The first few chapters of Dark Eden I was on the fence. The trees go ‘hmmmph hmmph’ like a million times. They don’t have the adjective ‘very’ so the characters say things like ‘it was good good’ or ‘sad sad SAD.’
As you can imagine that gets annoying annoying fast.
My grievances aside, I ended up really liking this story. It’s a nice departure from dystopian YA and twisted fairy tales, which I’ve been reading a bit too much of lately.
The story is set in Eden, a dark planet somewhere out in space. A couple hundred years ago, three men and a ship called Defiant left Earth’s perimeter and jumped through space, landing on Eden. Unexpectedly along for the ride were also two space police–Angela and Michael, who were trying to stop Defiant.
Though full of life, the planet has no sun, only plants and animals that give off light. Unsure that their damaged ship will even make it back to Earth, Angela decides to stay on Eden with one of the 3 men of Defiant (Tommy). They have several children, who have children, etc. until they’ve sired a family of 500+ really inbred folks.
About 200 years later, the Family is crowded into a small valley, running out of food to hunt, but determined to stay near where the original ‘landing veekle’ touched down in Eden. We learn the origin story of the Family through their conversations, internal thoughts, and their plays like ‘Angela’s Ring’ or, my personal favorite,’Hitler and the Jar Men Kill Jesus and the Juice.
John Redlantern, the main protagonist, is different from the rest of Family. He doesn’t want to live his life waiting on Earth to come and take him home. After killing a panther, he decides he will choose to do the hard things, not take the easy way. This decision sets off a chain of events that eventually tears the group apart, and pushes them to finally spread out across the planet.
Before John, the Family was primarily matriarchal, with a female Community Leader, and most of the ‘groups’ led by women. Once John begins to make changes and demands on the way things are done, it ushers in a time of innovation, but also violence and war.
The story is told from John’s POV, as well as his sometimes girlfriend Tina, and a few interjections by supporting characters. The story is engaging, and has enough mystery to keep it interesting. I thought the ending was a bit abrupt, but figured they’d pick up the storyline in the sequel. I’m a bit disappointed to see that the sequel jumps ahead hundreds of years, but I hope they’ll have flashbacks or something so I can find out what happens to John and Tina. I also found myself wanting to know more about Angela, Tommy, and the rest of the crew, and the Earth they came from. I think readers of the other Ender’s Game novels (like Speaker for the Dead) would also enjoy this.
One drawback though is that there weren’t any dinosaurs.