I have been spending the better part of this summer catching up on Alastair Reynolds’ intimidating library. I have nearly finished the Revelation Space series (Looking at you, Inhibitor Phase) and have been having an absolute blast. Lo’ and behold Andrew shows up at my door with an ARC of Eversion, I couldn’t have been happier (well, that’s highly debatable). Eversion is a fun little locked room mystery that delivers on its premise and provides character to boot.
Dr. Silas Coade is trapped. No matter what he tries to do, the people he is trying to save keep dying. Whether they are on a steamship pushing through the ice flows, flying a zeppelin through icy crevasses, or on a spaceship parked above an alien artifact, he can’t save them all. He knows something is wrong as he constantly flits through different timelines all with remarkably similar occurrences, but with different trappings. It doesn’t help that his constant companion in yellow, Ms. Cossile, is snidely cajoling him in every timeline. Or that his budding friendship with Ramos is cut short time and time again by Ramos’ death in increasingly frustrating ways. Will Dr. Silas Coade be able to find his way out of the loop and save the crew he treats? Or will he fall endlessly into ever changing circumstances he’s imprisoned in?
Eversion is a delightful book. Reynolds’ ability to capture the horror that Silas finds himself in through increasingly imaginative scenarios creates an odd sense of wonder. I felt compelled to soldier on alongside Silas, and almost finished the whole book in one sitting. The various settings all have slight changes that make each one feel slightly more thought out, a tad more detail here and there. In particular, the drugs that Silas partakes in change with the times and Reynolds keeps pushing the bar in funny ways. Each iteration also reveals something even more off about Silas’ predicament, making the mystery tantalizing.
Silas’ interactions with the side characters were equally compelling. Watching his growing friendship with Ramos end time and time again was maddening, especially once Ramos himself started to catch onto the wrongness. Ms. Cossile was delightful with her color commentary, at times mocking Silas with a hint of sympathy. Reynolds was careful to make sure she didn’t steal the show though as she realizes her particular role may not be as helpful in the ways she thinks it could be.
The pacing is practically perfect; I never felt stuck in one particular scenario for too long. Certain segments had more weight obviously, but they felt appropriately sized to build and solve the mystery. And while the mystery is at the forefront, Reynolds handles it deftly centering it on how the characters deal with their lack of clues. It doesn’t feel contrived or as if the entire story hinges completely on solving the mystery. This was helpful for me because I often lose focus and am not compelled by just opening the box at the end of the story.
I will say, though, that this is not a typical big Reynolds story. It carries a different vibe from the majority of his work I’ve read. It matches his more character focused novellas in scope, delivering on human moments with a hefty side helping of science fiction “ideas.” So while I was a little disappointed that he didn’t go harder in the paint with his bread and butter, I was more than satisfied by the particular exploration offered here.
Eversion is a fun, character focused bottle mystery that shifts settings like a chameleon walking across a rainbow carpet. Reynolds is deliberate in his execution and offers a pretty haunting portrayal of a time loop. It’s well paced and finds the goldilocks zone in length of story. If you’re looking for a break from the galaxy spanning space operas he is known for, and want a change of scenery, I recommend Eversion. And if those larger books seem too daunting, but still want a taste of what Reynolds’ has on offer, definitely give this one a shot.
Rating: Eversion 7.5/10
An ARC of this book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The thoughts on this book are my own.