Daughter of Eden by Chris Beckett
Eden is one of those places that rarely come along, a world so beautifully crafted that despite it’s darkness, it illuminates your imagination. Knowing that we will not be returning as you open the final book in Chris Beckett’s Eden trilogy fills you with trepidation. The two previous books, set 400 years apart, followed the descendants of two astronauts stranded on a planet, alone outside our galaxy that has no sun, yet generates it’s own heat and the creatures and fauna on the planet their own light. So far, so Probe 7, Over and Out. Yet what Chris Beckett did with the first book, Dark Eden (my review), was to deconstruct English to a rather babyish pater. The family had stayed in the spot where their parents landed, waiting for Earth to return. John Redlantern breaks with this tradition and strikes out into the unexplored world, bringing death to the family. The fostered matriarchy dissolves as the violence increases and the family fractures, a patriarchy take firm hold over the world. In the second book, Mother of Eden, Beckett jumps forward 400 years to explore the world as it has evolved since John took his followers and left Circle Valley. The New Earth John creates strives for advancement and while the technology they have leaves the rest of the family behind, the methods seem awfully familiar. Slavery, exploitation and pollution run rampant in this new world. The stories that we know from the first book have evolved and become belief systems, the points of view from the breakup of Family very much reflecting the schisms of Christianity.
Where Mother of Eden (my review) followed Starlight Brooking to New Earth, Daughter of Eden explores the world she and John left behind through the eyes of her friend, Angie Redlantern. Angie was very much Starlight shadow. Whereas the beautiful Starlight shone and had her head in the clouds, the cleft palated Angie just took whatever reflected attention she could. With Starlight gone, Angie leaves the Knee Tree Grounds to become a Shadowspeaker under the tutelage of the compelling Mary. The tale Angie tells is split between the invasion of Mainground by the Johnfolk of New Earth and her travel years with Mary, where she starts to see the reality behind the beliefs, even if she doesn’t want to believe what she is seeing. The politics of the world and the chinese-whisper effect of the tales that they tell meld into something that is only to familiar to us. We see the implicit faith put into one side’s version of the truth and the effect that this has in the entrenching of feeling. That this novel arrived when it did the parallels are frighteningly clear. If you have read the previous novels, you know a good portion of the story that is being wound around Eden. The logical manipulation of it by the Johnfolk and Davidfolk is clear, as is the adherence to the norm that is created by it. Norm until everything changes back at Circle Valley.
Daughter of Eden is a tricky book to tell you about as it is that rarest of things for a finale, a good one. Beckett wraps up the story in a way you are not expecting and leaves you wanting it to continue, if only for a few more chapters. I really don’t want to spoil it as to experience this Eden is truly special experience. The use of language in the Eden books is a triumph, as is the way it evolves in it’s use by the various parts of The Family. The rhythms are so familiar that it helps broaden the darkened world we are visiting. And yet, the tale that slowly reveals itself on the page is so much more than the language our characters use. It is one we know only too well, what our beliefs drive us to do, for good and ill. We may look at the “True Story” and its variants on Eden and think ones we live with are more solid than those of the simple folk on the darkened planet. Yet in a world where the word “truth” is now prefixed by “post”, is anything more clear under the light of our yellow sun than by the light of the wavyweeds? The Eden trilogy is a brilliant piece of imaginative storytelling and Daughter of Eden closes the circle in the best possible way, by leaving just enough of a gap to allow our imaginations to stay on that beautiful dark world to wonder what happens next.
Daughter of Eden is published by Corvus and is out now. Amazon Link