Series: Dark Eden #1
Published by Broadway Books on April 2014 (originally January 2012)
Genres: Adult Fiction, Science Fiction
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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.
On the sunless world of Eden, a small group of humans live among the warm, glowing trees and six-legged creatures. Several generations ago, a ship arrived on Eden by accident. After they tried to repair the damage, the crew decided to try to return to Earth, but two remained – Tommy and Angela, from which all of the 500-odd people in the world are descended from.
High infant mortality and a small population means that family members breed with whoever they choose, but not against anyone’s wishes. Congenital diseases and conditions are starting to become more frequent, such as cleft palates, club feet and some intellectual problems. They are also running out of food in Circle Valley, as the ruling council are reluctant to move away from the circle of stones marking the landing site of the original “Landing Veekle” so that the Earth will know where to find them when they return.
John Redlantern, a young family member, questions the belief that Earth will come to the rescue, realising that the group needs to investigate areas away from the valley to survive. Not everyone is interested in changing the way things are done, though.
I’m torn by this book. The world-building and descriptions are beautiful. There’s no huge info-dump at the start of the story, and yet we are thrust into a strange and alien world with its hot, glowing trees and strange six-legged creatures. The imagery is amazing and I can’t help feeling that this book would make an excellent movie or TV show purely based on the beautiful descriptions of Eden itself.
The language has progressed, which makes the reading a little tricky to start with, but once you’re used to it the story flows very well, if a little slowly. The oral tradition of storytelling has created some very interesting tales among the Family, including the legends of how they arrived on Eden and all the stories of Earth that the original Tommy and Angela told them.
The premise of the story is not a new one – members of society have been trying out new ways of doing things since time immemorial, sometimes damning themselves in the process. Questioning the way things are done is the basis for every progression made by society. The setting and situation in which this questioning in particular is done makes this story really amazing.
The main problem I have with Dark Eden is that the characters are quite flat. I didn’t really get attached to any of them so I couldn’t really find myself caring what happened to them all until close to the end when things were really heating up. John, especially, is very self-important. He knows that he is the only one in the group who can make the change work and he is determined to remain that way. His insistence on remaining aloof and separate from the others who chose to join him annoyed the hell out of me!
That said, I really did find this story a very interesting one. It ends with plenty more to tell – I’ll look forward to the second book, Mother of Eden, coming out later this year.