1851. Kensington, London. Harvard scholar Melisande Stokes chronicles how a combination of science, time-travel and magic led her to become trapped in the mid eighteenth century in this entertaining thriller that reunites Mongoliad collaborators Stephenson and Galland for their most ambitious adventure to date.
The story begins in retrospect. Melisande details – with numerous humorous asides to the reader – how she was recruited from her life working as a lowly and undervalued adjunct professor in the Department of Ancient and Classical Linguistics at Harvard by mysterious government agent Tristan Lyons. Tristan needs Melisande’s help in translating ancient artefacts, but frustrates her by refusing to reveal anything of significance regarding her mission, including what D.O.D.O., the special branch Tristan works for, actually does, or stands for. Melisande eventually learns that she has been assigned to assist with an investigation into the historic disappearance of magic, and more specifically, whether it is possible to bring it back.
Together Melisande and Tristan’s research leads them to Dr. Frank Oda, a disgraced scientist who fell foul of the press following a series of controversial experiments drawn from the theory of Schrodinger’s Cat, who they seek to assist them in creating a temporal space in which it may be possible to create some supernatural wizardry. The trio are then promptly joined by a witch, sent from Melisande back in 1851 (bear with us), and together the unlikely team begin to forge a connection between science and magic to create (or recreate, depending on which perspective you’re looking at this from) time travel. Things escalate quickly from there, and whilst it’s impossible to reveal more without venturing into spoiler territory, be assured that it’s every bit as perplexingly entertaining as it sounds.
Split into five parts and peppered with letters, reports and diary entries in addition to the deliciously pacey narrative, the books stands at some 750+ pages but rarely feels weighed down by its own ambition. Time travel is far from an original concept amongst science fiction, and whilst the failure of recent TV shows that focused on this theme might hint at audience fatigue, D.O.D.O boasts a likeable series of characters and an engaging plot that doesn’t take itself too seriously and is all the more enjoyable for it.
THE RISE AND FALL OF D.O.D.O. / AUTHORS: NEAL STEPHENSON, NICOLE GALLAND / PUBLISHER: THE BOROUGH PRESS / RELEASE DATE: 15TH JUNE