Mother of Eden
By Chris Beckett
ARC paperback, 468 pages
I received this book for free from LibraryThing in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. All opinions in this post are my own.
From the back of the book: Civilization has come to the alien, sunless planet its inhabitants call Eden. Just a few generations ago, the planet’s five hundred inhabitants huddled together in the light and warmth of the forest’s lanterntrees, afraid to venture out into the cold darkness around them. Now, humanity has spread across Eden. Blood has been spilled, battles have been fought, and two kingdoms have emerged. One emphasizes innovation, the other tradition, but both are sustained by violence and dominated by men – and both claim to be the favored children of Gela, the woman who came to Eden long ago on a boat that could cross the stars and became the mother of them all. When Starlight Brooking meets a handsome and powerful man from across Worldpool, she believes he will offer an outlet for her ambition and energy. But she has no idea that she will become a stand-in for Gela and no inkling that in the role thrust upon her, she will find herself at the center of a power struggle that threatens for forever alter Eden.
Once again, Beckett has drawn me into the dark world of Eden. Just thinking about Gela’s story – being stranded on an alien planet, praying for rescue and knowing it won’t come, then eventually starting a family that will turn out to populate the planet – gives me the creeps. In the first book, we saw John break away from the small community and their rigid rules and traditions. Now we get a look at the two main groups that were spawned after John left the Circle and broke up the community. Some groups have progressed more than others, developing better “technology” but also creating a social hierarchy that didn’t exist in previous generations.
I think what I found most interesting about this book (aside from the planet itself, with the darkness and latnerntrees and jewel bats and all other manner of strange flora and fauna) was the social development of the people of Eden. In John’s time, everyone was basically equal and decisions were shared among the group. Now a structure similar to our current society has emerged – somehow the men have positioned themselves as rulers and decided that women aren’t equal. They’ve also created different classes – “big” people and “little” people and the little must work for the big and are essentially poor and some are treated as slaves. There arises a debate regarding the true wishes of Mother Gela, as Teachers profess to know her wishes and intentions based on “barks” (books) they have written by John and his followers. Yet the Teachers are the only ones with access to this material, and are of the few people in the society who can read and write. However, any who question their teachings are punished severely.
Starlight comes from a small community that still values everyone as equal and makes group decisions about their simple lives – so she struggles to understand this new community. She and her husband begin to try to change his society and persuade people to have an open mind, but it’s a struggle – I won’t say much more about the plot, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that Starlight’s husband was open to her new ideas and supportive of the changes she wanted to make in his community. I think it would have been all too easy to make all the men in this book narrow-minded and controlling.
I can’t help but love the cover of this book – though I’m saddened the ARC didn’t have the shiny, holographic cover of the first novel. Rest assured, I will be buying a copy of the second book at some point.
I have a feeling a third book will be coming our way, and I certainly hope it does! I would recommend reading Dark Eden before Mother of Eden – however, I think you could treat Mother of Eden as a stand-alone novel, if necessary (not sure why this would be necessary but…). Again, this is a great series for sci-fi fans.