Dark and depressing science fiction in Dark Eden

edenDark Eden: A Novel by Chris Beckett
Published by Broadway Books on April 1st, 2014 (Science Fiction)*

My rating: False start (could not finish)

While I found the premise interesting, I discovered within the first hundred pages that this book is not for me.

Set on a sunless world, a planet colonized by people from Earth, centuries after the space travelers landed, the emphasis is on the gloom and the deep water-like creatures and plants that inhabit this world. The left-behind colonists have called it Eden. They call themselves the Family, and are grouped in communities called after places on Earth and species in their new environment. The young protagonist is approximately fifteen years old, and different. He is restless, impatient with the traditions of the Family, eager to explore more of their new world. He rejects the Family’s desire to sit still and try to survive in the place they expect their far-off rescuers to find them. Resources are dwindling, and yet the traditions and the people don’t change.

The culture was off-putting to me. Relationships are casual, there are no real strong ties between mother and child, or man and woman. Their relationships are predicated on the need to survive, and to pass on healthy genes. After hundreds of years, their gene pool has become severely limited, and some unattractive traits are prevalent. The language was crude, and distracting, with its double word emphasis (the world is dark dark, for example, the snow cold cold).

I understand the protagonist’s restlessness – I felt it, too, while I was reading the book. I felt as though I were reading the same short story over and over again – and it wasn’t a satisfying one. Perhaps this gives more strength to the point the author makes about Traditions vs. Change, and provides a foil for the protagonist’s desire to explore new things, ideas, and places.

In fact, I was interested in that aspect of the protagonist’s character, but I never found him sympathetic. He is callous, although insightful. His insight, however, was shared by one of the other narrators, a young girl who is also different. These two narrators stand out because they are different, they are self-possessed and curious. But I still didn’t like them. The switch in narration was almost seamless, with little distinction between voices. I wonder if this reflects the staleness of their society?

The world itself, without sun, without real hope of rescue from Earth, the stagnation of the society and the staleness of relationships made this book feel depressing. That is the main reason I won’t continue with this book. Although the protagonists do yearn for change, and do seem to be capable of making it happen, the book still depressed me.

*Review copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley

 

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