Wednesday, February 15, 2017
Review: Dark Eden
I wanted to like Dark Eden and I did initially. The repetition didn't put me off at first and then it became monotonous and then expected: good good, bad bad, and so on. Borrowing from George R. R. Martin and other authors who decide to tell their story through various characters by choosing to tell the story from a single point of view and picking up where the previous character left off is getting a bit dated, but did move the story forward, albeit from an often oppositional point of view.
What I found most interesting was the narrative that one man and one woman decided to populate a planet they had chosen to remain on by themselves and the only birth defects were hare lips (bat-faced) and clubfoot (clawfoot) deformities after generations over 163 years of breeding indiscriminately and frequently. The Family must stay together, which is the central theme challenged by one newhair (teenager 15 years old at the beginning of the story) who has deliberately killed a leopard instead of climbing a tree to get out of the leopard's way. John Redlantern is first lauded and awarded one day free of community chores and then hunted as his unorthodox behavior continues and is viewed as disruptive until he is finally hunted by a batfaced older Redlantern who has been denied slipping with any attractive female, especially the female he most desires, a Spiketree female who publicly and often spurns him for Juicy John Redlantern, a handsome newhair who is also the slipping (sexual) favorite of the Redlantern branch of the Family. For a group/branch leader such behavior is frowned upon because she was his surrogate mother, though not John's biological mother, and he was consider too young for slipping (sexual intercourse).
The evolution of Earth speak is charming, if confusing at times: veekle for vehicle, Secret Ree for secretary, and so forth. (I still cannot parse Strornry and any enlightenment is most welcome.)
Eden is dark except for the plant and animal adaptations of producing their own light and heat on this dark and nearly completely undisturbed and unexplored planet and all long for the Earth they have been told about but never seen with its brilliant light from above as bright as a Whitelantern tree's interior. The Family members, the generations of Angela and Tommy's progeny, a black woman and a white man, have stayed where the Landing vehicle (veekle) arrived and took off from with the three men, two fugitives and one policeman sent from Earth to bring them back after they stole the galactic cruiser, Defiant, to go joy riding because one of the thieves was listening to Jesus instructing him to take the Defiant and fly off into the vastness of space to explore and find new worlds, according to the story handed down by the Oldest (blind and infirm oldest of the Family) every Any Virsiry (anniversary) 365 wakings (days) from the previous annual recitation and re-enactment of Tommy and Angela's story.
That generations of Tommy and Angela's offspring have remained in the same vicinity for nearly 200 years is as surprising as it taking that long for some curious youth to ask questions and demand answers as to why they have to stay in that exact spot while the resources dwindle and the Family go hungry when there must be more places to explore and settle down. It is not mentioned, but their continued inbreeding from the same shallow genetic pool would continue breeding the same defects, clubbed feet and hair lips, often with continued and increasing defects until they breed themselves out of existence.
It is unfortunate that it took Chris Beckett 2/3 of the narrative to get to the point and then raced through the last 1/3 of the book to wrap it all up with the ending I suspected at the beginning. That was a bit of a let down in the end, though there is room enough for more, vastly more. An interesting book with too many repetitions and far too little development after seemingly endless insight into John Redlantern's motives and actions. Beckett raced through what should have been the focus of the story instead of the rushed ending. 3/5 stars is the best I can give. Moderate execution of a treasure trove of possibilities. Better luck next time, Chris.