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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 ...
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.
“A stunning novel and a beautiful evocation of a truly alien world.” —Sunday Times
“Pure astonishment and pleasure, a storytelling ride full of brio and wonder.” —Locus
“Dazzlingly inventive… superbly well paced and well written… packed with ideas.” —Reader’s Digest
“Brilliantly imaginative…a superb entertainment, a happy combination of speculative and literary fiction. Not to be missed.” –Booklist (starred)
“A fantastic novel…Beckett has created a bizarre world of astounding imaginative vision, grounded by fundamental human conflicts.” –Shelf Awareness
“Riveting…a keenly imagined vision of the interaction between human nature and a truly alien world.” –BookPage
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 shell to make it stick up in little spikes.
“Everyone ready then?” Bella called. “Everyone got spears? Everyone got a warm shoulder wrap? Good. Off you go then. Go and get us some bucks, and leave us in peace to get on with things back here.”
We went out by a path that led through a big clump of flickering starflowers and then into Batwing. A whole bunch of Batwing grownups and newhairs were in their clearing banging away at a giant redlantern tree with their blackglass axes, working in the pink light of its flowers. We walked round the edge of their clearing to Family Fence, dragged away the branches at the opening, and went out into open forest. No more shelters and campfires ahead of us now: nothing but shining trees.
Hmmmph, hmmmph, hmmmph, went the trees. Hmmmmmm, went forest.
We walked for a waking under the light of the treelanterns, slashing down whatever birds and bats and fruit we could get as we went along, and finally stopped to rest at the big lump of rock called Lava Blob. Old Roger handed us out a gritty little seedcake each, made of ground-up starflower seeds, so we could have something in our bellies, and then we settled down with our backs against the rock, so we didn’t have to worry about leopards sneaking up behind us. There were lots of yellowlantern trees round there, which we didn’t get so much back in Family, and also yellow animals called hoppers that came bouncing out of forest on their back legs and wrung their four hands together while they looked at us with their big flat eyes and went Peep peep peep. But hoppers were no good to eat and their skins were no use either, so we just chucked stones at them to make them go away and let us sleep in peace.
When we woke up, Starry Swirl was still bright bright in sky. We ate a bit of dry cake and off we went again, under redlanterns and whitelanterns and spiketrees, with flutterbyes darting and glittering all round us and bats chasing the flutterbyes and trees going hmmph, hmmph, hmmph like always, until it all blurred together into that hmmmmmmmmm that was the background of our lives.
After a few miles we came to a small pool full of shiny wavyweed and all us newhairs took off our wraps and dived into the warm water for crabfish and oysters to eat. All the boys watched Tina Spiketree diving in, and they all thought how graceful she was with her long legs, and how smooth her skin was, and how much they wanted to slip with her. But when she came up she swam straight to me, and gave me a dying oyster with the bright pink light still shining out of it.
“You know what they say about oysters, don’t you, John?” she said.
Tom’s neck, she was pretty pretty, the prettiest in whole of Family. And she knew it well well.
In another couple of hours we reached the place where Peckham Hills began to rise up out of forest of Circle Valley, and started to climb up through them by Monkey Path, which isn’t really a path, but just a way we know through the trees. The trees carried on up the slopes—redlanterns and whitelanterns and scalding hot spiketrees—and there were flickering starflowers growing beneath them, just like in the rest of forest. Streams ran through them down from darkness and ice, heading toward Greatpool, still cold cold but already bright and glittering with life. And small creatures called monkeys jumped from tree to tree. They had little thin bodies, and six long arms with a hand on the end of each. Handsome Fox shot one with an arrow, and was pleased pleased with himself, even though they were all bones and sinews and only give a mouthful of meat, because they move fast and are hard to aim at with those big blotches on their skin that flash on and off as they swing among the lanternflowers.
As we climbed up it got colder. The starflowers disappeared, the trees became smaller, and there weren’t any monkeys any more, only the occasional smallbuck darting away through the trees. And then the trees stopped and we came out from the top edge of forest onto bare ground. Pretty soon, when we’d climbed above the height of those last few little trees, we could see whole of Circle Valley spread out below us—whole of Eden that we knew, with thousands and thousands of lanterns shining all the way from where we stood on Peckham Hills to Dark shadow of Blue Mountains away in the distance, and from Rockies over the left, with the red glow of Mount Snellins smouldering in middle, to the deep darkness over to our right that was Alps. And above all of it the huge spiral of Starry Swirl was still shining down.
Of course, with no trees to give off light with their lanternflowers or to warm the air with their trunks, it was dark dark up there—you could only just barely make things out in the starlight and the light from the edge of forest—and it was cold cold, specially on our feet. But us newhairs dared each other to run up as far as the snow. The ice felt like it was burning, it was so cold, and most kids took ten twenty steps, yelled and came running down again. But I took Gerry right up to the ridge of the hill and then, ignoring Old Roger yelling at us to come back, went far enough down the other side so that the others couldn’t see us.
“We’ve made our point now, haven’t we, John?” Gerry said, shivering. We only had waistwraps on, and buckskins round our shoulders, and our feet were hurting like they’d been skinned. “Shall we go back down to rest of them now?”
My cousin Gerry was about a wombtime younger than me—his dad was giving his mum a slip, in other words, about the time that I was born—and he was devoted to me, he thought I was wonderful, he’d do just about anything I asked.
“No, wait a minute. Wait a minute. Be quiet and listen.”
“Listen to what?”
“To the silence, you idiot.”
There was no hmmmmmmmm of forest, no hmmph, hmmph, hmmph of pumping trees, no starbirds going hoom, hoom, hoom in the distance, no flutterbyes flapping and flicking, no whoosh of diving bats. There was no sound at all except a quiet little tinkle of water all around us coming out from under the snow in hundreds of little streams. And it was dark dark. No tree-light up there. The only light came from Starry Swirl.
We could barely make out each other’s faces. It made me think about that place called Earth where Tommy and Angela first came from, way back in the beginning with the Three Companions, and where one waking we would all return, if only we stayed in the right place and were good good good. There were no lanterntrees back there on Earth, no glittery flutterbyes or shiny flowers, but they had a big big light that we don’t have at all. It came from a giant star. And it was so bright that it would burn out your eyes if you stared at it.
“When people talk about Earth,” I said to Gerry, “they always talk about that huge bright star, don’t they, and all the lovely light it must have given? But Earth turned round and round, didn’t it, and half the time it wasn’t facing the star at all but was dark dark, without lanterns or anything, only the light the Earth people made for themselves.”
“What are you talking about, John?” Gerry said, with his teeth chattering. “And why can’t we go back down again if you just want to talk?”
“I was thinking about that darkness. They called it Night, didn’t they? I’m just thinking that it must have been like this. What you get up here on Snowy Dark: it’s what they would have called Night.”
“Hey John!” Old Roger was calling from the far side of the ridge. “Hey Gerry!” He was scared we’d freeze to death or get lost or something up there.
“Better go back,” Gerry said.
“Let him stew a minute first.”
“But I’m freezing freezing, John.”
“Just one minute.”
“Okay, one minute,” said Gerry, “but that’s it.”
He actually counted it out on his pulse, one to sixty, the silly boy, and then he jumped up and we both climbed back over the ridge. Gerry went running straight down to the others, but I stood up there for a moment, partly to show I was my own man and didn’t go scurrying back for Old Roger or anyone, and partly to take in how things looked from up there on top of the ridge: the shining forest, with darkness all around it, and above everything the bright bright stars. That’s our home down there, I thought, that’s our whole world. It felt weird to be looking in on it from outside. And though in one way the bright forest stretching away down there seemed big big, in another way it seemed small small, that little shining place with the stars above it and darkness looking down on it from the mountains all around.
Back with the others, Gerry made a big thing about his freezing feet, asking some people to feel them and rub them, begging others to let him ride on their backs until he had warmed up, and generally hopping and skipping around like an idiot. That was how Gerry dealt with people. “I’m just a fool, I won’t hurt anyone,” that was his message. But I wasn’t like that. “I’m not a fool by any means,” was my message, “and don’t assume I won’t hurt you either.” I acted as if I didn’t feel the cold in my feet at all, and pretty soon they were so numb anyway that I really didn’t. I noticed Tina watching me and smiling, and I smiled back.
On we went, just below the snow and along the top edge of forest, where there was a bit of light from the trees, Old Roger grumbling and moaning about how newhairs had no respect any more and things were different from how they used to be.
“Old fool was scared he’d have to go back to Family and tell your mums he’d lost you,” said Tina. “He was thinking of the trouble he’d be in. No more slippy for Old Roger.”
“Like he gets it anyway,” said dark-eyed Fox, who my mum had told me once with a shrug was like as not my father. (But then another time she said it could have been Old Roger—he wasn’t quite such a fool once apparently—or maybe a pretty little newhair boy from London she once slipped with. I wished I knew, but lots of people didn’t know for sure who their dad was.)
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?
Posted April 28, 2014
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.
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Posted May 13, 2014
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.
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Posted May 5, 2014
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.
Posted April 27, 2014
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.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 15, 2014
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.
Posted April 12, 2014
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!!