Dark Eden – Chris Beckett

About the Book

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.

Already remarkably acclaimed in the UK, 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–rendered in prose that is at once strikingly simple and stunningly inventive.

441 pages (paperback)
Published on April 1, 2014
Published by Broadway Books
Author’s webpage
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This book was sent for me to review by the publisher.

Dark Eden took two tries for me to get into it. It wasn’t the book, I think I just wasn’t in the mood (I’m a mood reader) for this kind of story the first few times. However, I recently gave it a go, and I couldn’t put it down.

The book is unlike anything I’ve read before, which really worked in its favor. Eden is a surreal planet that is captivating and absolutely unique, with a haunting beauty despite its eternal darkness. It’s a world where light comes from the plants growing on the planet, rather than from the sky like we are used to. The story goes, a hundred and some odd years ago a small group of people crashed their space plane (space ship… whatever) on this planet. A few decided to go back to earth and get help, bring people back, rescue those left behind. Those left behind, two people, started their own society.

The society left behind, known as Family (because they are all related and descended from those two original people), has lived the same way since those first people left. They live in the same area, in the same houses, with the same traditions, all in the hopes that someday Earth will come for them. They are completely stagnate, but so full of hope. It’s heartbreaking.

So, of course you get one visionary in the group, one person who sees that things aren’t working. Family is too big, food is scarce and getting harder to find. John, our visionary, is quite a young man, but don’t let that trick you into thinking this is a young adult book. This absolutely isn’t. People on Eden have to grow up pretty fast, and in every reasonable way, John is just as adult as I am.

Beckett uses multiple perspectives to tell his story. While most of the story is told from John, and his faithful friend Tina’s perspective, there are a few others in there as well. Beckett does a great job at keeping the personalities and voices distinct, which is something that many authors who use multiple first person perspectives struggle with.

It’s absolutely fascinating to see how this society has evolved over time, and how it has impacted language and the culture in general. Earth, after all this time, has turned into a sort of mystical land, and the understanding Family has of it borders on religious. It drives so many of their actions and interactions. When John challenges the status quo, it isn’t just the politics and social structure he is upsetting, but this near religious fervor these people feel for all things Earth, including their hope for getting back there.

The start of Dark Eden was fairly slow, but it managed to reach a rolling boil pretty quickly. And I should mention that that slow start is pretty important to setting the stage, explaining the cultures, and much of the unique qualities of the planet Eden. Once family separates, the book is impossible to put down. John and his group have to grow up very fast, and Beckett does a fantastic job of showing the personal and interpersonal challenges a visionary faces. John is a much more complex character than you’ll first anticipated.

Tina had the ability to see into the heart of the matter, and in many cases she keeps John balanced when his desire to always move on, on, on kept him from seeing a lot of the smaller details that made up the big picture. Jeff was perhaps my favorite character, a clubfoot boy who no one wanted to have with them. He ends up being the one who sees the truth of things, and figures out how to do many things which, in many ways, ends up saving John and his group. If I have one regret, it’s that I wish he had more stage time than he actually gets.

Dark Eden starts small, but quickly grows into something absolutely magnificent. Yes, this book took me a few tries to really get into, and for the life of me I can’t really figure out why (other than “I wasn’t in the mood). It blew me away. Beckett thought of everything. All the details I love so much are here, the world is one of the most unique worlds I’ve ever run across. The story is captivating, the characters are loveable, the writing is flawless.

Dark Eden is a book worth reading. In fact, I’m absolutely itching to get my hands on the next book in the series. I can’t stop thinking about it, and that probably says more than anything I’ve written in this review.

Bring on Mother of Eden.


5/5 stars



4 Responses

  • Walter OY

    Absolutely one of the greatest books I’ve read in the past few years and one of the biggest surprises. The atmosphere of the story stayed with me for a long while. I can’t wait to return to Eden.

  • This is the second review I’ve recently read talking about how great this is. I already own it, but it’s just sitting on my shelf. Guess it’s about time I opened it up.

  • Loved this book as well. How society evolved and how vocabulary and social customs and even history were impacted by their isolation is probably my favorite aspect of it

  • How on earth did this one manage to slip by me? Unless my memory’s failing me, I think this is the first I’ve heard of this book, and I’m surprised since you make it sound so very good! I’ll have to keep an eye out for it!

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