EVERSION by Alastair Reynolds: Book Review

Guest reviewer today, is my lovely bookworm fiancé, William who is a big sci-fi lover
(c) Trang Tran

The speculative fiction genre debuted with, amongst other narrative structures, the Voyage[^1]. One tends to forget when reading many thought-provoking, high concept stories that they were rooted in the thrill, wonder and awesomeness of the new, the challenging, the incomprehensible. Sometimes, the most natural, but not necessarily sensible reaction to estrangement[^2] is denial. Eversion, Alastair Reynolds’s latest science fiction novel touches on these themes through the story of Dr. Silas Coade, a “fith-rate” physician aboard the ship Demeter on an expedition for a mysterious structure, alien to the men of its times. Promise of prestige by its vainglorious investor balanced by prospects of perils by its steadfast captain is a classic story rendered anew by Reynolds since the crew repeatedly encounter mission-ending catastrophe along their journey, yet unexplainedly perdure. How often can you deny the reality before your eyes?

(c) Trang Tran

From a *story-telling* perspective, Eversion has everything a compelling book needs. A central mystery making you question what is real and why its protagonist is experiencing it, horror of the body as well as cosmic, and moments of touching conversion between characters dreaming about the future, their desire, dreaming awake. Reynolds is masterful in his language, adapting to the vernacular of its time as needed without becoming bogged down and overly technical, historical or literary. Those of you who enjoy nautical terminology will find it familiar, the rest (as I) are tasked with, but not obliged to learn. All in all, it is fun, it an easy and quick read, with a build-up and just the right amount of repetition[^2] to drive the main conceit home about the descent into madness of our protagonist rejecting reality, choices and who his friends really are. Not an original plot by any means, but dextrously executed. Those of you a fan of the Netflix series Love, Death & Robots[^3] will recognize the familiarity of the story-telling style[^4].

In mystery, there are books that reward you by surprising you with a big twist at the end, making you feel smart for being beaten by the author[^5]. Others engage with you along the way by peeling back layers of intrigue, making you feel smart for playing along the authors planned path. Eversion by Alastair Reynolds is a science fiction thriller that I think succeeds largely due because it does both, not in a new way or surprising way, but in a poigant way. The very last page makes you wish you had more time with these characters, misfortune be damned. An easy recommend for anyone, science fiction lovers or not, and an easy yet memorable introduction to the hard sci-fi subgenre.

[^1]: http://strangehorizons.com/non-fiction/articles/estrangement-and-cognition
[^2]: Venusian space frogs anyone?
[^3]: Aka everyone I imagine. How many people come reading a review for
Eversion without enjoying Love, Death & Robots, really?
[^4]: It turns out that two episodes were adapted from Reynolds’s short
stories: “Beyond the Aquila Rift” and “Zima Blue”. Hence why this book feels
like a long form episode of the show!
[^5]: The author of a certain blog hosting this blog post review, perhaps.

Verdict: 4 / 5

Thank you to Orbit books for giving us this advance copy to review.

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