Posted on | January 3, 2013 | No Comments
Dark Eden byChris Beckett starts off as a hybrid tale of an interstellar crash-landing on a sunless, alien world with a biosphere fueled by geothermal energy and a bunch of tropes familiar from the lost generation ship subgenre, with inbred tribes clinging to half-remembered bits of lore and history descending into legend. However, as it progresses, it becomes a lovely meditation on the nature of humanity, a sort of sociological thought experiment examining small, closed communities and their fear of the Other, the exploratory push into the unknown that drives us forward, as well as the inevitable conflict between the two.
The first-level story is interesting in itself, one you could almost read to children, provided they don’t mind the occasional outburst of more or less consensual sex or brutal, graphic violence, and of course, that they are not afraid of the dark. It is a bildungsroman following John Redlantern, a young hunter with a different mindset, and the band of rebels that slowly accrue around him from a stagnant pool of the five-hundred strong tribe of inbred descendants of a pair of survivors of an intergalactic jaunt that went belly-up.
However, there are a number of subtext threads to follow as the novel unravels, such as the almost metaphoric arc of growing from childhood, through teenage rebellion and impulsive idealism, disillusionment and finally acceptance, both at the individual and the societal level. However, far more engrossing for me was the overall atmosphere, the stifling pressure of the dark, confined world and the society our protagonists are part of, echoing so many characteristics and feelings I’ve experienced growing up in a small, self-absorbed town in a small, self-absorbed country.