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Dark Eden Paperback – April 1, 2014

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books (April 1, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0804138680
  • ISBN-13: 978-0804138680
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (118 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #99,113 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

A Conversation with Chris Beckett, author of Dark Eden

Q. Dark Eden began as a short story. What attracted you to the “Adam and Eve in space” angle and a sunless planet as the setting?

A. What draws me (and a lot of people, I think) to science fiction as a form is that it allows you to do big thought experiments. I’m interested in how societies grow and change, and what better way of exploring that than starting again with just two people and trying to imagine what would happen?

I’m fairly sure I first got the idea of a sunless world from the antique computer on which I wrote the short story called “The Circle of Stones” (back in 1992). It was so antique that it had green letters on a black screen, the opposite to writing on paper, where the background is light and the writing is dark. I’m fairly certain this was the origin of the image in my mind of a sunless forest filled with luminous trees. When I started thinking about it, it had so many possibilities. How would such a world function? How would its life evolve? How would time be measured? The sunlessness of Eden also underlines the sense of loss that the people of Eden feel. Generations on, they long for the world their ancestors came from, where the sky was filled with light.

Q. How concerned are you about plausibility and scientific accuracy? Do you think the planet Eden could really exist?

A. I’m not a “hard” science fiction writer. I run with my own intuitions, and what seems to work from the point of view of the story.

That said, I want my worlds to feel plausible to the reader. It struck me as likely that there would be planets in space that were not attached to particular stars (and I’m pleased to say that science confirms my hunch: they do exist and are known as “rogue planets”). It seemed to be, too, that life could still evolve in the absence of a sun, provided that the planet still had a hot core. After all, on earth there are life forms that are solely powered by geothermal heat (entire geothermal ecosystems exist around deep ocean volcanic vents, far from the sun’s reach). There are also lakes underneath the ice in Antarctica, such as Lake Vostok, where the water is liquid because of the heat from below. I see life on Eden as having evolved in such places and then slowly transformed the world around it.

One little problem—it was first pointed out to me by a schoolboy when I was giving a talk!—is the question of how the human population of Eden obtains vitamin D, which of course on Earth we mainly obtain by synthesizing it in our skins using sunlight. I decided that, on Eden, there were sufficient dietary sources of the vitamin, but perhaps I was allowing myself a bit of poetic license here. I’m not sure how likely it is that all the nutrients that human beings require would be available in an alien diet. But then again, who knows? Perhaps for life to exist at all, it needs to have similar chemistry to our own?

Q. Many people comment on the language in Dark Eden, which is slightly different from English. What was your reason for this decision, and why did you change the language in the way you did?

A. I felt I needed to acknowledge that after 160 years without any contact with Earth, the language of Eden would have changed. The Adam and Eve figures—Tommy and Gela—came from Brooklyn, New York, and Peckham in South London, so the language would obviously still be English, but not exactly either American English or British English as we know them.

The people of Eden would have given new names to things that did not exist on Earth, but at first they would tend to name them after familiar things. A spotted predator is called a “leopard,” for instance, but its resemblance to leopards on Earth is pretty tenuous.

In the absence of days, nights, or years, they would have developed new ways of talking about time. They speak in terms of wakings and sleeps, and while they still have the concept of a “year,” it seems pretty arbitrary to them, and they often refer to “wombtimes” —the human gestation period— as a rough way of measuring longer times.

Words that they had no use for would be forgotten. When they first encounter an ocean, for instance, after many landlocked generations, they no longer remember the words “ocean” or “sea” and have to coin a new name.

Finally, the first generation born on Eden would have lived in a family where there were no adults but Mom and Dad. Parents with young children tend to lapse into baby talk a bit, I’ve noticed, even when the children aren’t present, and I felt that this might result in a permanent change to the language, in the absence of a wider adult world to draw the language back to its more “adult” form: hence the duplicated adjectives (“big big” instead of “very big”) and the tendency to drop direct articles.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Imagine a world called Eden populated by a mere 532 inhabitants, all descended from two common ancestors, Tommy and Angela, who came to the planet 163 years earlier by spaceship and stayed to populate a world. Imagine this, and you have the setting for British writer Beckett’s superb novel of speculative fiction. Its protagonist is 15-year-old John Redlantern, whose act of rebellion defies sacred tradition and changes his world forever, resulting in his being banished from his rudimentary hunter-gatherer community. He will be joined in exile by three young friends, and theirs becomes a compelling story of both survival and discovery. It is told in a number of distinctive first-person voices that beautifully define character and reveal the fact that Eden’s language has become corrupted; thus, anniversary becomes Any Virsry; radio, Rayed Yo; electricity, Lecky-trickity; and so forth. Beckett has done a brilliantly imaginative job of world building in both global concepts and quotidian details. The planet, for example, is sunless, the light being provided by trees and animals; leopards sing to their prey; time is measured in “wombtimes”—thus, John, 15, is 20 wombtimes old. None of these specifics gets in the way of a suspenseful, page-turning plot, however, and the book is a superb entertainment, a happy combination of speculative and literary fiction. And it is not to be missed. --Michael Cart

More About the Author

Chris Beckett was born in Oxford, England in 1955, and now lives in Cambridge, England. He has published three novels - Dark Eden, The Holy Machine and Marcher - and two short story collections: The Turing Test and The Peacock Cloak. He has been publishing short stories in the UK and the US, since 1990.

The Turing Test, won the Edge Hill Short Fiction Award in 2009, the UK's only national prize for single-author short-story collections. Dark Eden won the Arthur C. Clarke award in 2013.

More information about his writing can be found at www.chris-beckett.com

Chris Beckett's background is in social work and he has also written several text books on social work.

Customer Reviews

It is well written, with likable characters, and has a very good pace.
Amazon Customer
I found it difficult to feel much of anything except annoyance at any of the characters.
I will not give away any spoilers, but I will say that this is a great book.
Lynn Chatham

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Matthew DeBoer on September 24, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Going in to Dark Eden, I wasn't entirely sure what to expect. I had read the blurbs, and actually expected a gritty story of hardship and incest. What I got instead was an engaging, brilliantly well written tale of survival and the triumph of the human spirit, laden with subtle religious metaphor and critique. The characters are fleshed out in a very unique way, which some may find irritating at first, but really gives the reader a much broader perspective on the story. Truly a beautiful and engaging book. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Michael Lichter VINE VOICE on March 24, 2014
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Chris Beckett's Dark Eden is a complex and thoughtful novel about a tiny, isolated human colony struggling to survive on a strange, sunless world. Descended from a man and a woman stranded on "Eden" nearly two centuries ago, the colony has outgrown the local food supply. Held in place by tradition and the expectation of imminent rescue from Earth, "Family" elders refuse to even consider exploration beyond the bounds of the small valley that has sheltered them for generations. When young John Redlantern's stubbornly insists that something must be done, he earns exile for himself and several like-minded peers, creating a permanent split in "Family." And when "Family" turns into "us" and "them," Beckett implies, violence and death cannot be far behind.

Much has been made about how Beckett has twisted standard English to indicate the sort of drift we'd expect in a long-isolated community. I have very little patience for stories and novels written in dialect, and I want to reassure readers with similar dispositions that Beckett takes this no further than is necessary to get the point across. Instead of saying that a couple "slept" together, he says that they "slipped" together. He sometimes leaves out conjunctions, so that "two or three" becomes "two three," and sometimes uses repetition instead of intensifiers, so that "very big" becomes "big big," but that's about it. This is really not something to get excited about, either positively or negatively.

Much has also been made about Beckett's world-building skills as evidenced in the strangeness of Eden. Eden is a rogue planet, meaning that it orbits no star and therefore has no light or heat beyond what it generates itself.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Melissa's Eclectic Bookshelf on May 24, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
With amazingly written science fiction and deep underlying questions, Dark Eden easily crosses the divide between Genre fiction and Literary fiction.  Every aspect of this read simply blew me away.  The language is rich and deep...descriptive enough that I could feel myself completely immersed in this new Eden.  The characters are well developed and thoroughly interesting..I could not get enough of them or the back stories of the first settlers and how this small band of humans came to exist on such an inhospitable planet. The story and struggles of John Redlantern and all of the minor characters were full of  real depth and consequences...keeping me invested and reading long past my bedtime.

I was absolutely fascinated to see how Beckett drew this new world, how the language and customs had developed and declined over the 150+ years since the landing.  All the "new" words and terms may be daunting at first but they add so much texture to the world building that I fear the picture he paints would be incomplete without them.  Becket explores the way religion and story telling, tradition and ritual inform the society and how it develops while still keeping the reader completely engaged and waiting to see where this tale will next turn.

From one angle Dark Eden is pure YA Science Fiction...the coming of age story, the struggle to survive and to find ones place not only in this new world order but also within the hierarchy of society as it's developed.  This novel is so much more than that though.  Scratch the surface and we issues of societal decline, questions of gender roles, disabilities, sexuality and more.  I believe this book fully earns a place as literary fiction as well.

Beyond thought provoking...gritty, complex, amazingly imaginative and completely compelling...one of my favorite reads so far this year!

Note: Review copy rcvd from Publisher, but all thoughts and opinions are my own.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Krystal House on June 7, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Dark Eden by Chris Beckett tells the story of an alien, sunless planet called Eden and the 532 members of the Family who live within the Forest. The only source of light comes from plants and animals that have have evolved to emit heat and light, and beyond the Forest is the Snowy Dark, which no one has ever crossed in fear of its cold and bitter nights. The Family is content to stay within the safety and warmth of the Forest until one young man, John Redlantern changes everything. He and his friends abandon everything they have ever know to venture into the Dark. Dark Eden tells of their journey and how they discover the truth about their past and about their world.

Dark Eden is a strange and compelling novel and it has a lot of neat and unique concepts. One of the reasons I chose to review this book is because many of the reviews I read mentioned the book having unique language and being amazingly imaginative. Both of these facts are true. This novel really is beautifully written with rich language. In fact, there is a lot of vocabulary the reader has to learn along with the customs of this new world. It was actually quite fun to immerse myself in and learn about this new world. However, it was a little strange to me and I found it hard to get past that fact that so much emphasis was put into “slipping” which is the Eden term for sex. The characters in the book have sex whenever they want: young with young, young with old, etc. It was quite disturbing. When I requested to review this novel, I though I was getting a young adult novel, but I would never let a young adult read this book due to all the disturbing sex scenes apparent throughout. However, I would still have to say this book was extremely intriguing, original and imaginative and I would probably read the sequel if published.

Note: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Press in exchange for my honest review.
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