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Dark Eden Paperback – August 1, 2012


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Corvus (August 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848874642
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848874640
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 4.9 x 7.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (102 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,161,597 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.

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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 --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 18 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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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By she treads softly on March 31, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Dark Eden by Chris Beckett is a science fiction novel that creates a new world and initiates the start of a new series.

Dark Eden is a story of a group of stranded survivors generations removed from the event that left them behind. Currently the human Family on Eden number 532, but they all originated with Tommy and Angela. Now the descendants of these two are a motley group of rag tag humans whose incestuous inbreeding has left them plagued with genetic disorders. They are so far removed from Earth that any remnants of the culture and language have been deteriorating for years, leaving behind a strange mixture of old and the new in their evolved culture.

"It sounds dumb but all I could think of for a moment was that it was a Landing Veekle, one of those sky-boats with lights on them that brought Tommy and Angela and the Three Companions down to Eden from the starship Defiant. Well, we were always taught that it would happen sometime. The Three Companions had gone back to Earth for help. Something must have gone wrong, we knew, or the Earth people would have come long ago, but they had a thing with them called a Rayed Yo that could shout across sky, and another thing called a Computer that could remember things for itself."

The family clings to life by the landing sight of the original space ship that left their ancestors stranded despite the fact that resources to insure their survival are quickly dwindling and can no longer support their growing population. In an act of defiance and surety John Redlantern tries to force change and is exiled. John has supporters, including Gerry, Jeff, and Tina Spiketree. The society is matriarchal at the beginning, but the underpinnings of society are in flux and change is on the horizon.

Eden the world is dark.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By ephemeral on May 28, 2014
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I don't usually find books annoying. Sometimes they're good and sometimes they're bad, but I rarely get so irritated I want to throw the book out the window. Unfortunately, that's exactly what I wanted to do with Dark Eden after only 7 pages.

It has a few good points, most notably the intriguing flora and fauna the author dreamed up for the distant planet that serves as the book's setting. However, that cannot make up for the boring, unoriginal plot full of sci-fi cliches and excruciating dialogue. Apparently after 200 years away from the rest of civilization, language has devolved quite a bit. A typical sentence in this book would read something like this: It was cold cold and dark dark, but they weren't scared scared, only scared, because they knew the area well well well. Repeating words over and over again is not interesting or catchy or entertaining; it is annoying.

Add to that some truly disturbing sex scenes and a bunch of cardboard cutout characters, and you have a pretty bad book. Don't waste your time with it. I wish I hadn't.
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