This is what science fiction is all about. In Dark Eden, Chris Beckett takes us to a strange and distant planet, where the descendants of two stranded humans have formed a small but rapidly growing society. The exotic setting, a world of darkness populated by bioluminescent plant and animal life, makes for a fascinating backdrop, but the heart of the story is what it means to be human.
The inbred family of humans huddles together, outgrowing the confines of their settlement, yet afraid to move. They follow the instructions left behind by their ancestors, Tommy and Angela, to stay in that particular spot until rescuers can arrive from Earth to save them. Tommy and Angela’s stories have evolved into a mythology, misunderstood and accepted without question.
Until John Redlantern, a teenage boy with a sharply curious mind and a leader’s vision, disrupts the traditions of his society and forces a change. As John Redlantern leads his tiny band of followers beyond the boundaries of the known world, it hit me that exactly this must have occurred time and again throughout human history–a leader, his followers, and a journey taken on faith, that there must be something else out there, that it must be better than wherever you are, that it’s worth risking lives to know the truth.
This novel ranks with The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell as one of my all-time favorite books that take you to an unfamiliar world only to show you an emotionally true and powerful glimpse of the human heart and human history.
Genre: Science fiction
Read it if: You like your sci-fi with an anthropological twist
Skip it if: You’re afraid of the dark
Movie-worthy: Yes, absolutely.