Beckett returns to Eden
Fiction: Mother of Eden, Chris Beckett, Publisher, hbk, 400 pages, €26.99
Picture living in a world where there is no sun or moon, just stars in the black sky. The only light and heat found here is produced by the plants, which take their energy from deep inside the planet's core. This is the planet of Eden and the setting for Mother of Eden, Chris Beckett's second book set on the planet following on from the Arthur C Clarke award-winning I. However, it is essentially a stand-alone book as the events take place some 200 years after the first book.
Beckett's Dark Eden dealt with the expansion of the human population from the valley where two marooned humans had begun populating the planet. Mother of Eden explores the repercussions of this break-up.
Two conflicting cultures and ideologies based on those who stayed and those who left are in a sort of cold war with each other. Thrown into this environment is Starlight Brooking, a beautiful, smart and adventurous young woman from a primitive tribe on an isolated island. Her small tribe has a unique ideology that will both serve her and lead her into danger.
Beckett creates a magical alien world complete with unusual plants and animals. His exploration of how the human society develops there makes this book stand out.
Of particular interest is how Beckett explores the use of ancient objects and various interpretations of the past to manipulate and control a society.
Starlight is a character who embodies change, her search for more and questioning of the status quo push the story along.
After she leaves her home, where equality and freedom are the norm, she has to push back against the sexist and misogynistic world she finds herself in. It is this female voice that makes this book refreshing.
Each chapter in the book is written in the first person, moving between different characters.
Beckett mainly chooses the female voice to move the story forward. This is perhaps a flaw as two of the main antagonists are male and seem two dimensional without their own viewpoint, so the plot follows a predictable path with very few surprises along the way.
For all Beckett's success in world-building, it's all a bit predictable. His pacing seems slow, as if he is padding out the story.
This may be because the book is developed from a shorter story called 'Gela's Ring'. Beckett doesn't seem to build on any potential suspense until near the end of the book.
Consequently, this is perhaps a book more suitable for a teen audience.
It is well-written, imaginative and thought-provoking with a simple plot and Beckett succeeds in creating a book that makes you look again at how our own society works.