The novel Dark Eden by Chris Beckett, showing snowy mountains in the distance below a star-filled sky. Fireflies float in the foreground, rising up from a dark forest of bare trees.

Dark Eden by Chris Beckett

The Dark Eden Trilogy is undoubtably one of my favourite sci-fi series of all time. Over the next three weeks I’m going to post about the whole series, reflecting on why these haunting, thought-provoking books had such an impact on me. This week, we begin with the first book, Dark Eden, which was published in 2012 and went on to win the Arthur C Clarke Award.

On the sunless world of Eden, the members of Family have waited patiently for generations for the people of Earth to journey across the stars to rescue them. Family lives in Circle Valley, a small area surrounded by frozen lands that the people are afraid to cross. As resources in Circle Valley begin to dwindle and Family’s numbers grow, John Redlantern challenges the thinking of his elders and sets in motion a chain of events that changes things forever.

Dark Eden is in many ways an essay about humanity’s true nature and the characters Beckett creates reflect that. John is a complex and at times contradictory person, never content to settle for the status quo, seeking change regardless of the cost. The other central character is Tina Spiketree, who follows John despite her misgivings and in many ways understands him and the consequences of his actions better than he does. The story is also told from other viewpoints, helping to flesh out the relationships within Family and providing insight into the world in which they live. This attention to detail gives Beckett’s characters real depth, and I found myself sympathising with and relating to them even when I didn’t always agree with their actions.

Beckett also does a wonderful job bringing the world of Eden to life. This dark world is warmed by geothermal activity as it doesn’t orbit a star, the only other light coming from the faint glow of the wider galaxy and the bio-luminosity of creatures and plants. It’s a stunning creation and Beckett’s description of Eden has a hypnotic quality, drawing you in and making this twilight world completely believable.

Running through Dark Eden is a sense of sadness, loss and abandonment as the humans wonder why Earth hasn’t returned to rescue Family after all these years. The story of long-dead Angela and Tommy, the couple from whom everyone on Eden is descended, is deftly told. The members of Family cling to their history and the tales handed down from one generation to the next, without always understanding them. The reader’s wider perspective allows them to appreciate the true significance of those stories, meaning the reader sometimes understands more than the characters in the novel. Again, this adds depth and as I read the book, there were times when I wanted to reach out to John and Tina and tell them what I knew.

Dark Eden is a complex, multi-layered story that’s still resonating with me more than two years after finishing the book. It’s the kind of haunting tale that only science fiction would allow you to tell, and perfectly demonstrates the value and depth the genre brings to the wider literary scene. It’s a remarkable story and I honestly can’t recommend this book and the rest of the series highly enough.

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Author: Tim Hardie

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