Dark Eden (Eden, Book 1)
Atlantic Corvus (UK: 1st August 2012); Random House Broadway (US & CA: 1st April 2014)
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TRIGGER WARNINGS: Incest, ableism.
The US cover sparked my interest, and the setting of Eden includes flora and fauna of which some is colourful and some lights up. I’m not even kidding when I say that a character, not unlike Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, has a light-up nose that comes in very handy when trekking in the dark. Also, there are trees that provide heat. If anyone’s done any digital fan-art for this world I’d love to see it, because it reads as both magical and scientific.
Indeed, the location of Eden is the best part of the novel. Second to that is the “origin” story: How a man and a woman from Earth ended up stranded on this planet. They were never rescued, but their many generations of descendants have maintained hope and faith that one day more people from Earth will show. This origin story is more intriguing than the actual plot of the novel, though.
John Redlantern is exiled, but his friends join him to form a breakaway group. As they journey to find a suitable space to settle, another generation is born, and a fascinating relic from the past is discovered.
There’s no getting around it: what began as two people on Eden grew many more generations because of incest. (The sex is often referred to as “slipping”, or asked as, “Wanna slide?”) And unlike the Foxworth/Dollangangers of Virginia Andrews’ novels, the incest in Eden results in birth defects for some, but not all: “Clawfoot” (which I think means club foot) and “batface” (maybe cleft palate). Also, there are developmental challenges. The novel is primarily narrated by John Redlantern and Tina Spiketree, both of fully able body and mind. There is ableism.
I don’t really like any of the characters, though their story and group dynamics are interesting. The incest and ableism prevents Dark Eden from being fully enjoyable, but I plan to read the upcoming sequel/companion, Mother of Eden.