Part of the job here at STORGY is that I have to read a tonne of books, everything from short story collections, to anthologies, to independently published fiction, to the great novels from the larger publishers – poetry sometimes, experimental the next… I read everything and everything.
Eden is one of those books that wraps its tendril like grip around the reader, slowly at first, but then before you know it you’re entombed in the wonderful story that Lebbon has crafted and there is no escape. Not since I read Jaws has a book had this effect on me – you see with Jaws I carried that book around with me as if it was a part of my body, an extension of a limb almost. Then at every available opportunity, whilst warming milk for my child, sorting out the laundry and preparing dinner, I’d drop into that world again, any fleeting moment I’d drop back in wanting desperately to find out what was going to happen, I just couldn’t tear myself away – and that is what Eden was like for me; it was all consuming and utterly beguiling.
It’s not just the fabulous prose that Lebbon has etched on the page, or the depth of his cast of characters – it’s the world building, totally immersive, insanely magical and beautiful; it’s not even the tension that moves at breakneck speed and pulls you under like a passenger on a platform with a speeding train – above everything it is the world building that Lebbon has painstakingly created that ensnares you into Eden and the effect it has on the reader.
‘Scientists. That’s as pure as you can get, and it still surprises me people went for it. Governments, big business, just leaving these vast swathes of land to return to nature. Sure, it had to be done. Maybe in time they’ll become the lungs of the world. I guess they’re our apology to the planet.’
There has been a tremendous amount of what is now being labeled as eco-horror (its got it’s own name so that just goes to show you) of late; but does that surprise you? Horror has always been on the front foot when it comes to relaying the horrors of this world to its readers. And what is happening to the planet, to the environment and to nature was sure to feature at some point – but where Eden propels itself above the pack is in the perfect and seamless blend of eco-horror with a full on adventure story. Eden takes into account the gravity of our current situation whilst centering the story in the vastness of these Virgin Zones and humanities decline – it’s these elements that sets the enormity of what Lebbon has created into motion – there is no turning back; strap yourselves in for the ride – we are going into Eden.
Earth’s rising oceans contain enormous islands of refuse, the Amazon rainforest is all but destroyed, and countless species edge towards extinction. Humanity’s last hope to save the planet lies within The Virgin Zones, thirteen vast areas of land off-limits to people and given back to nature.
As well as having a wonderfully crafted world for this adventure / science fiction / dystopian / eco-horror story; Lebbon has not scrimped on his cast of characters that he’s thrown into the mix – with his clandestine team of adventure racers. Lebbon has a large group of characters to work with but never does this task become cumbersome or that any of these characters end up being lost within the plot – each one has a part to play and Eden will claim every last one of them.
What I loved about this group of characters is that they each have a story arch, each one of them has something they need, want, desire or fear; and this turns this book on its head and keeps the reader engaged from start to finish. They may be entering Eden – a place that is dangerous and where fear lurks behind every tree, under every placed foot or snapped twig – but what I loved about it is they all bring their own fears and anxieties into the mix too. They have a history and Lebbon excels in bringing this out into the open bit-by-bit; building the story and layering on the tension as the tale unfolds – it’s masterful in its execution and a true joy to behold. Eden is a place to fear, where evil lurks and stalks and snaps and bites – so prepare for the journey and get ready to be forever changed!
‘Jenn’s body thrummed with life, and her sore knee, aching feet, and chafed shoulders from her backpack straps confirmed her existence. She opened her mouth to take in some rain. She was used to the tang of humankind in rain, that metallic, burnt taste condensed from an atmosphere redolent with centuries of pollution. She often thought it was the waters of the world that were cursed to carry the ghosts of humanity’s abuse, from the giant islands of plastic waste drifting far out at sea, to the increasing acidic content of rivers and lakes. The taste of contaminated rain was a reminder of what they were doing to the world.’
The tone of Lebbon’s writing is a full on thrill ride – it’s all killer and no filler, much like his thrill seeking cast. The novel moves at a breakneck speed, but this doesn’t mean that the depth of the book is compromised with so much going on; the themes such as loss, grief, fear, belonging, and the ecological thematic issues are all give the time by Lebbon to develop, mutate, simmer and bleed into and out of the book.
When thinking about the book, I can’t think of a book I’ve read in recent history that speaks more about the hear and now as much as Eden.
Eden could be seen as a possibly warning to the reader, a premonition, or an echo of a time to come if we don’t change our ways. Lebbon should be championed for writing such a fabulous, believable near future dystopia which incorporates the environmental issues of our current climes. Eden is a rich expose on the harm we are doing to the world and shows us in blinding clarity what happens when the world (nature) decides to fight back!
Eden is gripping; tense, beguiling and above all unputdownable. Eco-horror has never had it so good and it doesn’t get any better than Lebbon’s Eden!
Eden is published by Titan Books and is available here.
Tim Lebbon is the New York Times bestselling author of Coldbrook, The Silence, and the Relics trilogy. He has also written many successful movie novelizations and tie-ins for Alien and Firefly. Tim has won three British Fantasy Awards, a Bram Stoker Award, a Shocker, a Tombstone and been a finalist for the International Horror Guild and World Fantasy Awards. The Silence is now a gripping Netflix movie starring Stanley Tucci and Kiernan Shipka.
Reviewed by Ross Jeffery
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