Dark Eden by Chris Beckett
On the alien, sunless planet they call Eden, the 532 members of the Family 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.
Woah, was my initial reaction to this book! Not because it completely blew me away, but because it’s such an epic journey to go on. I’m just not sure how much I enjoyed that journey.
Dark Eden is a book full of questions and very little answers. It is set on what we assume is an alien planet (although it’s pretty similar to earth) where almost two hundred years ago, humans crash landed. Some attempted to get back to earth, while one man and one woman thought it was too dangerous and stayed behind, deciding to make a go of living in the blackness of Eden until they were rescued.
Fast forward a hundred years or so and Eden is inhabited only by Family, who live a simple, deprived life, in a monotonous cycle of hunting, building fires and increasing the population by ‘slipping’ with anyone who offers, and a few species of animals similar to ours but with a few extra legs and lights on their heads. Sort of.
I found everything about Dark Eden intriguing. Beckett keeps us in the dark as much as the setting itself. We’re never quite sure where or what Eden is, nor can we trust what any of the characters say or think, because they don’t actually know anything. The world-building was good, and I liked that we were left to our own devices to imagine what certain things looked like but sometimes the lack of any specific details was irritating.
History and ideas about earth have been passed from generation to generation of Family, and many things have gotten lost, which is sometimes how I felt reading the book. Family cling onto a few surviving relics such as a toy car and keyboard but they know nothing of these things. Words have also been passed down like the biggest game of Chinese Whispers, so these too have altered in time making Dark Eden a challenging read to begin with.
Family are also taught that they must stay in one patch of Eden in case Earth returns for them, because that’s what the first settlers did. No one questions it, and no one tries to make their lives better by learning new things or exploring, that is until John Redlantern does.
At the start of the book, John is respected and sought after (for his juice – eww), but his new found inquisitiveness and out-spoken nature turns people against him, and eventually he is banished, sent away from their settlement to explore Dark Eden alone.
One of the main things that prevented me from loving this book was that I found it hard to like any of the characters. John was brave and clever but came across as a bit too aloof and I never felt like I knew him. All of the women in the book were betrayed pretty badly too, and the older members of the family were all completely unlikable – probably because of their tendencies to sleep with teenagers.
But what it lacked in character, Dark Eden made up for in themes and ideas. Each chapter gave me a new outlook on life, and how we live it; how we have evolved, and how society is only as good as the people in it. Family had no forward-thinkers, no one to teach the children and no one who could use their surroundings to invent new things and evolve as race. So they were stuck but didn’t know it.
There is also the obvious ties to the Garden of Eden story. Having to rebuild humanity afresh from just two people, inevitably means incest. The original father Tommy, had sex with his children and their children, and they had sex with their brothers and sisters, which is obviously the reason why some babies are born Batfaces or Clawfeet – although that is never stated, because they are ignorant to it. There’s a lot of talk of ‘baby juice’ which is pretty gross, but it does make you think about relationships and sex in a different way.
I feel like this book could have been shorter, but it was compelling and thought provoking. I wish I liked the characters more, and at times it was infuriating but it is a science fiction story that is scarily believable.
It reminded me of a cross between The Lord of the Flies, The Knife of Never Letting Go, and even Robinson Crusoe at times. It’s quite a feat. Read it.
Disclosure?: Yep, I recieved a copy from the publisher/author in exchange for an HONEST review!
Title: Dark Eden
Author: Chris Beckett
Details: Paperback, 448 pages
Published: April 1st 2014 by Broadway Books (first published January 1st 2012)
My Rating: 4/5