Alastair ReynoldsNov 3, 2022
In Alastair Reynolds’ Eversion (Orbit, 2022), the setting keep changing—the epoch, location, and technology—but the characters remain more or less the same as they carry out an expedition to a mysterious object at the behest of a private investor.
The novel starts on a tall ship in the early 1800s in waters in the Arctic, then jumps to a paddle-steamer near the Antarctic, then a dirigible over Antarctica, and eventually concludes in the future on a submarine-like explorer under the ice of Europa, the Jupiter moon.
The story is a puzzle, challenging the reader to figure out which if any place and time is real. Adding to the mystery is the reader’s dependence on a first-person narrator Silas Coade, the expedition’s physician. Is the story a book he is writing, a delusion, a series of alternate realities or something else?
Reynolds says his original intention with Eversion was to “recap the entire history of science fiction … We were going to start in a kind of Mary Shelley, Edgar Allan Poe mode. And then it was going to go into sort of Jules Verne and then maybe a bit of H.G. Wells, then a sort of early pulp sleuth thing.” That would have been followed by classic space opera and episodes in the styles of Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov followed by 1960s and ’70s new wave.
“But once I started writing the book, I realized that there was no way I could bring sufficient variety to the craft to make those episodes work,” he says. “So I cut it down drastically to four or five episodes for the finished product.
Reynolds is a former research fellow at the European Space Agency. He’s been writing fiction full-time since 2004 and has 19 novels and more than 70 short stories to show for it. His work has been shortlisted for the Hugo, Arthur C Clarke and Sturgeon awards. He’s won the Seiun, Sidewise, European Science Fiction Society and Locus awards, and his stories have been adapted for stage and television.
Brenda Noiseux are Rob Wolf are co-hosts of New Books in Science Fiction.