You live in Eden. You are a member of the Family, one of 532 descendants of Angela and Tommy.
You shelter beneath the Forest's lantern trees. Beyond the forest lie mountains so forbidding that no one has ever crossed them.
The Oldest recount legends of a time when men and women made boats that could travel between worlds.
One day, they will come back for you. You live in Eden. You are a member of the Family, one of 532 descendants of two marooned explorers.
You huddle, slowly starving, in the warmth of geothermal trees, confined to one barely habitable valley of an alien, sunless world. You are John Redlantern. You will break the laws of Eden, shatter the Family and change history.
You will be the first to kill another, the first to venture into the Dark and the first to discover the truth about Eden.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 416 pages
- Publisher: Atlantic Books
- Publication Date: 01/08/2012
- Category: Science fiction
- ISBN: 9781848874640
Showing 1 - 5 of 6 reviews.
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Review by AlanPoulter
The beginning is not auspicious. A tribe of humans at hunter-gatherer level are living on what appears to to be a sunless planetoid, which has its own 'alien life' (albeit edible) in thermal vents, which also give out some light. The humans are are beginning to ration food as there seems no where to go but their population keeps on rising. The tribe are the descendents of two humans from Earth, Tommy and Angela, left behind after their spaceship crash-landed here, the other three crew having gone back to Earth to get help. This 'creation myth' is celebrated publicly as the oldest humans, whose grandparents were the two who stayed, publicly reminisce about wonders like 'electricity' and 'television'. The tribe is split into families led by matriarchs, as all know their mothers but not their fathers. Apart from the growing food crisis, there is also an inbreeding problem, as the effects of minor defects have been amplified by inbreeding. At first glance then this looks like a rather cliched scenario, almost like something out of 'Lost in space'. But looks can be deceptive. When John Redlantern single-handedly kills a 'leopard' this sets him off on a path of questioning everything. He gathers a few supporters and starts a chain of events which quickly unravels the comfortable social stasis and unleashes all manner of change, some planned, some completely unexpected and some recognizable from a whole host of myths, religions, political beliefs, scientific concepts and other novels. This novel not only is science fiction but more importantly is about science fiction itself. It makes science fiction young again by masterfully combining depth and resonance with simplicity.
Review by psutto
Very GoodLost colony science fictionYou live in Eden. You are a member of the Family, one of 532 descendants of Angela and Tommy. You shelter beneath the light and warmth of the Forest's lantern trees, hunting woollybuck and harvesting tree candy. Beyond the forest lie the treeless 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 you recount legends of a world where light came from the sky, where men and women made boats that could cross between worlds. One day, the Oldest say, they will come back for you.Sadly not written in 2nd person this is still a very cool SF book. Told through multiple perspectives (different person in each chapter) it follows the story of John Redlantern who wants the story to be about him and who thinks that its worth trying new and different things. I expect that there will be a sequel as there are some unresolved issues at the end of the book. The worldbuilding is interesting although the characterisation is a little simplistic but then this is a hunter gatherer society awaiting rescue to come from Earth. There is an interesting device used in the book where to emphasise adjectives they are repeated with sometimes different inflections, therefore something can be “good good” or even “good good good” (3 times is the limit) or even “goodgood” I found this made the way the characters spoke different and interesting although I think it could potentially be annoying to some readers I guess.Overall – Not really a new story but one told very well
Review by shelley.s
So this has been one of my favorite books of the year so far. It completely refreshed scifi as a genre for me. The story is gripping, i spent so many days being tired because i didn't put the book down when i should have and that's always a good sign! The settings are beautiful and totally original and everything in the world is creative and imaginative. I really don't have a bad word to say about this book at all. The ending kind of leaves it open for another book but i don't know if that would really benefit the story though saying that i would absolutely love to go back to Eden for another installment! If your a scifi fan id definalty have a look at this book!
Review by jmchshannon
The writing within Dark Eden is absolutely fantastic. Mr. Beckett builds the world of Eden solely through John’s observations and inner monologues. Yet the vision one gets of this unusual world is as vivid as if one were viewing a picture of it. For a world in which nothing is familiar, this is quite a feat because the weird and unusual becomes familiar and ordinary.Mr. Beckett also uses the evolution of language to create its own story. One gets an understanding of just how isolated the Family truly is by the transformation of certain words and phrases. There is a familiarity to them that allows readers to recognize their origins but also a strangeness to their usage that denotes their foreignness to the Family. It is a tricky bit of writing that brilliantly identifies the Family as human in spite of all their differences in habitats.Dark Eden is the type of story to raise the debate about the definition of a young adult novel. After all, John is barely thirteen at the outset of the story. However, in many ways, John is more of an adult than most adults. He not only expresses an understanding of human sociology and evolution that others fear, he leads an entire group of people into unknown parts of the planet. He successfully establishes a new Family, creates new methods of travel, uses strategy to help motivate and encourage, and recognizes the human need for a belief system. It is an amazing set of achievements for someone so young in age if not in mind.Then there is casualness of sex. In many ways, one can easily explain the callousness of the act due the its necessity. Sex, or slipping to use the verbiage of the story, does not just feel good. It is the means of survival as it ensures there are future generations to care for the elderly and carry forward the stories of their origins. There is no romance or emotion to the act because there is no need when the function is purely procreation.There is also the harsh world in general. Eden is in many ways a primitive world, and the Family is just as basic in their survival skills. They are hunters and gatherers, just as prehistoric humans were back in the day. This requires a skill in hunting and tracking and an ability to deal with the messy details of preparing a kill for usage. John and his friends may be young in years, but their skills and understanding of the dangers of their world far exceed anything modern, first-world humans have to face.Further cementing the arguments against Dark Eden as a young adult novel are John’s actions. His thoughts about the Family, the Three Companions, the Oldest, Mother Angela, and the rest of the Family’s origins are very mature, while his actions show a decisiveness and firm determination that have nothing to do with his age. His choices to move away from Family and into Snowy Dark highlight his understanding of his changing world and the need to adapt. Some may argue that his youth means he does not know enough to be fearful about change, but this reader does not think so. His maturity allows him to foresee the path set for the Family if they do not spread out and explore other parts of Eden. This is not change for change’s sake but a true need.John is a slippery character to define. He shows signs of being a brilliant leader but always stops short of executing that leadership. He knows what needs to be done and can motivate others into working but he does not shirk from doing hard work himself. He takes on a tremendous amount of responsibility that he simultaneously relishes and abhors. He understands the need for changes to the Family but does not know when to stop. Lastly, for all of his brilliant strategies and plans, he has very little people skills. He needs people to help him achieve his goals, but he doesn’t like people enough to let them into his inner sanctum. Even his closest friends both love and hate him because of this duality. Readers will also find themselves loving him for his individuality and courage and hating him for his prickliness and inability to leave well enough alone.Dark Eden is the best type of science fiction in that it uses the familiar to create the unfamiliar. Mr. Beckett pushes the boundaries of language to establish the differences between the Family and the reader. Similarly, the brilliantly clear descriptions of the foreign setting actively engages a reader’s imagination without overtaxing it. The characters are familiarly multi-faceted even while the pressures they face remain unusual. By capitalizing on the similarities as well as the differences, Mr. Beckett creates a highly engaging and thought-provoking novel about survival and humanity.
Review by edgeworth
John Redlantern lives amid the warmth and safety of Family in Circle Valley. There is no sun – only eternal night. Light and warmth come from the valley’s alien geothermal trees, which glow red and white and emit boiling hot sap. Surrounding Circle Valley is the Snowy Dark – a cold, thin-air wasteland where you can’t even see your hand in front of your face. Nobody has ever left the valley, not since Angela and Tommy were first stranded there from Earth many generations ago. The 532 members of Family are their descendents – inbred, genetically mutating, clinging to the stories their first Mother and Father told them about distant Earth. One day, they have been told, Earth will come and find them again.Dark Eden is a classic bildungsroman, in which 15-year-old (or 20 “wombtimes” old) John Redlantern grows weary at the parochial, stultifying atmosphere of Family. He fears that Family is growing larger, and game is getting scarce. He thinks that despite what Mother Angela once told her children, she never thought the wait for Earth would be this long. He believes there must be something else on the other side of Snowy Dark, and is determined to go against his elders and find out.The novel ranges across a number of viewpoints, mostly John Redlantern and his lover Tina Spiketree, but occasionally taking in others when the narrative demands it. Beckett does a good job of exploring each character’s different motives; John, for example, knows that he’s a good leader and wants to try new things; from Tina’s perspective, we see that she appreciates this, but also recognises John has a deep, restless urge inside him, and an egotistical view that the world’s story is all about him. Similarly, the Family’s leader is a maternalistic woman who recognises the same problems as John but is wise enough to know that change must happen slowly; that “any fool can break a thing, but building a new one takes wakings and wakings.”The world of Eden is beautifully rendered, from the glowing and humming trees to the menacing six-legged fauna, but it’s not overwrought – the characters mention things like “leopards” and “trees,” and it’s only through incidental detail that the reader sees how different these things must be from their earthly namesakes.Beckett’s use of language to establish Family’s culture (however small and stagnant it may be) is excellent. There are shades of a post-apocalyptic story here, as degenerate tribals cling to their society’s past glory and revere their ancestors. Small linguistic touches go a long way, such as the loss of the word “very,” with characters instead simply doubling up on adjectives to emphasise them: cold cold, tired tired, etc.What Beckett gets absolutely pitch perfect is the claustrophobic sense of Eden: the darkness, the enveloping cold, the rigid tribal laws and the inability to escape Family, to go anywhere else, do anything different or find anything new. Circle Valley is all the characters have ever known, but they have grown up hearing stories of Earth and the rest of the human race, and they know that there is more to life than this. “Sometimes I hated Eden,” John says to himself. “Sometimes I felt that if I ate another mouthful of greenish Eden meat I would vomit out my guts.”Dark Eden has a satisfying if limited conclusion, avoiding the brutal showdown other science fiction writers might have opted for. It’s open to a sequel, but is an excellent standalone novel – an original and haunting story.Side note – it’s a miserly publisher indeed who’d choose to save on ink by issuing the reprint with a white cover, as seen above. The original was black, a thousand times more appropriate for this novel.
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