BOOK REVIEW: Dark Eden by Chris Beckett and signing

Beckett delivers an engaging read with great characters and a good concept that draws you in.

You live on Dark Eden with the starry swirl above in the sky, while you wait for Earth to rescue you and the five hundred odd members of your family.

You have been taught to stay put, so it will be easy to be found, but the snowy dark that surrounds the light giving trees and animals that fill valley helps keep you and your extended sisters and brothers, all descendants of one couple who were stranded when the three companions lifted off to try for Earth and rescue, alive.

You dream of the world of your ancestors, where the light and heat was everywhere and came from the sky, where horses and cars were ridden from place to place, where metal and electricity made life easy, not one where the trees are what keeps you warm.

But the valley is getting full, food is harder to obtain, schooling for children has been abandoned in favour of having them scavenge for food. The matriarchal society you live in is showing cracks. Inbreeding has caused defects

One young man, dreams of leaving the valley, finding other places to live. But to do so he must break the commandments of the family. To leave the circle created to show where the landing vehicle had once stood, to not wait for rescue from earth. John Redlantern breaks the circle, breaks the family, the commandments to not kill another human and to keep in one place, and with a small group of followers he leaves the valley humans have always lived, braving the Snowy Dark with all its dangers, until he ultimately discovers the truth about Dark Eden.

Chris Beckett’s Dark Eden is a world in the dark, with no sun, wandering through the starry swirl, where geothermal trees transfer heat from deep in the earth, to valleys on the surface, and where complex life evolved and now lives and supports the tiny band of humans existing there in hope of rescue. While the concept may sound strange, it has been suggested that these worlds may exist in the dark, and that life could not just exist but thrive. Beckett describes how this life could support humans, and gives the possibility believable substance.

While I found the story line slow in places and also far too easy to put down in those stretches, the memory of what I read and my thinking of the plot revealed so far always made me soon pick it up to continue reading. The individuals in the book are very believable and cover a wide spectrum of humanity displayed in only a few hundred individuals. While their language has become limited due to their isolation and the lack of experience we take for granted in a modern world that is required for a large vocabulary, Beckett still successfully makes their conversations both expressive and understandable. The main characters are well fleshed, and could be your neighbour, relative, the man or woman in the street, work colleague or the school bully. The descriptions of the world they live in and the animals and plants that exist there bring the world alive. Dark Eden does not exactly mirror the story in Genesis, but moral stories are there and most will make you think.

Overall a good book and a good read, I give it four stars out of five.

Chris will be doing a reading from Dark Eden and signing books at WATERSTONE’S LIVERPOOL ONE on March 2nd, 6pm – 7.30pm. More information here.

Dark Eden is out now RRP: £18.99  ISBN: 9781848874633

Chris Beckett is a university lecturer living in Cambridge. He has written over 20 short stories, many of them originally published in Interzone and Asimov’s. In 2009 he won the Edge Hill Short Story competition for his collection of stories, The Turing Test.

Catch his blog here.
GS Reporter: Whatotherway, Montoya

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