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.

I’m going to begin this review by saying I liked the book and the story because my review is going to be critical. I only read this because I had agreed to read and review the sequel, and wanted to read the first.

Several reviews referred to the “quaint” repetition of words by the characters in the book due to limited vocabulary. It was suggested that this is to show that the denizens of Eden have lost their Earth-speak over the generations. It’s annoying. For a book that’s very long, the repetition of words just makes me cringe. Each time I read one of the repeated words, the narrative broke, and I was pushed out of the story.

I did like some of the etymology of morphed words. “Veekle” instead of “vehicle,” etc. The fantasy names of the flora and fauna make sense from a simplistic view, but I wonder if the first “family” of humans from Earth wouldn’t have made a bigger effort to correct improper speech. It could be said that they were too worried about survival to focus on proper education, or that polymorphism had corrupted the speech, but we’re only talking four or five generations.

The blurb and the description tout this award and that award for the story. I’ve got news for publishers of science fiction: these don’t mean anything. Listing a bunch of awards the book has received only illustrates how little publishers understand about their readers.

I did like the mythology of the people of Dark Eden, but I wonder if a sample size of 532 subjects as a society over five generations is enough to establish a mythology and a similar way of life. Of course, I may just be overthinking it as a student of human behavior.

There is a lot to like in Dark Eden. There’s a lot to hate in Dark Eden. I think many of the high reviews and ratings are because it is different from the standard fare, but being different isn’t enough to catapult Dark Eden into five-star territory. I read it in two days, and it’s a solid four-star read.

Chris Beckett is a British social worker, university lecturer, and science fiction author. He has been a senior lecturer in social work at APU since 2000. He was a social worker for eight years and the manager of a children and families social work team for ten years. Beckett has authored or co-authored several textbooks and scholarly articles on social work. Beckett began writing SF short stories in 2005. His first SF novel, The Holy Machine, was published in 2007. He published his second novel in 2009, Marcher, based on a short story of the same name. Beckett comments on his official website: “Although I always wanted to be a writer, I did not deliberately set out to be a science fiction writer in particular. My stories are usually about my own life, things I see happening around me and things I struggle to make sense of. But, for some reason, they always end up being science fiction. I like the freedom it gives me to invent things and play with ideas. (If you going to make up the characters, why not make up the world as well?) It’s what works for me.”


About Mark Gardner

Mark Gardner lives in northern Arizona with his wife, three children and a pair of spoiled dogs. Mark holds a degrees in Computer Systems and Applications and Applied Human Behavior. View all posts by Mark Gardner

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