I read and reviewed Chris Beckett’s Dark Eden last fall. I thought it to be a superior sf novel and awaited the sequel with as much excitement as I can muster for sequels. So be warned about my comments on this book: I’m a skeptic on sequels.
Mother of Eden continues to look at human life on a world where everybody is descended from a single couple. Various human conflicts in the real world are extrapolated into the planet Eden. Instead of racism, people with genetic deformities are discriminated against, sometimes brutally. Instead of ethnic nation-states, people align with one of the two characters of the conflict from the previous book.
The protagonist, Starlight Brooking, suggests Cinderella or Princess Diana. She finds herself plucked from obscurity into a role that is something of a “people’s” princess, and even a bit of a religious figure.
That latter role intrigued me. Common people in this far kingdom love their new “mother.” They identify with her and they notice her awareness of their suffering. Unbeknownst to Starlight, people start experiencing healings of a miraculous nature. But this thread is left mostly unexplored. As the plot develops, Starlight becomes something of a Jesus figure, drawing favor from the 99%, as the 1% conspires to bring her down.
Powerful forces align against Starlight and her consort. She works to frustrate the plans of the various factions that have aligned against her. But unlike Cinderella, it’s not quite happily-ever-after.
This isn’t fluffy reading. Mr Beckett gives the reader protagonists with significant flaws who struggle with “real” world problems. This novel explores how one can cooperate with an unjust system, working from within to make changes while dodging dangerous plots. If the author is showing us his real beliefs, I’d say the man is a pessimist.
As for the writing, there is a significant lag about 60-75% of the way through the book. Mr Beckett didn’t tie together possible set-ups for plot resolution. Various pieces could have been assembled for a “happy” ending. But in retrospect, it was foolish of me to think this novel would end without betrayal and a narrative of great losses.
As for the science fiction element, that has faded from the first novel. 300 years after people landed on this sunless and grim world, the reader is given a portrait of human beings in a pre-technological society. The most advanced science here is smelting of metal.
The set-up for another in this series isn’t as obvious as it was for Dark Eden. I suppose the next novel, if any, could take off on any number of minor hanging threads.
Recommended, especially if one has read the first novel.