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Dark Eden: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

Chris Beckett
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (123 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $15.00
Kindle Price: $9.78
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Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

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.

Editorial Reviews 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

Product Details

  • File Size: 1627 KB
  • Print Length: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books (April 1, 2014)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00FO60AVO
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #135,610 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant. 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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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What happens when "we" become "us" and "them"? 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
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazingly Imaginative and Completely Compelling 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 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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By Han Jie
I was lucky enough to have seen Avatar in 3D at the cinema. I say ‘lucky’ because, despite the simplicity of the storyline, the visuals were truly a feast. There is one particular scene wherein the main character has just been rescued by a woman and she leads him back to her community. As darkness settles in, the jungle comes to bright neon life—the electric blue flowers, pink fronds, and yellow leaves literally vibrating in the air, creating an organic, hallucinatory experience impossible for the 2D screen to emulate. Relying on visual effect, Chris Beckett’s Dark Eden (Broadway Books) possesses this same stark contrast between darkness and color, but embeds the setting with a more intelligent story than James Cameron’s. Throwing down the gauntlet to society and its perspective on time, the novel is among the top sci-fi books published in 2012 (UK) and 2014 (US).

Dark Eden is the story of the descendants of the space ship Defiant. Like the Mayflower, the Defiant left Earth seeking freedom from oppression. But upon arriving on the planet Eden, new problems arose, forcing some of the crew to return to Earth and leave three behind to await rescue. Six generations later, the three have grown into a small community—genetically dysfunctional, but a community nonetheless calling themselves the Family. More than 500 people now live in Circle Forest—a piece of land that glows with neon life amidst the perpetual darkness of Eden. But population increase has not had a positive effect; times are getting harder and harder.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars fantastic adventure.
I checked this book out at my local library. This has got to be one of my new, favorite books now. The story is amazing and imo, I like to pair the adventures in this book with... Read more
Published 7 days ago by Joshua Kornmiller
3.0 out of 5 stars Good British author
I'm not a huge science fiction fan and only pick a few each year to read. This one was pretty good. Reminds me of Avatar and Lord of the Flies. Read more
Published 13 days ago by AMK
4.0 out of 5 stars Awkward grammar gave this book authenticity
I really enjoyed this book after a rough start. The grammar was awkward but really gave this book authenticity, and after I got used to it (the grammar) it fit the premise well. Read more
Published 15 days ago by Linda
5.0 out of 5 stars A terrific bummer.
I was able to become completely absorbed in Chris Beckett's world. I'm not going to lie though, it was a gradual process. The lingo/vocabulary was rough going at first. Read more
Published 16 days ago by J. GARRATT
5.0 out of 5 stars This fits wonderfully.
Exiting new world, well thought out story. There hold be a new scifi category called "speculative anthropology" or even a "speculative biology" category. Read more
Published 26 days ago by g cat
3.0 out of 5 stars I like my fiction to be a little more upbeat
premise was interesting, story showed all the dark sides of the human race..... I like my fiction to be a little more upbeat!!
Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars A "good good" view of humanity's struggle to survive
I found this book to be a well-crafted, engrossing study of the human condition. John Redlantern is on a quest for something new, outside his stifling existence. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Elizabeth
1.0 out of 5 stars Dark Eden: A Must Not Read
I have tried to make it through the first chapter of this book. Really, truly, I tried. I'm sure I will stir up some controversy in admitting that I don't want to read past the... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Jessica Tuckerman
3.0 out of 5 stars While I’ve heard nothing but fantastic things about Dark Eden by Chris...
While I’ve heard nothing but fantastic things about Dark Eden by Chris Beckett, I just could not get into this story. I read half of the book and continually lost interest. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Keeley Frank
4.0 out of 5 stars Refreshing and Inventive
This was pretty basic, not that that's a bad thing. I read it in one sitting and enjoyed it, and I'll pick up the next volume sometime in the future, I'm just not in a hurry about... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Kaitlin McGrath
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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

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

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