Title: Dark Eden
Author: Chris Beckett
Type: Adult Fiction
Genre: Science Fiction/Speculative Fiction
Tea: Earl Grey Creme, has hints of something traditional and familiar, but has its own unique twist.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
So I'm having a hard time with this one. What do I think of you, Dark Eden? Right now my rating is hovering at a 3 to 3.5, but has the possibility of a 4. There are so many things going on this book to take into consideration.
First off, basic premise with no spoilers: A group of people are living on a planet that was inadvertently discovered by astronauts and space police from Earth. The group is waiting for the day Earth comes back to find them, the day they were promised...about 200 years ago. This story is about this colony and the evolution of thought.
This book reads similarly to the story of Adam and Eve from Genesis in the Bible. We have a new family forming from two people. We have creatures being named. We have a group of people learning how to function and live. We have evil coming into the world. The difference here is these people are planted in one place and are not looking to expand themselves. This is where the evolution of thought comes in.
But before we get there, we have the beginning of the book, which did not catch my attention at all. I was honestly rather bored and felt like the same thing kept happening. I suppose that could be seen as the author's purposeful way of getting you to feel the monotony that John Redlantern and Tina Spiketree (our two main characters) suffer every day. I honestly probably would've put it down, but managed to get to the point where the world goes a little crazy.
I have a degree in anthropology and reading this from an anthropological perspective was very interesting. Seeing the evolution of a group of people, based on beliefs passed down to them from people from another planet was very interesting. These people did not look to advance themselves, only to wait in the same place, for Earth to find them. Their grasp on language is far more rudimentary than that on Earth, especially after they get rid of School, in order to have more hunters. They only know of the things on Earth that they are told about: cars, houses, Einstein, chess and the Sun (which they don't have). They live in a world of perpetual darkness, but not just the literal kind. The planet itself has adapted to the darkness by having everything on it, have its own light. The plants glow, even the Woolybucks (my best guess? Deer?) have head lanterns. The people are also stunting themselves physically, due to inbreeding many children are born with "bat faces" (harelips) and "claw feet." I honestly think most of them were blind to their predicament.
John Redlantern brings a little anarchy into our story by questioning the Oldest (grandchildren of the original founders) and determined to find life beyond their Circle Clearing.
This book is full of questions, Earth references, terrifying situations, the deterioration of a matrilineal society and some rather disturbing sexual relationships. Certain of aspects of this book intrigue me and I really enjoyed, but other parts were lacking. I didn't feel strongly about the two main characters, I was far more attached to a more minor character, Jeff Redlantern. I really would've liked to have read more about him or from his perspective.
I was disappointed with the ending and felt like there was really no resolution. Yes, one specific question was answered, but so many more were brought up and then not dealt with. I don't really know if there is a plan for a sequel. There is definitely the opening to do one, but I don't know if the was the plan or if the open ending is for the reader to decide what happens.
Despite some of these shortcomings, Dark Eden, is a great science fiction story. The world building is fantastic. All the creatures, which are similar to those on Earth but with mutations, were very intriguing. And the advance of Earth's society, even though we hear very little about it, is clearly ahead of what we have now, considering a Police Vehicle is sent out after the errant space ship.
Overall it was a mixed bag for me, but after more thought, the rating could change. Definitely check it out and see what you can find in this sci-fi tale.