Mother of Eden
By Chris Beckett
The sequel to the BSFA Award winning novel Dark Eden, this book returns us to the dark planet, fast forwarding the generations to a fractured and disparate society that has come to colonise many of Eden’s different landmasses.
Much of the themes hinted at in Dark Eden are developed here in the sequel and once again, Beckett’s portrayal of legacy and internal mythology makes for an epic game of Chinese whispers. In a way, this is a fusion of science fiction and fantasy, with the setting and plot devices employed more akin to the latter, but link clearly made to our Earth and the books being set in a possible space faring future.
With the passage of time, war and spread of settlements, the adventures of John, Jeff and Tina from the first book are now legends that sit alongside the first stories of how humans came to this world.
Mother of Eden is a reference to ‘Gela’ (Angela) the first woman and also to the holder of her ring, when Greenstone Johnson, heir to John Redlantern himself makes the choice for his ringwearer, conflicts old and new, start to surface.
This sequel is a change of scale. The first person narration and flipping of character perspectives chapter by chapter continues, but Beckett ranges far wider afield for his viewpoints, often making use of peripheral characters in key moments. This offers you an insight into the lives of a variety of different peoples, but trades away some of the constraint and cabin fever of the previous novel. Chapters are much shorter as many perspectives are little more than witness moments to an event. Joe Abercrombie used a similar device in The Heroes at key moments of the battle and whilst it was unusual, this allows us to see how others see our main players. We’re getting into patchwork epic territory and this makes for a different kind of novel. In the hands of a lesser writer, the multitude of character voices might become difficult to maintain, but here, the plotting is clearly focused, with many of the perspectives coming from this, rather than the story and characters unfolding together.
With diversity we have a greater opportunity for characters to be used as agents of discovery and change. Themes of social hierarchy, class privilege, monogamy and slavery are explored, as cultures clash over the different interpretations of their fractured history. It takes a little more time for the main characters to develop owing to these structural differences and some minor ones don’t develop beyond their use, but this does make the size of the tale that much larger.
Resolving the main plot a little way before the end is a conscious choice that echoes the structure of the book’s predecessor. The aftermath allows the main characters to explore the world of Eden a little more and certainly sets things up for more. There’s something a little like Marion Zimmer-Bradley’s Darkover to Beckett’s world in this way, where the previous stories have become legends to be twisted and interpreted with the reader’s nostalgia tickled by discovering the links. Towards the end you start to look for hints of what might be the threads picked up in a further book.
Mother of Eden is a strong sequel. The absence of the claustrophobic air Dark Eden had means it’s not quite the same hard and focused story, but the expansion and epic quality promises a lot for more stories set in this dystopian future.
Written on 4th June 2015 by Allen Stroud .