- Paperback: 448 pages
- Publisher: Broadway Books (2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780804138680
- ISBN-13: 978-0804138680
- ASIN: 0804138680
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Customer Reviews:
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #862,951 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Dark Eden Paperback – April 1, 2014
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors' picks, and more. Read it now
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Customers who viewed this item also viewed these digital items
Customers who bought this item also bought these digital items
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.
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
It's about a group that grew from a single couple stranded on a planet, so the story picks up several generations after the stranding.
I get that the author was trying to make a unique language and flavor for how far they had lost their civilization in the relatively short time. But it just never landed in an authentic voice for me. It always felt very forced.
The premise isn't too bad though. And if you can get beyond the way everything is said, it's slightly better than a mediocre story.
I'll probably eventually pick up the sequels to read. But I have a few others books that I'd rather go try, first.
One of the Family - Johnny Redlatern believes that the Family needs to move or else will face eventual starvation due to over-hunting.
What follows is the rest of the story.
I will continue on with this series. I thought the plot was original and it kept my interest.
The only reason I didn't give it 5 stars is that the language bothered me a little all the way through the book. Although it was interesting to try and deduce the origin of some of the words (you'll see what I mean if you read the book), the language involves repetition of some words. Sometimes they are repeated twice, sometimes 3 times and sometimes one repetition is italicized. I'm not sure what the purpose was for that device, but I found it distracting.
Top international reviews
However the main character is a boring bit of better-than-thou cardboard.
I did love the world. A dark planet where the only light and heat comes from underneath and up through the trees and plants. The animals were interesting yet very unvaried and similar: 6 arms and big black eyes. Where are the crazy spiders that live within the lava? Or the fireflies as bright as a sun? Or something? It all feels very safe in the alien forest.
The only thing I agree with John on is the want to explore.
Yet just as that might have been coming the book ends with the most unsatisfying ending I've ever read. This book was clearly meant as a taster to see if you want to read the rest of the series. It might have well ended in the middle of a sentence or even in the middle of a word. The story came to such a sudd
It sounds simple but two things that I loved, are the simple tellings of emotion and reason from the main characters' perspective, and the author's willingness to have first person narration in which every character tells us how the world is, and yet we see that every one is wrong, and across all of those we can put together our own truth. And the use of degenerated language to give those voices their own little bit of difference (although sadly this is incredibly erratic, some sections read like they're just any kid on the street in 2020)
In a world where the president of the USA can only manage to add emphasis by saying "bad", "very bad", "very very bad", it seems so much better and more natural to have these backsliding uneducated kids tell us that things are bad bad...
I loved Dark Eden, and I have a feeling I'll return to it over and over for many years.
This is a book full of clever ideas. The society that has been created seems believable based on the history and the way that communities work. Eventually, however, someone is going to challenge the norms and mythology and in this story John Redlantern raises together a group of young people who are prepared to travel away from the existing habitation and look to do something new. In doing so, they challenge many ideas of what is acceptable and other factions arise and challenge them.
I thought that the set up was good and I accepted that this is a possible society that could have grown up in the circumstances. I thought that the challenges to the community and what happened made sense. I didn't, however, really like John Redlantern or his ethos. I didn't admire his reasoning or some of the ways that he went about things. I did, whoever, like Tina Spikehair whose story is also part of the plot and I sympathised more with her. The fact that I didn't really like John or the way he worked spoiled my total enjoyment of this story but I will be interested to see where the author takes it next.
Dark Eden by: Chris Beckett
The progeny of of a couple stranded on a dark planet, has waited 163 years for rescue.They live in a small valley waiting for rescue from Earth, but now the family is over five hundred humans, some are genetically damaged from the incestual nesesity and life is hard for all and getting harder as the population grows and they resist departing from the place where they began and where they expect to be rescued.
The young are getting restless are are no longer listening. John Redlantern believes change is coming, change is needed but culture and belief oppose it. So the struggle begins, divisions and violations of the sacred, divide the family and new ideas shake the very foundations of Eden.
“To do my job, you had to wear a mask and hide your feelings, you had to choose carefully what you said and what you kept inside. People could see that, and it made them wonder what it was that you were holding back.” Dark Eden by: Chris Beckett
The planet has no sun, all life comes from geothermal processes and Biological thermodynamics, all light on its surface is created by bioluminescence, Full of fascinating details, like language deterioration, beautiful biological creations and cultural dilemmas, that make this a very beautiful trip to an alien environment with very human problems.
Yes it ends abruptly but it is the first part and the writer is not hiding it.
A very good read, that has complex characters and realistic scenarios of survival with minimal technology, and just the memories of a culture as a guidance for life.
Readers will want to know how people found themselves in this dark world, where cold seeps everywhere, even chilling the human spirit. There’s no mundane narration of the back story. The author depicts a piece of theatre, acting the ancient story out, showing how people stripped of technology strive to remember their past. What would have been a mundane rehash of events becomes a compelling, deeply moving scene.
Escape is down to the young, shown in convincing detail by Beckett, who refuse to accept the lack of future.
‘Dark Eden’ is an almost perfect piece of world building.
There are a couple of defining premises in the case of this novel.
One is that the characters are direct descendants of a single pair of astronauts (or rather one astronaut and one police officer), who were stranded on a distant planet 160 years earlier. The fact that they are all one big incestuous "Family" (with the effects of that incest clear in the physical deformities common among them) is central to the plot and one of the dominant themes of the novel.
Another is that this is a very alien world - one which has no sun, where more or less all of the light comes from the bioluminescence of the distinctive native flora and fauna.
There are some nice touches, such as the way in which stories about a couple of petty arguments between the original couple have been handed down the generations and are in the process of becoming sacred myths - but ones which have no point to them, and the vividness with which the alien world is portrayed.
But there are quite a few things which grate on the nerves too. It is told through first person narration by the main characters (alternating between chapters) who speak a sort of English, but one which has degenerated through lack of education and lack of contact with anyone outside this very small "Family".
Rather than go the full hog and write the whole novel in an invented dialect, Beckett opts for the "part-translation" technique, where the English is very clean and simple, so it is easy to understand, but is filled with lots of made-up words - some of them names for the local wildlife, some of them new words for old things (e.g. "slippy" instead of "sex", which is used a lot, and a number of linguistic tics are introduced.
One very heavily used device is to have his narrators repeat words for emphasis. This gets "annoying annoying" very "quickly quickly", and it goes on relentlessly, with several instances every page, right through to the end of the book. The deliberate simplicity of the sentences also grates a bit after a while, but not to the extent of making it unreadable.
It does, however, feel overlong. The story moves slowly, and it is fairly obvious throughout where it is going. This is not necessarily a problem in itself, but given how long the novel is, it does make it drag a bit.
The world is the familiar story book jungle with a strange alien weirdness to it. For a start the sky is dark and the trees and animals luminesce. The typical body plan is six legs and very large eyes, as one might expect on a dark planet. Metal is known but unavailable to the Family, they only have primitive technology despite folklore of the advanced tech.
The family is getting larger and has just over 500 members living a hunter gatherer existence. There are matrilineal groups within the family, and the people are classed developmentally. The inbreeding inherent in a population derived from two individuals has a level of genetic disorder, 'batface' and 'clawfoot' to use the vernacular of the book. This is played very well into the character interactions in the story.
The Family lack a lot of the hangups that we would have, but they have their own taboos which make sense in their environment. They also have a rich oral history and the vestiges of written records. There are also relics from the spaceship and the first people. In fact the oral history and stories from the first people resonate through the whole story and form much of the basis for the Family's society.
The regression from technology to hunter gatherer and the inability to produce mass written material has made their language evolve a little. It's easy enough to read, all the words in use are recognisably common English words. Some of the flora and fauna of Dark Eden are compound words, e.g. Whitelantern, woollybuck. Others have descriptive names, the slinker is like a giant millipede.
Another aspect is the names for people's ages is generally given in wombs. This is an easier and more meaningful counting system when there are no seasons, nor any other way to measure the passage of time. A day is referred to as a waking. The Family groups sleep in staggered shifts so that there are always people around.
The story itself is told from multiple points of view to show the reader the overall picture. Most of it is shown from two main characters though. John Redlantern is the main mover in it all, breaking the taboos and stirring things up. Tina Spiketree is the other primary character and she supports and moderates John to begin with. Both of them are newhairs of about 14 years old when the story starts.
I enjoyed the experience of Dark Eden as much as I liked the story. My only gripe with it was that the ending was a bit abrupt. I went forwards and back three times on the kindle app before realising that there was no error it was the end. While the conclusion is a good one it wrapped a little too fast.
Overall I would recommend this if you are interested in language, sociology, world building or just like a good story. It has all of those.
Wrong. This is the setting of this wonderfully thoughtful novel.
The descendants of our stranded space travellers have built up a society based around the idea that earth is coming to their rescue. But after over a hundred and fifty years is that really going to happen? John, a rebel with big ideas of change, knows that it's a stagnant society doomed to ultimate failure unless changes and progress are made. But who will listen to a pubescent troublemaker like John?
Apart from being an intimately recounted sci-fi tale Dark Eden is about rebellion, stagnation and the innate evils caused by the jealousy and pride we all harbour within ourselves.
I read this on my kindle and it felt a tad long winded but I was fascinated by the sociological aspects of their captive little universe. Ultimately, I found that I enjoyed the journey the author took me on. The first person perspective helped the reader to feel the aching sadness of their situation. An open-ended conclusion that could well mean a sequel. I'd say with the right media attention this intelligent novel could well become a classic. Highly recommended.
Underlying messages or not (maybe that's just me), it's a cracking read with characters that engage almost immediately so that you want to just keep turning the pages to see how the story develops. Unlike some reviewers, I didn't find the ending unsatisfying.
If you enjoyed this book I'm sure you'd also enjoy Non-Stop by Brian Aldiss. The jungle setting of Dark Eden certainly reminded me of Non-Stop, itself an excellent read.
I see that it has really polarised opinions. The strength of some of the negative reviews surprised me with some taking exception to the social/political scenario, while others could not get on with the style in which the tale is told.
The fact that so many enjoyed it so much goes to show how much preconceptions can profoundly influence opinions.
This book demands that you work with it and asks you to accept how being marooned in an alien environment may profoundly affect the human condition. If you can be forgiving enough, this book rewards tremendously.
My favorite writers are Jack Vance and Gene Wolfe so my expectations of the books I choose are high. In that spirit Dark Eden did not disappoint. So much so that I will buy the next Chris Beckett novel without checking out reviews first, and I hope the next one is a sequel to this.
Dark Eden is an easy-to-read, light-hearted exploration of human nature and behaviour regarding beliefs, traditions, ritual, religion, race, sexuality and rebellion. Some interesting parallels were drawn between the inhabitants of Darn Eden and humans here on earth, and I found myself chuckling out loud on numerous occasions. I also found, by the time I'd finished the book, that I was feeling 'cold cold' or 'tired tired' and had to prevent myself speaking in such a manner for fear of looking like a numpty.
Descriptions were good, characters a little predictable, prose reasonable, plot, again, a little predictable. Some imaginative ideas regarding the landscape and plant/animal-life on Eden made it more enjoyable than it might have been.
Firstly, this book took me far longer than usual to finish. The plot was intriguing; but also slow, cumbersome and repetitive. Not bad, just unnecessarily long. A hundred pages could have been cut from this book and the plot would have been helped, not hindered.
My second, and primary, issue with Dark Eden is the missed opportunities. As I have already said, Dark Eden has an excellent concept. Yet, from the first chapter it is possible to guess where the book is leading. And where is that? In fact, Dark Eden suddenly ends. It stops short of where it appears to be inevitably meandering towards. The finale is understated to the extent it left me rather frustrated.
All in all, Dark Eden is worth reading for no other reason than it is different. But it has as many weaknesses as it does strengths.