I don't read a lot of science fiction, but I quickly became intrigued from the opening pages of Chris Beckett's award winning novel - Dark Eden. (It was the 2013 winner of The Arthur C. Clarke prize).
A runaway ship from Earth crashes on an unknown planet, along with the Orbit Police chasing them. Four men and one woman. Two of the five decide to stay on the planet they've named Eden, while the other three attempt to make it to Earth and send back help.
That was 163 years ago - and they're still waiting. All 532 people. They've lived and waited at the same landing spot, telling tales of the mother and father of their Family, fondling the few relics they have, acting out the past as they know it, and simply surviving. Because they believe that they will be rescued and taken to Earth - they just have to wait.
"We'll make a Circle of Stones here to show where Landing Veekle stood. That ways we'll always remember the place and know to stay here. And we'll tell our children and our children's children , they must always stay here, and wait, and be patient, and one waking Earth will come.'
But young John Redlantern believes there is more to this planet they call Eden, more over the snowy passes, more on the dark side, more than the small same life the Family has been living for so many years, more than waiting.......
Beckett's world building is imaginative. There is no sun on this planet, but the trees themselves provide the light. Alien creatures abound, but with some similarities to ones we know. His descriptions paint a vivid picture of an alien land.
The language initially annoyed me - for emphasis, the inhabitants repeat a word - 'sad sad' or 'pretty pretty'. Some phrases took a bit of deciphering as they are evolved from original Earth words or phrases, such as Lecky-Trikity. But I quickly caught on and was caught up in Beckett's imaginings of a society started from two individuals. Two that really didn't like each other.
What I really wanted to see was what was beyond and over the mountain and after The Dark. What would they find?
Beckett tells his story from the viewpoint of more than just John. There are three young protagonists. John is the driving force behind the changes, but he wasn't my favourite. I found myself much more drawn to gentle Jeff, a young 'clubfoot', who is quiet, thoughtful and inventive. Many other characters, old and young, have a voice and a chapter as well, giving alternative views on the life and times of The Family.
Beckett has created an imaginative tale of 'what if'. I enjoyed the exploration of Eden, the society of The Family and what might be. But I almost wanted to stop reading during the last bit of the book. Dark Eden is also a sad reminder of human nature and that history does indeed repeat itself.
A different read for me - one I enjoyed.