* I received a copy of Mother of Eden for free in exchange for an honest review via Blogging for Books
Mother of Eden is the sequel to Chris Beckett’s Dark Eden (You can read my review of Dark Eden here). It takes place hundreds of years after the end of Dark Eden. Though it can arguably be read on its own, Mother of Eden makes the most sense in the context of a sequel.
The descendents of John Redlantern and his companions have spread over the planet of Eden. The population has become large and fractioned by their beliefs about what the original humans who crash landed on the planet had intended for the race. In particular, the whole planet is fixated on Mother Gela’s ring, long lost, or so they’ve been told.
Starlight Brooking is from Knee Tree. Her family is isolated. They live rustically, but are protected from the politics that has taken over much of Eden. But, Starlight wants more. She’s got a wicked case of wanderlust. On her one big adventure outside of her home, she gets caught up in a whirlwind romance. She leaves for a new area of the planet with new people, technology, and — could it be?– Gela’s ring. When she arrives at New Earth, Starlight finds that politics is a much more complicated beast than she could ever have imagined.
Mother of Eden has a lot going for it. It’s a thought piece on what may happen in a world where some groups of people are highly isolated, when gender stratified societies take hold and collide, and the relationships between mother, children, and power.
Some of the characters are interesting. The contrast between Starlight and her more content sister, Glitterfish, is interesting, and there were a number of complex side characters. The setup of the novel incorporates a wide variety of points of view. Beckett uses this to develop some of the characters very well.
The story uses a very particular linguistic style. This was used pretty successfully in the first novel. It was odd in this installation, however, that the language hadn’t developed in the years that were supposed to have passed. Additionally, it became increasingly difficult for the characters to have distinct voices. Their phrasing and colloquialisms are the same regardless of age, gender, or background. That was odd and made the story a bit muddled. What could have been strong character voices were weakened overall, with the few notable exceptions.
The story was interesting in a thought-provoking way, but the plot seemed secondary as opposed to complementary. The idea of a young woman from an equal, largely agrarian society being thrust into power in a world in which the women have been subjugated and the political structure oppresses the average citizen is interesting. The route she takes afterwards is similarly interesting. However, I found the story to be pretty straightforward overall. I had wanted a more complicated world and interactions that simply wasn’t there.
I enjoyed it, but there was room for improvement.
Title: Dark Eden
Author: Chris Beckett
Publication Date: April 2014
Genre: Science Fiction
Overview: John’s family lives in Eden, a dark, wild planet once visited by people from Earth. They’ve spent the last 150 years in the Circle Valley waiting for Earth to rescue them, living as hunter and gatherers in the same spot that their forefathers were abandoned in generations ago. But the valley is dying. There isn’t enough food and no one has left to find more. In a fit of frustration, John destroys the center of their home and departs for the Dark Place beyond the valley bringing with him a group of ragtag youths.
For Fans Of: William Golding, Orson Scott Card (circa 1985?)
World-Building: Eden is pretty interesting as far as settings. It’s a land where there is no external light source and where the animals are mostly six legged and have mandibles (feelers on a mammal would be called _______?) It’s human inhabitants are almost cult-like and it’s surprising that they have absolutely no modern knowledge–presumably their forefathers were stranded astronauts– and live primitively. I found the more interesting parts to be in the time spent outside of the Valley. The developments that John Redlantern and his friends come up with are relatively simplistic, but enable them to encounter some fun and scary creatures.
The culture I found a little unsettling at times if only for the sexual practices. Beckett is not graphic in any of this, but some of it gave me the creeps (i.e. John and the group leader)
Character Development: John is consistently self-centered. That wasn’t so bad except that he’s indulged through to the very end without any real consequences despite a number of instances that seemed to be foreshadowing otherwise. I liked Tina; she was probably the best character. I liked that she had to become responsible and didn’t shirk from it and I liked that she was realistic about the people around her. Beckett sets her up initially as someone who’s a bit vapid, but she doesn’t stay that way.
Plot: There’s no real plot or end to it. John’s screwed it all up royally and it kind of just ends with him running from his screw ups like he did the whole book long. That’s not to say it’s bad. It felt like the way to end it for him, but there wasn’t some overarching plot or purpose to his adventures. Don’t expect a real conclusion to them.
Notes: I received this copy from netgalley.com as an eARC. Dark Eden is an Arthur C. Clark award winner.
Book Depository Link: http://www.bookdepository.com/Dark-Eden-Chris-Beckett/9781848874640