Alastair Reynolds


Science Fiction


Date Reviewed:

December 27, 2022

version is the latest novel by Alastair Reynolds, whom I think is one of the best science fiction authors working today. (Names of a few other SF authors that spring to my mind who are currently producing good stuff: Linda Nagata, Paul McAuley, Adrian Tchaikovsky - hmm, I see that each of these writers has several published books that I have not yet read. So many books, so little time!) Eversion is a first person narrative told by Dr. Silas Coade, who has signed on as the medical officer to an expedition that is sailing up into the arctic along the Norwegian coast line. I don't think the year was ever specified, but the fact that the ship The Demeter is using sails implies a setting in the pre-Industrial era. The Demeter is captained by Van Vught, a careful, experienced sailor. But the expedition is financed by a wealthy Russian, Topolsky, accompanied by the sarcastic Lady Ada Cossile and the young mathematical prodigy Dupin. Topolsky has some information about a fissure in the Norwegian cliffs that leads to a hidden lagoon. Standing in the lagoon is a mysterious object called the Edifice, a structure of unworldly proportions. Should The Demeter find the Edifice and reveal its secrets, then fame and wealth are sure to follow.

Dr Croade is persistently sea-sick. The rocking of the cold northern waters leave him permanently unsettled, and he cannot escape an ominous feeling of dread that hangs over the whole expedition. Croade has taken to opium to calm his nerves, but he is finding that he needs larger doses. In his spare time, Croade is writing a fantastical novel, which he tells to the crewmen to entertain them. But Lady Cossile constantly belittles his efforts, though Croade cannot imagine what he has done to earn such disdain from her.

A gap is spotted in the towering granite cliffs - they have found the fissure! A glimpse of the Edifice can be seen beyond the steep walls. The Demeter surges forward on the tide. Too late, they spot the wreck of another ship - it is The Europa, dashed upon the rocks. The Europa? How is the possible? Topolsky claimed that he gained knowledge of the Edifice by purchasing data from the crew of The Europa - yet here the ship lies in a crumpled ruin, clearly none of its vanished crew was able to carry news of the fissure back to civilization. Yet before Topolsky can be made to reveal the truth, The Demeter is dashed upon the cliffs, smashing into a wreck. The mast crashes to the deck, crushing Dr. Coade beneath it. And so Dr. Coade perishes.

Dr Coade is a surgeon on a steamship called The Demeter, chugging along the coast of Patagonia, on an expedition to find a mysterious object called the Edifice...

...yes, Coade is alive once more, and again on an expedition that has much in common with his previous adventure, and yet key details are different. Eversion has a recursive structure; the reader keeps finding Coade in different disastrous situations, always getting closer and closer to the ominous Edifice. The tension ratchets up: I could see how this would make a good SF movie. This book reminds me of the scary dreadfulness of Blindsight by Peter Watts, or the suspenseful Ship of Fools by Richard Paul Russo. The word eversion means to turn something inside out, it eventually becomes clear what the title is referring to.

This is a good read! I recommend it. Now I should go dig up another of Reynolds' books that I haven't read yet. The only book of his that I haven't liked so far is Terminal World. Maybe I should go back and reread Revelation Space, I remember that being an impressive book when I read it years ago. I really loved House of Suns.