Eyes of the Void by Adrian Tchaikovsky – Book Review

Published by: TOR
Genre: Science fiction, space opera
Series: The Final Architecture (#2 of many, hopefully)
Pages: 593 pages
Format: paperback

The sequel to 2021’s Shards of the Earth was among my most-awaited sci-fi titles of this year. When I read Shards I fell in love with its characters, a mishmash of memorable scoundrels who made for one of my favourite found families in sci-fi; I fell in love with its world, which recalled the same sense of awe I felt at fourteen-fifteen, when I was experiencing the video game Mass Effect for the first time; I fell in love with Tchaikovsky’s prose, an affliction that befalls me whenever I pick one of the man’s books. Little wonder that I take my leave of Eyes of the Void as eager as can be to see what the third book brings both the characters and the world.

We left Idris Telemmier, the Partheni angel Solace, and the rest of the crew of the Vulture God in an interesting spot; having managed to save Barlenhof, one of the capital worlds of humanity’s decentralized Hugh government, from being turned into one of the horrific crystalline sculptures that the enigmatic, near-unstoppable Architects leave behind. Eyes of the Void picks up half a year later, with tensions between Hugh and the Partheni steadily increasing; for his part, Idris is trying to make a difference in a Partheni project that means more to him than most anything else. The Architects have not been idle, either—several planets, both in Hugh space and across the borders of humanity’s far more advanced neighbours, the Essiel, have been approached by the moon-sized life-forms and transformed. It’s not long before a crisis forces the Vulture God’s crew, their Partheni allies, and whacky Hiver scientist Trine to plunge themselves into what might be the most dangerous spot in the galaxy.   

It’s difficult to pin down any one character who stole the show for me—but I’ll try. Honour-bound yet cutthroat Scilla lawyer Kris Almier shows, better than she ever did in Shards that she is as deadly with the point of a blade as she is with legal arcana. Not that she doesn’t show off those truly impressive lawyer skills yet again; Kris reminds me of my best friend when she flexes those law muscles she spent five years in law school for. Idris and Solace are, as ever, the most precious babies and if you look at them wrong I will murder you; but there are a pair of Tothiat madwomen, an even crazier Essiel, and bloody Ollie in her Scorpion being genuinely delighted to perpetrate slaughters on a massive scale. You can’t help but love Ollie, can you?

Eyes of the Void answers a number of the questions baked into this universe of Tchaikovsky’s from the beginning of Shards, while dangling some truly massive carrots to those of us who can’t get enough out of it. The overarching mystery of the Architects, the nature of unspace, the Essiel’s bizarre techno-mysticism—I want to inhabit the universe and learn its every nook and cranny, pronto!

And let’s not forget that while the series might cast the Architects in the role of supreme threat—at least for now—Tchaikovksy has always done human villains who shine with a particularly evil glint. Many of our protagonists have a strongly defined moral code that the antagonists are all too happy to overstep – ethical issues are baked into so many of the secondary conflicts the Vulture God and everyone’s favourite Hugh spy face. The causes for mental anguish for a pair of our central characters by the close of this novel—delectable! I can hardly keep from slurping the pages! …which is totally a normal human thing that humans do with human books.

What I’m trying to say here is, if you haven’t put Eyes of the Void in your online basket at your favourite local book retailer—I don’t want to be your friend. Go away and come back with a copy of Tchaikovsky’s book, you weirdo. This is good science fiction, brilliant space opera fun, and written with the customary sharpness you’ll have come to expect by Tchaikovsky if you’ve picked anything of his before. I read The Doors of Eden some three years ago and I can’t stop yearning for more ever since. Get!

Oh, and of course, a quote to finish is all too necessary to make sure this review finishes on a strong point:

“There is a theory,” Trine said softly, “that when the Architects reshape a planet, all the sentient people on that planet are…taken into some special place. Some unspace repository of people. That the Architects are somehow preserving people from their excesses…It dates to an early period of the war. The start of the Polyaspora, when people wanted very much to believe that ninety per cent of everyone they knew weren’t dead. It isn’t a very good theory, in fact. Indeed, on the purely physical level, it’s manifestly unprovable. But I understand why people would want it to be true. Because it’s hard, when you’re not finished with someone. Like a book with the final chapters deleted. You want to believe there’s an intact copy out there, somehow.” (287)   

Brilliant, isn’t it? Read this one, Reader.

Thanks for reading this, the third post in my #SummerofSequels ! I’ll be back soon (most likely Friday) with another post about Eyes of the Void, a sequel to last year’s TROPE CHECK!

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