Chris Beckett has a good concept in the overall structure of this book, with the overlying question of: If you landed on a planet with less than a 50% chance of getting back to Earth, would you take the risk of dying or would you stay on an unknown world hoping that the people who did go back would make it? This is the main theme throughout the book and either view is dismal.
In Dark Eden we follow John Redlantern and Tina Spiketree, descendants of two people, Tommy and Angela, who decided to stay and wait for help on a planet they named Eden. This brings us to the first issue in the book – after over 150 years of humanity being on Eden, everyone is related to and descended from Tommy and Angela. They have formed a society called Family and have the laws which everyone follows. Unfortunately, within that time there has been no growth or spark of ingenuity, just a hope that sustains them that one day Earth will come back to rescue them. This might have been a nice story to tell the children in the early days, when they could believe that they wouldn’t be spending their life on another planet, but the descendants of the original family have made it into a story, as if it is their religion, because all they know of Earth is what they have been told.
They are told “that they must remember that a man should not slip (sleep) with his sisters, nor his daughters, not even his cousins, not if there are others to slip with”, which would be fine except for the fact that everyone has come from Tommy and Angela, so although they were obviously worried about inbreeding as Family grew, they made no mention of what would happen if there were such familial intercourse. We know that the humanity on Eden is being affected by this though as there are an increasing number of children being born with a hare lip (Batface) and clawed feet, who are treated as slightly inferior in the family, as well as a lot of people whose brain functions have not developed fully, but no one seems worried about this as the full implications were never explained and we have to assume that the original humans thought they would be gone before this could happen. Which shows that humanity will always try and thrive even if the only people around are the people you are related to.
I did enjoy the book’s structure, where each chapter was from someone else’s perception, so although there were characters that in their own narrative seemed to believe that they were the only people who could move the story forward it was good to get other people’s perspective and see what was happening to other less important characters. Although this gives you a better insight into the characters, a lot of them are very one dimensional, everyone is hiding things and playing their parts, they are just going through the motions without really feeling anything, like they are stunted. When change does come to Eden though, it’s even harder for the characters to break the mould and take charge of their own actions, but this again could be because of the inbreeding.
As a dystopia novel, this is an interesting look at human nature and interactions of society, views to survival and food sources. It can also be seen from an environmental angle of sustainability and maintaining food sources as a population grows beyond the life it can support.
Review by Michelle Herbert
1 positive reader review(s) for Dark Eden
Robin from England
Took me a little while to get into this book but then was hooked and cannot wait for what must surely be the sequel.
7.5/10 from 2 reviews