Dark Eden: A Novel

( 6 )

Overview

On the alien, sunless planet they call Eden, the 532 members of the Family take 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 ...

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Dark Eden: A Novel

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Overview

On the alien, sunless planet they call Eden, the 532 members of the Family take 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.

Already remarkably acclaimed in the United Kingdom, Dark Eden is science fiction as literature: part parable, part powerful coming-of-age story, set in a truly original alien world of dark, sinister beauty and rendered in prose that is at once strikingly simple and stunningly inventive.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - N. K. Jemisin
…for the sort of readers who like their heroes retro and their world-building literally colorful, there's plenty here to intrigue and entrance.
Publishers Weekly
02/03/2014
On an alien world, the inbred descendants of a cop and a criminal grapple with their future, but predictability mars a solid concept. Teenager John Redlantern sees a future beyond waiting for voyagers from Earth to rescue the Family, but his battles against tradition and the elements lead to only minor losses, while technology is recreated too easily to be credible. Beckett (The Peacock Cloak) hews too closely to historical patterns, such as the change from communal matriarchy to aggressive territorial patriarchy. The use of multiple narrators is clever, as are creatures like singing leopards and the changes to English over generations, but it’s not enough. The ending just confirms what readers will have suspected from early on—the last in a long series of missed opportunities. Agent: Michael Carlisle, Inkwell Management. (Apr.)
From the Publisher
Winner of the 2013 Arthur C Clarke Award for the Best Science Fiction Novel of the Year

“A linguistic and imaginative tour de force.” The Guardian (UK)

“Captivating and haunting…human plight and alien planet are both superbly evoked.” Daily Mail (UK)

“A stunning novel and a beautiful evocation of a truly alien world.”  Sunday Times

“Dazzlingly inventive… superbly well paced and well written… packed with ideas.”  —Reader’s Digest

“Pure astonishment and pleasure, a storytelling ride full of brio and wonder.” Locus

Kirkus Reviews
2014-01-23
Like Daniel F. Galouye's Dark Universe or Jack Vance's The Blue World, Beckett's (The Peacock Cloak, 2013, etc.) newest is a story of survivors in an alien environment who have more or less forgotten their origins. Planet Eden has no sun. In its place are huge trees pumping hot water up from subterranean volcanic rivers, which power the ecology. Both flora and fauna make their own tiny lights (but why wouldn't they adapt to the perpetual dark by evolving different senses or capabilities?). Two humans, Tommy and Angela, were stranded here, and now, six generations later, have incestuously bred a large family plagued by genetic disorders, held together by a deteriorating law and oral culture, which remembers without understanding such terms as lecky-trickity and Rayed Yo. Family members long for the bright sun of Earth (but how would they know? All lights on Eden are dim and feeble) and, since they believe Tommy and Angela's three companions returned to Earth to bring help, cling to the spot where the Landing Veekle will touch down, even though the valley they inhabit is too small to accommodate the growing population and starvation looms. Young John Redlantern wonders what lies beyond the ice-covered mountains that confine the valley and attempts to persuade the family's female rulers that they must migrate or die. In a bold yet calculated act, he destroys the circle of stones that mark the landing spot and is exiled for his trouble. John, though, has his supporters, including love interest Tina Spiketree, Gerry (who follows John like a dog), and club-footed, highly intelligent Jeff. Thus the stage is set for a parting of ways, exploration, conflict, murder and the erasure of accepted truths. The narrative unfolds via several first-person accounts, which allows Beckett to develop a perspective on his archetypal main characters. Absorbing if often familiar, inventive and linguistically adept but less than fully satisfying—there's no climax, and a sequel seems assured. Despite all this, the book was extravagantly praised in Beckett's native U.K. Enjoyable but no blockbuster.
Library Journal
03/15/2014
Eden is a planet far from Earth where 500 or so humans, all descended from two stranded astronauts, live together in a community they call Family. They tell tales of their family's founding 163 years ago and try to keep traditions alive so that they will one day be rescued and returned to Earth. But a lot can happen in six generations, even among those who all share the same ancestors, and teenager John Redlantern thinks it is time for Family to change. VERDICT The worldbuilding is what sets this sf novel by award-winning British author Beckett (The Holy Machine; Marcher) apart. The linguistic drift of the isolated community, the unique environment of sunless Eden, and the social arrangements of Family are all fascinating. The main character is skillfully drawn, but the addition of other point-of-view chapters help round out the picture of a society in the midst of upheaval.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780804138680
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/1/2014
  • Pages: 448
  • Sales rank: 107,764
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

CHRIS BECKETT is a university lecturer living in Cambridge, England. His short stories have appeared in such publications as Interzone and Asimov’s Science Fiction and in numerous “year’s best” anthologies. In addition to the Arthur C. Clarke award for Dark Eden, he won the Edge Hill Prize, the UK’s premier award for short story collections, for his collection the Turing Test.

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Read an Excerpt

1

John Redlantern

Thud, thud, thud. Old Roger was banging a stick on our group log to get us up and out of our shelters.

"Wake up, you lazy newhairs. If you don't hurry up, the dip will be over before we even get there, and all the bucks will have gone back up Dark!"

Hmmph, hmmph, hmmph, went the trees all around us, pumping and pumping hot sap from under ground. Hmmmmmmm, went forest. And from over Peckhamway came the sound of axes from Batwing group. They were starting their wakings a couple of hours ahead of us, and they were already busy cutting down a tree.

"What?" grumbled my cousin Gerry, who slept in the same shelter as me. "I've only just got to sleep!"

His little brother Jeff propped himself up on one elbow. He didn't say anything, but watched with his big interested eyes as Gerry and I threw off our sleep skins, tied on our waistwraps, and grabbed our shoulder wraps and our spears.

"Get your arses out here, you lazy lot!" came David's angry spluttery voice. "Get your arses out fast fast before I come in and get you."

Gerry and me crawled out of our shelter. Sky was glass-black, Starry Swirl was above us, clear as a whitelantern in front of your face, and the air was cool cool as it is in a dip when there's no cloud between us and stars. Most of the grownups in the hunting party were gathered together already with spears and arrows and bows: David, Met, Old Roger, Lucy Lu . . . A bitter smell was wafting all around our clearing, and the smoke was lit up by the fire and the shining lanterntrees. Our group leader Bella and Gerry's mum, my kind ugly aunt Sue, were roasting bats for breakfast. They weren't coming with us, but they'd got up early to make sure we had everything we needed.

"Here you are, my dears," said Sue, giving me and Gerry half a bat each: one wing, one leg, one tiny little wizened hand.

Ugh! Bat! Gerry and me pulled faces as we chewed the gristly meat. It was bitter bitter, even though Sue had sweetened it with toasted stumpcandy. But that was what the hunting party was all about. We were having bat for breakfast because our group hadn't managed to find better meat in forest round Family, so now we were going to try our luck further away, over in Peckham Hills, where woollybucks came down during dips from up on Snowy Dark.

"We won't walk up Cold Path to meet them," said Roger, "we'll go up round the side of it, up Monkey Path, and then meet Cold Path at the top of the trees."

Whack! David hit me across the bum with the butt of his big heavy spear and laughed.

"Wakey, wakey, Johnny boy!"

I looked into his ugly batface--it was one of the worst batfaces in Family: it looked like he had a whole extra jagged mouth where his nose should be--but I couldn't think of anything to say. There was no fun in the man. He'd hit you hard for no reason, and then laugh like he'd made a joke.

But just then a bunch of Spiketree newhairs arrived in our clearing with their spears and bows, walking along the trampled path that linked our group to theirs on its way to Greatpool.

"Hey there, Redlanterns!" they called out. "Aren't you ready yet?"

Bella had agreed with their group leader Liz that some of them could come along with us and take a share of the kill. They were the group next to us Redlanterns in Family and, for the present, they were keeping the same wakings and sleepings as us, which made it easy for us to do things together with them (easier than with, say, London group, who were having their dinner when we were just waking up).

I noticed Tina was among them: Tina Spiketree, who cut her hair with an oyster...

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Reading Group Guide

1. How have the origins of Eden shaped the society it has become? 

2. Why has it been mainly women who have run things in Eden up to the time of the story and why are men taking over in the world of Dark Eden?  Is this what happened in the history of Earth?   

3. The first woman on Eden was faced with the choice of (a) attempting a return to Earth that would almost certainly end in death or (b) remaining on Eden with a man she didn’t know well and was not sure that she liked.  What would you have done, faced with this choice? 

4. Why did Angela pass on the Secret Story to her daughters?  Why not also to her son? 

5. What is your sense of the relationship between the original couple on Eden?  How is it remembered by the people of Eden?  How has it affected the development of Family generations on? 

6. The third generation on Eden could only exist if the second generation committed incest: what kind of consequences did this have, genetic and social? 

7. How do you think language would develop in a society that began as this one did? 

8. How would time be experienced in a world with no day and no night, no year and no seasons? 

9. Did John Redlantern do the right thing?  If not, who had the better idea? 

10. John is a leader, as is David, but so are Caroline Brooklyn (the Family Head), David, Mehmet, Bella, and, in a way, Tina and Jeff as well.  Who would be their counterparts in the contemporary world?    

11. Do you have to be an egotist to be a leader?  What is John’s motivation for wanting to break away from Family? 

12. Is John Redlantern a hero or a menace?  Is he a Moses or a Cain? 

13. How might the belief system of Eden evolve in future generations?  What is the book’s view of the way that belief systems evolve over generations, and do you agree with it? 

14. What does the future hold for Eden at the end of the book?  Has progress been made?  Could things have taken a different or better course? 

15. What are the parallels and differences between this Eden story and the original biblical one? 

16. The story is told primarily by John and Tina, but also by several other narrators.  What are the advantages and disadvantages of telling a story in this way? 

17. Could life really evolve on a planet without a sun? 

18. The relationship between the present, the past, and the future is important in this book.  What does it say about how we deal with the past? 

19. The author of this book is a professional social worker.  Do you see any reflection of that background in the way the book is written? 

20. As in Tolkein’s famous trilogy, a ring is very powerful in this story.  What are the similarities and differences between the roles of the two rings? 

21. The author has identified William Golding’s Lord of the Flies as an influence on this book, as well as Russell Hoban’s Riddley Walker.  What are the similarities and differences? 

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 6 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 28, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    I don't read a lot of science fiction, but I quickly became intr

    I don't read a lot of science fiction, but I quickly became intrigued from the opening pages of Chris Beckett's award winning novel - Dark Eden. (It was the 2013 winner of The Arthur C. Clarke prize).

    A runaway ship from Earth crashes on an unknown planet, along with the Orbit Police chasing them. Four men and one woman. Two of the five decide to stay on the planet they've named Eden, while the other three attempt to make it to Earth and send back help.

    That was 163 years ago - and they're still waiting. All 532 people. They've lived and waited at the same landing spot, telling tales of the mother and father of their Family, fondling the few relics they have, acting out the past as they know it, and simply surviving. Because they believe that they will be rescued and taken to Earth - they just have to wait.

    "We'll make a Circle of Stones here to show where Landing Veekle stood. That ways we'll always remember the place and know to stay here. And we'll tell our children and our children's children , they must always stay here, and wait, and be patient, and one waking Earth will come.'

    But young John Redlantern believes there is more to this planet they call Eden, more over the snowy passes, more on the dark side, more than the small same life the Family has been living for so many years, more than waiting.......

    Beckett's world building is imaginative. There is no sun on this planet, but the trees themselves provide the light. Alien creatures abound, but with some similarities to ones we know. His descriptions paint a vivid picture of an alien land.

    The language initially annoyed me - for emphasis, the inhabitants repeat a word - 'sad sad' or 'pretty pretty'. Some phrases took a bit of deciphering as they are evolved from original Earth words or phrases, such as Lecky-Trikity. But I quickly caught on and was caught up in Beckett's imaginings of a society started from two individuals. Two that really didn't like each other.

    What I really wanted to see was what was beyond and over the mountain and after The Dark. What would they find?

    Beckett tells his story from the viewpoint of more than just John. There are three young protagonists. John is the driving force behind the changes, but he wasn't my favourite. I found myself much more drawn to gentle Jeff, a young 'clubfoot', who is quiet, thoughtful and inventive. Many other characters, old and young, have a voice and a chapter as well, giving alternative views on the life and times of The Family.

    Beckett has created an imaginative tale of 'what if'. I enjoyed the exploration of Eden, the society of The Family and what might be. But I almost wanted to stop reading during the last bit of the book. Dark Eden is also a sad reminder of human nature and that history does indeed repeat itself.

    A different read for me - one I enjoyed.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 13, 2014

    Review Dark Eden By Christ Beckett I was given this free book f

    Review Dark Eden By Christ Beckett

    I was given this free book from Blogging for books, and inclined to say thank you.
    But on that note, I didn’t finish this book because just 40 pages in it because wildly inappropriate. I was looking for a good, pleasant read and got a dirty sci-fi world instead. He had everything right except the true meaning of a book. To enjoy it. I was thoroughly disgusted and am wondering why blogging for books would advertise this book at all.
    I would not recommend this to anyone. And I don’t plan on finishing it. It was a great idea, a great fantasy world. But the author ruined it.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 5, 2014

    The 532 inbred descendants of the original settlers of Eden  hud

    The 532 inbred descendants of the original settlers of Eden  huddle around the same spot where their predecessors landed
    generations ago. They must wait patiently, the stories say, so that Earth will come and take them home. Every day is the same –
    scavenge, hunt, and wait for their saviors to come. But John Redlantern, barely fifteen years old, is restless. He sees that food is
    running out in their small valley, and the residents are multiplying like rabbits. Soon there won’t be any food, or any space for anyone
     at all. Possessed with a drive to seek out a new, better home, John sets off events that change the face of Eden. He may not have
     meant to cause chaos, but he will not back down. Part sci-fi survival story, and part good old-fashioned pioneer story, Dark Eden
    will enthrall readers with it’s fascinating, sunless world and deeply flawed, but wholly human, characters.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 27, 2014

    Excellent Sci-Fi

    Slow start but builds to an interesting tale of the risks and rewards of exploration -- the things we give up and the things we gain, how new ideas are upsetting but enabling, and what makes human society both good and evil. I will definitely read a sequel.

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  • Posted April 15, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    I'm not quite sure where to start with this one- which is fittin

    I'm not quite sure where to start with this one- which is fitting, because that it hows I felt in the beginning of the novel... I wasn't sure what I thought of the novel. It did draw me in quickly, but as I kept on reading, I couldn't pin my feelings down. Dark Eden is strange, but I like strange and I think Beckett did strange well in this novel.
    Set in another world called Eden, we meet a cast of characters who all quickly demonstrate their purpose- not only within the book, but their purpose for being written. Each character pulls at a part of the human psyche or at a part of our social consciousness. They all serve a purpose- and while Beckett made some a bit more obvious than others, it was still quite clear that each character was a part of the collective whole of a human consciousness. Does that make sense? It does in my head, but- like the book- it may take a bit to wrap your head around when seeing it put to paper.
    Dark Eden is a beautifully built world- I have to say that I was astounded at how well Beckett crafted an alien world. Creating the images that he described was thought provoking and used my full imagination. I really had to think about a few of the creatures and a few of the landscaping components while reading. As you read on, you start to connect that all the pieces of Eden are evolved from pieces of Earth and you can start to spot the likeness between certain things. Here is where I normally would connect a piece or two... but I don't even want to match up any small connections, because I want you to read it and do it- it really is quite fun to see your own light bulb go off and make those evolutionary connections between ours world and Eden.
    Aside from character and setting development, the themes that come out in this novel are plentiful. We see gender roles, disabilities, social norms, free thinking, sexuality, and faith (among others) all brought to the surface while still meshing into the novel. I could see some heavy debates coming if a book group took on this novel. Some are challenged while others are just there. All the issues that come to a head would be fabulous to discuss- especially when put firmly into the setting of Eden and then contrasted against the realities of Earth. Again, I would throw some examples out there, but I seriously enjoyed the thought that went into reading this, so I'm saving that for you readers to enjoy on your own.
    Overall, this novel was intriguing. It held my attention and it was well thought out. You can tell that every move and every twist was well planned by Beckett- like chess- an analogy he often uses in the book itself. There were some parts that tripped me up, which held me back from giving this 4 stars. The language was a bit much to get used to- the repetition of words and the puzzling names for things- and while I understand it is part of the setting being in Eden, I still think it went a bit overboard at times. It was a bit of a stretch and felt forced. In an interview (you can find the Amazon author review here) Beckett defends his use of double adjectives and changes in language. I agree with him- to a point. As a reader, it just seemed to go a bit beyond what I felt was necessary to highlight the changes. Another thing that I struggled with was the science- I know this is science fiction but some of it seemed a bit far-fetched and didn't have any basis or background. I crave that when reading sci-fi, even if it is just a smidgen of real science.. and if there isn't any hard science added, I at least want some fake science tossed in to make it seem a bit more plausible. I'd say I was annoyed with the ending, but a sequel will be released, so I am retracting my ending-hate on the basis of a sequel which will tie those loose ends together!
    Those things aside, I did enjoy the novel. I think science fiction fans will like this one, but it would be a stretch for those who aren't into that genre- it feels like it would be a bit too far out of the comfort zone for some.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2014

    This book is essentially a retelling of Adam and Eve with a preh

    This book is essentially a retelling of Adam and Eve with a prehistoric undertone.
    As a history major, just the very idea of this book really pulled at my heart strings.
    If you love sci-fi, anthropology, and/or prehistory I think you will really like this book.
    I would really like to give this book a 4.5/4,75 rating.
     I found the majority of the book to be a little slow paced, but later in the book I found myself completely sucked in.
    By the end of the book I was so upset that it had ended and I wanted to know more about their past and their future!
     Because of this I find that the second book, Mother of Eden, is my most anticipated book!!

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