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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 18 January 2012
Eden is a planet without a sun. Instead, light is generated by Eden's humming trees and its strange animals. Scratching a living in one small area of the planet is a group of several hundred humans who are descended from two astronauts from Earth who settled on Eden approximately 160 years before. Five astronauts had landed but three left to try to make it back home. The remaining two, Tommy and Angela, stayed behind and in so doing became the mother and father, grandparents and great grandparents of every man, woman and child on Eden. Divided into different family groups, such as the Redlanterns, London and Brooklyn, the people wait for the astronauts to return and take them all back home to Earth. They have little but a shared mythology, a common memory handed down like Chinese whispers, to give them comfort. But as the years go by and no-one from earth has arrived, the youngsters, the New Hairs, led by John Redlantern, decide to turn an existence into a life.

Dark Eden is one of the most extraordinary novels I've read in quite a while. Almost immediately, the powers of Beckett's description and imagination have immersed the reader fully into this eerie, dark world which is both beautiful and menacing. Fierce leopards sing exquisitely before they strike, bats hang from trees with their arms folded, watching, bucks (like cattle) have lanterns growing on their heads. But the humans fare less well. Generations of inbreeding have created people with `batfaces' and `clawfeet'. Many babies die, especially boys. Language has degenerated, adjectives have been lost - now something is `cold cold' or `hot hot' and life centres around the stories told by Eldest about Tommy and Angela, their journey from Earth and the objects they left behind, such as Car, Plane, Rayed Yo and Lecky-trickity. With such a blinkered outlook, with no ideas allowed to develop, the outlook for the Family is bleak.

Dark Eden tells the story of what is nothing less than a revolution from a variety of perspectives, including that of John Redlantern, Tina Spikehair and other members of the Family and it's an interesting mixed bunch of commentators. This allows us to see the full ramifications of what is happening and how the changes strike to the core of absolutely everyone. How they react to it and cope with it is extremely moving.

The universe of Dark Eden is remarkable and its wonders are complemented by the language, which expands as our troop of New Hairs explore beyond the boundaries of what is known. The names of objects and creatures are literally fantastic. The whole concept, this new distant Eden with its many parallels to the biblical Eden, is gobsmacking. It raises a host of questions about faith and the answers aren't necessarily pleasant.

My admiration for Chris Beckett is enormous. Dark Eden is a significant piece of science fiction. It is captivating but I also found it very disturbing. The fate of the characters and their lot in life troubled me. I was surprised by how involved I felt with these people and their drive for survival. Likewise with the story of the astronauts, which lies like a shadow across the novel. It will be interesting indeed to see where Chris Beckett will take us next.
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on 25 November 2017
Linguistically challenging at first as a result of the use of a kind of immature English patois (something like Russel Hoban’s ‘Riddley Walker’) but I soon got used to it and into the reasons for its deployment in one of the best sci-fi storylines I have ever had the pleasure of reading.
Imagine Lord of the Flies running generations long in in a superbly-imagined setting on a remote dark wandering planet beyond the edge of the galaxy where life evolves and is sustained by residual geothermal heat and alien bio-luminesce which the stranded humans find clever ways of using to help them survive against impossible odds. Within this setting the author skilfully deals with societal problems, religion, the genetics of in-breeding, and the essential rebelliousness of youth.
Very memorable. I’m sure I will read it again soon.
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on 21 December 2016
I'm not a huge fan of science fiction but do read it occasionally. This book was a good read and did leave me thinking about it.
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on 8 September 2015
I too, like other reviewers here, read the enthusiastic Guardian write-up (about the sequel) and went straight out and got it. And yes, it's OK, but I don't know why others are describing it as so unusual. If you read a lot of SF, this is a pretty run-of-the-mill concept. Four generations or so on, the descendants of marooned astronauts have formed a stone-age society on a dark planet, and this society is supposedly kept from changing by their traditional belief that someday earthmen will return to retrieve them. The planet is described well. But it is just not convincing that such a group would never have invented anything, or made any improvements on their material culture, until one day young John (the main protagonist) decides to change things. The premise and the resulting story make some pretty superficial assumptions about how cultures work, adapt, and drift. Sure, maybe they wouldn't get metallurgy back, but apparently they don't even have shoes or any kind of sleeved garments until our hero invents them - this despite the fact that we are told that pictures exist of the original astronauts wearing clothes, and these pictures are the prototypes used by John. No society is this stupid and simple. Hunter-gatherers typically generate complex arts and philosophical systems, and it only takes three generations to evolve a new language. The science as well as the anthropology is lacking - for example, they can eat some, not all, of the native animals and plants. I didn't mind the (really very few) linguistic quirks in the language as much as incidents such as the (repeated) motif of people who had grown up in darkness expressing their longing for the mother world bathed in light: well why would they? Hasn't Mr Benedict read Asimov's Nightfall, or for that matter Delany's Babel-17, or any other of a number of classics which deal with similar premises in much greater depth....? This is an easy read, more intriguing for non-SF readers. If you want SF with serious politics and anthroplogy, try Le Guin's The Dispossessed.
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on 10 April 2017
Dark Eden describes a culture born from ours, but one where time has turned technology into relics, stamped its mark on the language, and turned adult minds stagnant. People appear content to scrabble for survival in a world of dwindling resource, unwilling and unable to plan for any future.

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.
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on 20 September 2017
One of my favourite books ever. I love the entire series and I really hope there will be more. I love the world Chris has created in Dark Eden, and I can't get enough of it. At times it's frustrating, but only because it's so true of the way we actually behave. Just read it. Trust me on this... and thank me later.
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on 5 November 2015
It's a shame in a way this book comes with a science fiction label, because many people who don't read science fiction won't get to read what is actually a telling commentary on the human condition, and how Eden turns to something less sublime as the generations on this planet succeed each other. A really good read
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on 13 February 2012
This is a brilliant story. I won't go over the details, as that has been covered well already.

This is a great comibination of planetary exploration and future primitive on a planet that seems to be travelling in interstellar space outside any solar system. A spaceship crashes on a the world they call Eden, and their descendents stay in the area waiting for Earth to rescue them. Chris Beckett explains how life might survive, and creates a wonderful ecosystem for the humans to explore that is both alien yet believable.

On top of that, the book is an allegory about the introduction of evil in the world (it's called Dark Eden for a reason), and about how change is painful but necessary.

All the characters are strong, and you can understand their point of view even if you do not agree with what they are doing. The main protagonist John Redlantern is a complex and not entirely sympathetic character that shakes up the old system without any clear idea what to replace it with. The only one-note character is the 'baddie', but even here, you can understand how he had become so bitter.

Great book, it's only February but can see this will be one of my favourite reads of 2012
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on 8 September 2014
The underlying premise of the plot is interesting but its realisation is disappointing, because the style is unequal to the plot it has to carry. The adapted dialect soon grates because there is so much repetition of phrases . The repetition and the dialogue ultimately fail to convince and get in the way of enjoyment of the plot.The dialogue registers at sub Mad Max level.Chris Beckett might have got some insightful stylistic tips regarding the creation of a credible and powerful new dialect had he read Russell Hoban's "Riddley Walker" before embarking on "Dark Eden"
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on 14 November 2015
Fairly well written, but a very silly book.
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