In this third volume of the ‘Dark Eden’ saga, Chris Beckett continues the story of the lost colony that inhabits the orphan world of Eden, warmed and lit only by fluorescent flora powered by geothermal energy. ‘Daughter Of Eden’ continues on fairly shortly after ‘Mother Of Eden’, this time following as the main character, Angie, best friend of Starlight Brooking who was the main character in that book. Like the previous volumes, it is written in the first person, in the curiously limited vocabulary of their illiterate, uneducated world. Again, somehow Chris Beckett manages to tell a wonderful, nuanced, thought-provoking story despite the restrictions imposed by the vocabulary and the society he has devised.
At the start of the book, Angie witnesses the arrival of an invading force of Johnfolk from across the Deepdark Ocean. Armed with metal-tipped spears and arrows and wearing metal armour, the Johnfolk soldiers face barely any resistance from their traditional enemy, the Davidfolk. The tale of Angie’s flight from the invaders, along with the children and oldies of her group, is interspersed with the Story of her life since the conclusion of ‘Mother Of Eden’. Both narratives are entwined around the overall story that all Edenites follow and that forms the core of their beliefs: the story of their original parents, the stranded astronauts Tommy and Gela who featured in the original short story ‘Dark Eden’ and of their descendants, John and David who, in the novel ‘Dark Eden’, broke the Family into opposing factions. It is the two main groups’ interpretations of this story that continue to cause strife and bloodshed as this third book progresses.
In the flashback sections of the book, we follow Angie as she apprentices to Mary the Shadowspeaker, one who claims to speak for Mother Gela and to know the True Story. They travel around the Davidfolk grounds, counselling and helping and making sure the low folk stay in line with their purpose. They come up against the Secret Story, a heresy that is supposedly a secret message passed down by Gela to her female descendants. They also meet those who have sympathy for the Johnfolk version of the story and small groups who have left the very basic society altogether and live a nomadic life in the forest where they have developed their own myths. This fascinating tour of Eden showcases Chris Beckett’s marvellous skill of extrapolating a society from a very limited baseline and of understanding how people think and react. The lives of many Edenites is tragic and limited, but they believe their Story with a fervour and, from the first person viewpoint of Gela and we only get a taste of the pettiness and futility of much of what they believe and how it informs their societal structure. It is only as the invasion continues and events take on a grander scale in the ‘present’ sections of the book that Angie is forced to confront the smallness of her life and the precarious nature of their entire belief system. The contradicting opinions of who is right or wrong and how anybody could prove it either way among a virtually illiterate society with no written history provides some stark moments of incite and self-evaluation. Angie is a wonderfully character who questions her place in society, goes along with it out of duty, wants more for herself and her friends and, ultimately, appreciates that others, high people and low people, Shadowspeakers and guards alike, are all part of a story they have little control of.
There are many moving moments in this book, incidents of bravery and of despair, sudden realisations that shake the very foundations of Angie’s beliefs and that of the Edenites in general. There is also a fierce pride among these ‘savage’ people, a stoicism that brings a lump to the throat on more than one occasion.
This is apparently the final ‘Eden’ book, but I’m hoping Chris Beckett changes his mind. Eden is one the most fascinating and marvellous societies I have read about and would love to know what happens following the historic events of this book.
Gareth D Jones
(pub: Corvus/Atlantic Books. 400 page hardback. Price: £16.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-78239-239-2)
check out website: www.corvuspublishing.com/