The ironic thing about the novella, Permafrost, is that in Permafrost, nothing is permanent. The name belies the content. The future, the past, and the present are all malleable constructs.
I haven’t read any Alastair Reynolds books previously, although I am very familiar with his books. I have wanted to read Redemption Ark forever. If you are looking for sincere and hard science fiction, he is your man from what I hear. In Permafrost, Reynolds utilizes the much-overused time-travel trope. It would take an excellent writer with a fresh perspective to bring anything new to the time travel type novel. He does it here. Instead of being hackneyed, this story comes off fresh and exciting. I liked how he explained time as a stream; someone who travels the flow goes backward and forwards like swimming in a river. Where you are in a stream is always relative to other points. It is an excellent way to explain a difficult concept without a Deus ex Machina explanation.
In some ways, the story is a scary premise. The future, 2080, has been destroyed by a malignant virus type thing that systematically destroys all the insectile species on the planet. Insects are a keystone, so soon, other animal and plant systems start to collapse, and finally, the whole pyramid, with humans at the top, crumbles like Jenga. The WHO(World Health Organization) is the only government type organization still in existence. They have a shot of saving the future by going into the past. Now, this is a shortish story. There is not a lot of time for explanation. So it is bare-bones, and much of the time, Reynolds only gives the reader the barest glimpse of the history and backstory. Sometimes it is like trying to see things through a blizzard. It is just enough to provide a springboard for the imagination of the reader to take hold. Valentina Lidova, the main protagonist of the story, is a 71yr old daughter of the inventor of the science of time travel. It is her consciousness, along with a few others, which are sent back through the past to save the future. Protecting the future is not what you think it will be. It is a twisty story that grabs your heart, intelligence, and emotions and ties them in knots. Although that doesn’t sound fun, it is.
This is an incredibly exciting novel and worth the time it takes to deep dive into this brilliant environmental dying Earth story.
Review originally published on BeforeWeGoBlog.