This Eden by Ed O’Loughlin: Gripping narrative and big ideas

Book review: Declan Burke on a glorious blend of spy novel and speculative fiction

Ed O’Loughlin’s latest novel is called This Eden. Photograph: Crispin Rodwell

Ed O’Loughlin’s latest novel is called This Eden. Photograph: Crispin Rodwell

Expect, if possible, the unexpected. Ed O’Loughlin’s debut novel, Not Untrue & Not Unkind (2009), was a sobering exploration of genocide in Africa. Toploader (2011) was a darkly comic novel set in a surreal war zone. Minds of Winter (2016) was a time-bending epic of Arctic exploration. 

Naturally, O’Loughlin’s latest, This Eden, has little in common with its predecessors. Narrated by an omniscient “we” – who seem to have access to every digital fingerprint ever recorded – the story opens in Vancouver, where a romance between Michael and Alice is turning sour. A student struggling to cope with the demands of his engineering course, Michael has little interest in Alice’s interlinked passions for climate change, social justice and encryption (“She would spend her life hunting down rabbit holes”). 

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