Monday, March 31, 2014

Dark Eden

Dark Eden by Chris Beckett
Crown Publishing: 4/1/2014
ebook, 448 pages
ISBN-13: 9780804138680 

On the alien, sunless planet they call Eden, the 532 members of the Family take shelter beneath the light and warmth of the Forest’s lantern trees. Beyond the Forest lie the mountains of the Snowy Dark and a cold so bitter and a night so profound that no man has ever crossed it.
The Oldest among the Family recount legends of a world where light came from the sky, where men and women made boats that could cross the stars. These ships brought us here, the Oldest say—and the Family must only wait for the travelers to return.
But young John Redlantern will break the laws of Eden, shatter the Family and change history. He will abandon the old ways, venture into the Dark...and discover the truth about their world.
Already remarkably acclaimed in the United Kingdom, Dark Eden is science fiction as literature: part parable, part powerful coming-of-age story, set in a truly original alien world of dark, sinister beauty and rendered in prose that is at once strikingly simple and stunningly inventive.
My Thoughts:

Dark Eden by Chris Beckett is a science fiction novel that creates a new world and initiates the start of a new series.

Dark Eden is a story of a group of stranded survivors generations removed from the event that left them behind. Currently the human Family on Eden number 532, but they all originated with Tommy and Angela. Now the descendants of these two are a motley group of rag tag humans whose incestuous inbreeding has left them plagued with genetic disorders. They are so far removed from Earth that any remnants of the culture and language have been deteriorating for years, leaving behind a strange mixture of old and the new in their evolved culture. 

"It sounds dumb but all I could think of for a moment was that it was a Landing Veekle, one of those sky-boats with lights on them that brought Tommy and Angela and the Three Companions down to Eden from the starship Defiant. Well, we were always taught that it would happen sometime. The Three Companions had gone back to Earth for help. Something must have gone wrong, we knew, or the Earth people would have come long ago, but they had a thing with them called a Rayed Yo that could shout across sky, and another thing called a Computer that could remember things for itself." 

The family clings to life by the landing sight of the original space ship that left their ancestors stranded despite the fact that resources to insure their survival are quickly dwindling and can no longer support their growing population.  In an act of defiance and surety John Redlantern tries to force change and is exiled. John has supporters, including Gerry, Jeff, and Tina Spiketree. The society is matriarchal at the beginning, but the underpinnings of society are in flux and change is on the horizon.

Eden the world is dark. There is no sun, only plants and animals that have evolved to give off light. The surface of the planet is kept warm from the trees that pump hot air and water up from the inner core of the planet. "We could barely make out each other’s faces. It made me think about that place called Earth where Tommy and Angela first came from, way back in the beginning with the Three Companions, and where one waking we would all return, if only we stayed in the right place and were good good good. There were no lanterntrees back there on Earth, no glittery flutterbyes or shiny flowers, but they had a big big light that we don’t have at all. It came from a giant star. And it was so bright that it would burn out your eyes if you stared at it."

While I found the world building and the creation of this new society intriguing, there were some questions about it that plagued me - chiefly why have the plants and animals evolved to give off light and why would having the sun be so important to these people who have grown up without it? It seems that they all would have been better off adapting to a dark world, allowing other senses to take the forefront. It's not a hard science fiction novel, however, which some readers like me will need to take into account.

Even though I can appreciate the societal changes Beckett is trying to capture, combining them with the over-emphasis on woman as simple wombs that need to be filled by any male became too much very quickly.  This points to my biggest problem with Dark Eden: all the sex in all its various "slip-slipping" forms with very young men and women with adults. 

In the end Dark Eden just wasn't successful for me. It had some good qualities, but I find it hard to overlook what was not working for me in the plot. So-so for me.

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Crown Publishing for review purposes.

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