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Audible Editor Reviews

Editors Select, May 2014 - It's been a long time since I've been this excited about a new sci-fi novel, and when I heard Chris Beckett’s Dark Eden had already made a splash in the UK – winning the 2013 Arthur C. Clark award for best novel - I knew I had to listen immediately. What I found was a fascinatingly original story set in a very unique world. Dark Eden is a sunless alien planet populated by strange creatures that was reminiscent to me of deep sea Earth. There lives the Family - the hundreds of direct descendants from the first humans to be marooned there ages ago. The Family never leaves their home in the forest, patiently waiting for the day when Earth will return to take them back home - until one day a young boy named John dares to wonder what's beyond the great expanse they call Snowy Dark. One of the most fascinating thing about this novel was Beckett’s use of language: the Family has evolved with an almost exclusively oral history, giving them a unique English dialect. This novel hit on all the aspects I love in a sci-fi story, including a beautifully imagined world, religious undertones, and complex politics. But at its heart this is a character-driven story about self-awareness and evolving as humans – making for a great listen for any fan of great fiction.

Publisher's Summary

On the alien, sunless planet they call Eden, the 532 members of the Family shelter beneath the light and warmth of the Forest's lantern trees. Beyond the Forest lie the mountains of the Snowy Dark and a cold so bitter and a night so profound that no man has ever crossed it.

The Oldest among the Family recount legends of a world where light came from the sky, where men and women made boats that could cross the stars. These ships brought us here, the Oldest say - and the Family must only wait for the travelers to return.

But young John Redlantern will break the laws of Eden, shatter the Family and change history. He will abandon the old ways, venture into the Dark…and discover the truth about their world.

Already remarkably acclaimed in the UK, Dark Eden is science fiction as literature; part parable, part powerful coming-of-age story, set in a truly original alien world of dark, sinister beauty--rendered in prose that is at once strikingly simple and stunningly inventive.

Reader List:

"John Redlantern" Read by Matthew Frow

"Tina Spiketree" Read by Jayne Entwistle

"Sue Redlantern" Read by Lone Butler

"Gerry Redlantern" Read by Robert Hook

"Gela Brooklyn" Read by Heather Wilds

"Mitch London" Read by Nicholas Guy Smith

"Carolyn Brooklyn" Read by Hannah Curtis

"Jeff Redlantern" Read by Bruce Mann

©2012 Chris Beckett (P)2014 Random House Audio

What the critics say

  • Winner of the 2013 Arthur C Clarke Award for the Best Science Fiction Novel of the Year

"A linguistic and imaginative tour de force." (The Guardian [UK])
"Captivating and haunting…human plight and alien planet are both superbly evoked." (Daily Mail [UK])
"Captivating and haunting…human plight and alien planet are both superbly evoked." (Daily Mail [UK])

What members say

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  • Mark
  • 2014-04-23

A Ripping Yarn

I don’t read a lot of fiction, and I can count the number of science fiction books I’ve read on the fingers of one hand, so I was quite curious to see how much I would enjoy Dark Eden. The answer was ‘a lot’. Forgive me if I don’t know the genre well enough to judge whether this is truly a good example of sci-fi, but I loved it.

The story takes place some time in the not too distant future, when humans are able to travel into distant space, but they still have some familiar old technology such as radio, television, electricity and police vehicles. We only know this secondhand, however, because we are told about this technology by ancestors of 3 earth colonists who crash landed there and then formed a ‘fee-amily’ of about 500 people by interbreeding with each other.

They have heard about radios and television, but never seen them for themselves.
They are very simple souls who live a hunter-gatherer existence living off the exotic flora and fauna of this dark planet. There is no sun, and the only light comes from trees and animals who generate it through their evolved 'lee-anterns’, supplemented by a little bit of starlight and the light from human fires. There is a high incidence of birth deformities in this community, such as hair-lip ('Bat Face') and claw-foot resulting, presumably, from the interbreeding.

They all believe in a kind of creation story about their ancestors, and harbour a quasi- religious belief that earth will one day return to Dark Eden to fetch them back, even though it is about 150 years since their ancestors landed there. In order not to miss being picked up by earthlings, they all feel obliged to stay close to the original landing spot in a crater on the planet’s surface called ‘Circle Vee-ally’, even though the area has been over-hunted and food is growing too scarce to feed the growing Fee-amily.

But there is one character, John Red-Lee-Antern, who is different to all the rest. He doesn’t believe that the Fee-amily is destined to stay in this one small part of the planet waiting to be picked up. He wants to go on a dangerous trip over the top of ‘Snowy Dark’ in search of richer pastures. He has the courage and the vision to explore this unknown terrain, with exciting consequences for the rest of the story.

It is very appealing the way the fee-amily has evolved its own dialect and customs. They have become quite a primitive community, even though they are descended from advanced humans.

The characterisation and dialogue are very convincing and interesting. I found the book compelling from the beginning to the end and will now be keen to give sci-fi another go.

31 of 32 people found this review helpful

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  • L'Ara
  • 2014-04-18

A Masterpiece in Science Fiction and Fiction

I have just finished this wonderful book. The characters are so well delineated and described, and the tour de force is the special language so well performed by the numerous narrators/actors. It is easy to believe and shows in a simple yet very complex way so many things that we think about in profound moods: the role that gender plays in our decision making and the course of history, the "telephone game" way that oral history is passed forward through time, the ways that major incidents can be changed through lies and prejudices, biology and inbreeding, and more. The language that is created is infectious, both easy and hard to understand. I highly recommend this novel because it is thought provoking, and the journey it takes you on is both obvious and convoluted. It helped me to understand my life in some ways, and it took me into the "Family" and offshoots who brave a dark world in different ways through fear, pride, eloquence and deep character development. The narrators are spectacular compared to many books I've listened to. No one in the book is perfect, no one is too hard to understand either, and the interactions between the inhabitants of this Dark Eden are understandable, unpredictable and fascinating. The ending is a bit confusing, honestly, but perhaps opens us for a second book from Dark Eden?? A+++ book! Great read! I hope this is helpful to other readers. I couldn't put the book down. Was up all night listening! Enjoy:) and learn in a different way than most books are configured.

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

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  • Holly Mo
  • 2014-04-04

Hope to see a sequel soon

John Redlantern is done with simply waiting. He is one of more than 500 people stuck in a cycle that was intended to be temporary. They are all waiting for rescue, because their parents and grandparents have passed down a plan which was constructed by their ancestors, more than 100 years ago.

Generations ago, 5 earthlings crashed on a strange planet with no sun. Three left, they were to come back with help from earth; Tommy and Angela stayed behind, waiting for their rescue. They become the original parents to a colony of their descendants.

Years of inbreeding, combined with limited knowledge, have addled most of their minds and bodies, but not everyone. John and his friends are forward thinkers. This story is about those who dared to ask what if we are stuck here? Shouldn't we start to live as if we will never be rescued?

Written from several points of view, the story seamlessly allows the reader to understand where the characters stand, and how they developed into their current ways of thinking.

The ending could be final, but it gives hope for sequels!

21 of 22 people found this review helpful

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  • Texas Artist
  • 2014-04-08

Very well thought out story

Would you listen to Dark Eden again? Why?

No, because I rarely listen to novels twice. Self help book several times.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Jeff. Jeff was always asking the right questions, even if his group had no idea of what he was talking about. He saw animals not just as food, but as having personal lives of their own, with interests and purpose.

What about the narrators’s performance did you like?

It was a lot like listening to a play with all the different voices. Very interesting and gave the story an extra dimensions.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes, I could not put it down but listened to it in about two days time. This was so unusual that could not wait to see what would happen next. There is a bit in all of us that wonders what is on the other side of the mountain....this story took that idea to a new level. I hope there will be a second book to continue the journey.

Any additional comments?

All the characters were very believable as we heard the personal thoughts of each one, and saw the world from their unique perspective. The dialog was coherent with the type of language that might have evolved if no one corrected it for a few hundred years. In addition I loved the kids made up slang, which was fun and believable.

15 of 16 people found this review helpful

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  • Wilson
  • 2014-04-09

Couldn't buy into it.

I normally have a pretty easy time buying into a story, but this one just had too many things that broke my suspension of disbelief. Once I got used to the narrators (there are several to match the point of view of each chapter) I tried to get into the story. It was farfetched but I was willing to go with it. I just kept finding myself distracted and wondering whether or not people in that situation would act that way instead of wondering about the story or the characters. Generally I came to the conclusion, there were several things that are basic human nature, that would have happened long before in this world.

I also didn't think the story was very original. It's basically Lord of the Flies on another planet. I also really didn't care for most of the characters. It maybe because the story is told from several people's point of view that we never really get to know any of them, I'm not sure.

This obviously this was the start of a series but I won't be listening to the rest.
Save your time and listen to something else.



Here are few of the my problems with the plot:

You figure out the big surprise at the end pretty early into the story. The space ship ended up crashing back on the planet, no one from earth is coming and they are stuck on the planet forever. It was so obvious that when it happens I just thought it was just a sub plot put in for character development. But That's it, the story ends. I guess the author was going for a big dramatic Planet of Apes ending, but it just fizzled for me.

In the story we are supposed to believe in 160 years, no one has explored this planet beyond the one little valley they live in. No one has pushed building tools, boats or other things beyond the most basic, basic level. I get it was such a lush forest that no one really had to work for anything until the population grew but these people knew all about earths technology and didn't try to duplicate things as simple as the wheel.

Everyone sleeps with everyone and no one really cares. Yeah sure they are a little jealous but it's just accepted. No one even knows who the fathers of the children are. I understand in world with no diseases people may have lots of free love, but I couldn't buy there were no monogamous couples, no family units at all.

In a 160 years no one has killed another person.

In a 160 years no one has raped another person, even though the "Batface's" and "Clawfeet" men weren't popular with the women and didn't get to "Slip" like the other guys.

Then after 160 years of all of this going on one boy changes everything and within a couple years people start acting like people.

34 of 40 people found this review helpful

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  • D. Shaver
  • 2014-04-21

Thought it would end differently

Where does Dark Eden rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

After reading the summary.....I place a story in my mind and I kept waiting for it. I was pleasantly surprised that the story was completely different then I expected. I loved how the author developed the language and I found it really humorous at times. At first I found their repeating emotional words annoying but it became very endearing as the story developed. I will look forward to the next book.

Who was your favorite character and why?

John was my favorite character because of his restless curiosity. While he may seem arrogant to some readers I found him to be as interesting as watching an independent cat. Never sure if his next interest will cause chaos or we'll deserved excitement.

Which scene was your favorite?

My favorite scene is when Jeff is trying to train his first horse and he falls asleep cuddling with it.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

It was too long for one sitting but I hated to leave it for the next day.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • cristina
  • 2014-04-29

It was brilliant-brilliant

I absolutely loved this book. The story is absolutely great. So well thought-out -- the plot (don't want to give anything away), the details about "Eden" and how the characters interact with their planet. The depth of each of the characters! And yet, the story is about much more than just the story--it's about history and how we can interpret (and misinterpret) it, how it affects our's about religion,'s about leadership, society...about change.

I usually don't like books with multiple narrators, but they worked perfectly here. Each and every one was outstanding, especially the voice of John Redlantern.

The book does not need a sequel. I simply want one because I was so sorry to see it end. I noticed that the the copyright for the book was 2012 and the audiobook was 2014, so perhaps Chris Becket has been busy working a new one for the last couple of years! Whatever he writes, I will download. In Eden-speak, "It was clever-clever and I was sad-sad when it came to a close."

9 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • Kristi Michels Harris
  • 2016-12-17

Interesting, but forget lofty expectations

When I started the book, I was hoping for some deeper imagery: Biblical Eden turned on its head, hints of parable retold. I'm convinced using the name 'Eden' was the only tie to larger themes. This story follows a thread we have seen many many times, stifled society and a teenager wants more. It felt like it was a young adult novel dressed up and presented as a work of literary art. The culture presented in Eden was actually the most interesting part of the book to me, how inbreeding and oral history had shaped the society. Beckett did a great job of building a vocabulary scheme that illustrated the limitations of family, and this was fun in an audio book, but I suspect it would have annoyed me in print.
I really enjoyed the multiple first person narrative, but would have liked more from the others, instead of relying so heavily on John and Tina.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • josh
  • 2014-04-07


Would you consider the audio edition of Dark Eden to be better than the print version?

Absolutely, though I've never read the print version.

What did you like best about this story?

This is not just you regular old sci-fi book. It is a piece of literature, expertly written, and well narrated.

What does the narrators bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Most definitely the diversity of the characters, having multiple narrators helps to differentiate the characters so we can better relate to each one individually.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

One of the reasons this story is so great is that it runs you through the whole gambit of emotions, you laugh, your sad, happy, mad, proud, worried, excited and a whole host of others!

Any additional comments?

Cant Wait for the sequel, its to be released in print in England soon in 2014, lets hope audible gets it right away!

8 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Jeremy Gardner
  • 2015-12-31

Can I get my credit back?

No discernible plot? Check. Boring, undeveloped characters? Check. Crude and borderline perverted sexual content? Check. Faked Boston/ British accents and childish sound effects from the cast? Check. Yup seems about right. This is truly the worst book I have ever taken in to my brain. Lunacy not literature; imbecilic not insightful. Dear author Chris Beckett, I will see you in Eden because it sure felt like the depths of heck to me!

7 of 9 people found this review helpful