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.
Dark Eden is often compared to Lord of the Flies, but to me all the resemblance it bears to Lord of the Flies is the stranding of a woman and a man on an “island” (alien planet). But it isn’t really about them, it’s about their offspring.
The language takes some getting used to…it’s simplistic and many of the words for things have been substituted for other words that sound like them e.g. veekle=vehicle. But once you get comfortable with the language, this story is a quick and easy read. It’s a lot easier to adjust to than A Clockwork Orange.
A few interesting notations about this story:
When Dark Eden picks up, we’re actually seeing a female-dominated society. Females pick who they have sex with and when and females are the heads of families. The female make all the decisions about the society, their bodies, and who they want to be the fathers of their children. But this is so subtle I didn’t really pick up on it until some of the characters start discussing that soon the men will be leading the families and the society. It would of been interesting to see this explored a little more…you don’t often see matriarchal societies explored in literature and especially not a transition from matriarchal to patriarchal.
The two first humans, Tommy and Angela, aren’t portrayed as gods. Tommy and Angela are very really people with weaknesses and flaws and the family remembers this and continues to tell these stories. I thought that was interesting as usually people tend to start forgetting or glossing over the flaws of their ancestors, especially the long-dead ones. And for a society that has essentially built itself around the lore of Tommy and Angela and the wait for Earth to come and get them, they don’t revere them as anything other than essentially human.
Another thing I really liked was that all the animals and creatures on the planet has green-black blood, two hearts, and six legs. It was a nice way of reinforcing how alien the world is, even after all this time that the family has been living there and breeding. The animals are more like each other than the humans ever can be.
Apparently this book won a major award in the UK. I don’t know if it quite deserved that award, but it was an enjoyable story nonetheless.
Note: I received this book from Blogging For Books in exchange for an honest review. AND…I have an extra copy to give away!
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