We are not alone. There are other Earths in other dimensions where the dominant intelligent species of the planet rises before humanity, shaping their world to suit their needs, making it both similar and different to their own.

Cracks are beginning to appear in the fabric between the dimensions and the dominant species of different worlds are spilling through into our Earth. Some of these intruders want our home for themselves, a refuge to escape the destruction of their own planet. But that won’t save them for long because all the Earths are heading to the same destructive conclusion, and it is only through co-operation can anyone be saved.

But our Earth has the key to an answer: government physicist Doctor Kay Amal Khan. Her work will spell the difference between saving all the Earths or just a portion for a limited, wealthy few to live on as gods.

The start of this book begins with Mal and Lee, teenage cryptid hunters and partners. During an expedition to Bodmin Moor to find evidence of bird people, Mal goes missing and is presumed dead. From there, the book shifts genre (if you could ever constrain Tchaikovsky’s work to just one genre) to a hard science fiction story about parallel universes, alternate histories, and shadowy all-powerful organisations.

The story is told over a number of different points of view and with different levels of scientific experience, from Kay the theoretical physicist, to Lee who is just a young woman with an interest in cryptids. This means that although there are some deep scientific explanations, I didn’t struggle to follow it even though I am at Lee’s level. This is done in several ways including Kay explaining things to Lee, and excerpts from Other Edens: Speculative Evolution and Intelligence by Professor Ruth Emerson.

These excerpts chart the progress of other dimensions and other forms of intelligence, so as the book twists and turns through those different dimensions, we can keep up. They also formed my favourite part of the book. In an interview with Tor, Tchaikovsky said that he has been fascinated by the amount of time from the start of the world until humanity evolved and all the “what ifs” that period of time contains. Other Edens: Speculative Evolution and Intelligence is like a collection of his “what -ifs” and is a fantastic piece of world-building.

Without a doubt, my favourite protagonist is Kay. She is not only the most intelligent person on the planet but also the most down to earth. Another element to her character is that she’s a transgender woman. Although at the start of the book she has transitioned, there are characters who remember her from before. Rather than presenting a wholly accepting world, Tchaikovsky presents all points of view, negative as well as positive.

For example, there is Julian, the secret service agent trying to protect Kay, who accepts but frets over using the correct pronouns when talking to her. Then there is Daniel Rove, the charming, immaculately-dressed head of an organisation. He is happy for the worlds to end, provided he can survive in comfort, and to these ends, he uses Kay’s past as a tool to control her. A sure-fire sign I’ve committed to a book is when I get angry on behalf of a character. Rove’s obvious, and unfortunately successful, attempts to control Kay had me furious for her. I won’t give any specifics, but I felt the book benefitted from their interactions, however uncomfortable they were to read, because it highlights the conscious and unconscious prejudices transgender people face, while ensuring that the transgender aspect of Kay is only one part of her character. Her intelligence and compassion play bigger roles in her decision-making. Tchaikovsky’s character-building is as strong as his world-building.

The Doors of Eden is exactly what I have come to expect from Tchaikovsky in that it is so much more than what I thought when I first picked the book up. Reading requires you to engage on every level intellectually and emotionally, making you question the twists and turns of evolution that have brought us to this moment now. Throughout the novel, the question of evolution is explored in detail, whether that is a character’s evolution into the person they were born to be or the transformation of bacteria to being the dominant species on their particular world. Highly recommended.

Sarah Deeming is a wedding blogger as well as a book reviewer for the British Fantasy Society. Her favourite genre is horror, particularly zombie apocalypse stories that focus on the living (everyone has their vices). She blames her favouritism on watching Aliens as an impressionable young lady and being blown away by how strong and decisive Sigourney Weaver was as Ripley.

She has a BA in Humanities focusing on English Literature and is a Writers HQ Alumni. Her short stories have appeared in Timeless Tales, Enchanted Conversation, and Three Drops a Cauldron.

During the 2020 Lockdown, Sarah took the chance to re-evaluate her life and her impact on society, leading her to become a volunteer for My Local Pantry, an organisation that reduces food waste by getting good quality food to the people who need it most.

As a life-long lover of books, Sarah is thrilled to be contributing reviews to Breaking the Glass Slipper because it gives her a genuine excuse to spend her days reading. Bliss.