Permafrost by Alastair Reynolds
"It had taken one shot. The sound of it had echoed back off the buildings. Crows had lifted from a copse of trees nearby, wheeling and cawing in the sky before settling back down, as if killing was only a minor disturbance in their daily routine."
Permafrost is my introduction to Alastair Reynolds, even though I may or may not own entirely too many of his books without ever having actually read anything by him (I do).
Admittedly, I'm not a huge fan of literary time travel. It's been done a billion times and the constant WHAT IF that constantly gets hammered into my brain while reading a time travel story is like a mental bludgeoning. Time travel is an amazingly powerful tool when done right.. but it's difficult. So often, it's a tell don't show concept. Which.. most of us readers at least have a general idea of what time travel entails. Please, PLEASE JUST SHOW US ALREADY!! We don't need hundreds of pages explaining it. It's been explored adequately already. Bring something new to the poor tired trope!
Something that I love hard are environmental movies and books, especially of the disaster variety! Permafrost is described as a time traveling climate science fiction adventure, which is exactly what I AM HERE FOR!!
It is set in 2080 and is about a secret project that is underway. One that involves past-directed time travel. The Permafrost Retrocausal Experiment consists of a makeshift community within a bunch of ships that are interconnected, where 1200 people are stationed. Valentina Lidova is a 71-year-old teacher in Kogalym, Russia. She is approached by the Director of World Health with a job offer to become one of a few that would be irreplaceable in this project. Their mission? To go back in time to 2028 before the Scouring, which was an environmental catastrophe. They must locate genetically modified seed samples, so that they can then clone and distribute them. Otherwise, they risk running out of the small stock they have left since the climate collapse. These seeds may help in preventing the end of humanity.
Reynolds sidesteps a lot of the time travel issues. Much of it feels unfamiliar, yet it still certainly uses a typical formula within telling a time travel tale, such as changing the future by going back in the past. However, the method of how these people travel through time is a new one, at least to me. They are time-embedded through something the size of a grain of pollen that is injected into the subjects head during an MRI and grows into the brain, which allows the traveler to take over the subject for a short time. Talk about absolutely bonkers! Also? How awesome that I read this shortly before I go in for an MRI. Goddamn. That's all I'll be thinking about while in there. Cheers for that!
This was twisty and smart and gut-punchy as hell, especially Vikram's story. Vikram was, well.. he was implanted into a dog. Yes, some asshole put a dog into an MRI machine! Think about that for a minute. The human mind mashed into that of a dog. Unable to communicate, left alone, having to survive entirely on his own... wow. If that doesn't make you feel something, I don't know what will. HOW DARE YOU MAKE ME FEEL MY OWN FEELINGS?!?
Permafrost delivers brilliant storytelling of cinematic destruction that, at just under 200 pages, doesn't overstay its welcome.
(Much thanks to Tor.com Publishing for sending me a copy!)
**The quotes above were taken from an ARC & are subject to change upon publication**
This Permafrost book review was written by Holly Grimdragon
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