onto Bodmin Moor to look for cryptozoological treasure.
They found something . Only Lisa returned home from Bodmin Moor.
Four years later…
Four years later, a police raid takes an odd turn. The police arrive at Kay Amal Khan’s apartment, expecting to find racists attacking Khan. What they find is a job lot of dead or wounded racists. Some anti-racist activists had gotten there first and saved Khan.
Thanks to the British panopticon state, it doesn’t take long for two of the activists to be fingered. One is unidentified, although their robust physique would make them easy to pick out of a lineup. The other is Mal, apparently returned from her four-year sojourn in nowhere. Why Mal and her new friend would want to protect Britain’s foremost expert in the esoteric field of Cryptic Informational Transformation Space is unclear.
Turns out that a certain Mr. Rove believes that Khan knows something that could be useful and has sent some minions to kidnap Khan. Rove has been foiled and he’s unhappy. Next step: find something or someone to use as leverage against Mal. Someone like Lisa…
One minor complaint: too many chase scenes in this book. Although I suppose if this were ever turned into a film, the chase scenes might be a plus.
This SF novel reminded me of one of the Adrian Tchaikovsky books I like: it plays with pathways by which evolution might have produced beings as smart or smarter than we are. Many authors might have settled for the gosh wow of Neanderthals
or intelligent lemurs.
Tchaikovsky cheerfully ventures outside our phylum to imagine a whole other species of intelligent tool users. Of course, when compared to the entities in this book, the spiders in Children of Time are our close cousins.
It also reminds me of Tchaikovsky in that Rove isn’t quite the malevolent billionaire out to take over the world so often found in SFF novels. He’s not the genius mastermind he believes himself to be. He’s not the Big Bad of the book, just an distraction. IMHO, the focus of the book is figuring out how to cross barriers to communication in order to deal with a crisis that will affect everyone involved.