By Chris Beckett
Paperback, 441 pages
2012, Broadway Books
John Redlantern lives on the planet of Eden with over 500 other members of Family. They are sheltered in the Forest under the light of the lantern trees, but beyond the safety of their home lies a planet cloaked in darkness – no sun to light the sky each day – and unknown territory that no one from Family has dared to brave. The Elders tell a story of how a spaceship landed on Eden over 100 years ago, leaving a couple stranded – but someday Earth will return to take it’s lost children home. But 15-year-old John begins to question the lore of Family and starts to explore the darkness beyond Forest – what he discovers will change the lives of every member of Family.
What I liked:
The cover! I will admit, this beautiful cover was shining in the lights of the bookstore and I just had to check it out. Being a sci-fi fan, the blurb intrigued me and I decided to take this baby home. I”m glad I did! This was a solid story, not only about teenagers (and some adults) breaking the “traditions” set before them and learning new things about themselves and their planet, but it was also a tale of group dynamics and how some people will go to great lengths to prevent change. I felt John was an excellent protagonist – he was brave and had a constant desire to learn new things and change the old ways of the group, but he also had his flaws. He was cocky (as 15-year-olds can be) and felt that his opinion was the only correct one and also had a hard time relying on others. While many times I felt that he was doing good things for the group, there were other times when I wanted to smack him, and I enjoyed that he wasn’t some “golden hero” type character.
I think the plot moved along at a good pace and the chapters did switch from John’s perspective to other character’s around him. This gave me a chance to really see how his decisions were affecting others, even those who were supporting him. It was nice to get a break from John’s point of view and I think it helped develop his character, as well as those around him. Watching how his decisions changed the life of everyone in Family was very interesting and really had me thinking about human nature. I also enjoyed the language Beckett created – the people of Eden used several Earth terms, but for items or ideas they haven’t really experienced, so they phrase them a bit differently. Eg: Any Virsry, lecky-trickity and the story of Hitler and Jesus where “Hitler yells at Jesus he’s going to kill all his group, the Juice.”
This book had some excellent quotes too:
“I just didn’t like the way that these people were allowed to take that old story and keep it for themselves and make it say what they wanted it to say.”
“What was the point of saying words if we didn’t know what they meant? We were like blind people pretending to see.”
“They need a story. They need to have something from the past to hold on to when they go forward into the future.”
I really don’t have any complaints about this book – it wasn’t mind-blowing, but it was a solid read and the chapters were short so I often found myself saying “just one more chapter” before bed and then suddenly I was done with the book!
If you’re a sci-fi fan, check this book out. I’m not 100% sure I would classify it as a young adult read, though most of the characters this book focuses on are teenagers.