Review: These Broken Stars

I’ll admit I was first drawn to this book by its cover. I mean, a girl with red hair floating in space in a gorgeous green dress, who wouldn’t be intrigued? I’m excited to announce that not only did this live up to my book cover first impression but also surpassed it by a mile! These Broken Stars  by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner is unique in several ways. Firstly, it’s co-authored! How cool is that? And what’s better – it works! I honestly couldn’t tell you where one author’s work ends and the other begins. I have no idea how they did it, but keep it up! Secondly, the narrator changes each chapter, so you have equal insight into Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen’s thoughts. Yay! Thirdly, the story primarily involves only these two characters almost the entire time. No, really, it’s not a bad thing.

If you couldn’t already tell by the cover, TBS is a YA sci-fi novel set some years in the future. Colonists have discovered other inhabitable planets and the galactical industry giant, LaRoux Industries has produced technology to help the colonization process (e.g. oxygenating the atmosphere, enhancing the rate of vegetation growth and establishing scientific research labs). Some reviewers have likened this story to the galactic version of Titanic, but I guess I never really saw this correlation while reading. Sure there are similarities, the ship crashes and there’s a love story, but the plot is significantly different (possible discovery of new life form and other paranormal anomalies).

“For a moment the image before us is frozen: our world, our lives, reduced to a handful broken stars half lost in uncharted space. Then it’s gone, the view swallowed by the hyperspace winds streaming past, blue-green auroras wiping the after-images away.

Until all that’s left is us”

The story begins with Tarver’s perspective (rightly so). He presents this new world to the reader with a level-head and surprising wisdom for someone so young. At only 18, Tarver is a war hero. However, the details regarding his bravery and courage are somewhat vague and never fully explained. Major Merendsen is an honored guest aboard the Icarus, doing his war hero victory tour. At first impression, one might write his character off as the typical masculine meat-head, but you’d be wrong. Tarver is a wonderfully complex character capable of passionate emotions. You’d think most war heroes would be cocky and welcome the spotlight, but Tarver is a reluctant poster boy. Tarver’s older brother was killed in action, which prompted his desire to join in order to honor his brother. However, being a war hero further separates Tarver from his grieving family. Coming from a poor family on a remote planet, Tarver is literally from the wrong side of the stars. Tarver reveals his mother is a well-recognized poet and his father is a humble school teacher. We learn he shares his mother’s appreciation of poetry and literature. This might seem quaint or trivial, but I really liked that he kept a journal. It shows his depth as a character and how intelligent he really is.

Lilac is the heiress to the LaRoux Industries empire. She is literally the wealthiest person in the galaxy. Upon first impression you want to roll your eyes, hard, at Lilac. She appears to be the vapid, spoiled daddy’s girl we all love to hate. However, this is where Kaufman and Spooner shine as authors. They are excellent at crafting characters and continue to develop them throughout the story. For the richest girl in the galaxy you’d think there’s not much Lilac can want. Well, that’s not the case. Even though Lilac is surrounded by a herd of friends, bodyguards and social climbers, she doesn’t really have a real relationship with anyone. Her father is pretty intense and sadistic. No man is good enough to be with his daughter and he makes would be suitors disappear for looking at Lilac wrong. I’ll admit, I didn’t really have much sympathy or respect for Lilac during the first third of the novel. It wasn’t until the crash did she reveal a hidden layer of herself. Lilac is somewhat of an amateur electrician/communications specialist. Lilac’s technological know how spares their escape pod from crashing with the rest of the ship, ultimately saving their lives. I love this about her! While she might not know anything about survival, she’s doesn’t turn into the typical worthless damsel in distress. True, there are a few damsel in distress moments, but Lilac can hold her own.

I really appreciated the fact that there was no insta love between Lilac and Tarver. Their relationship does go through the ringer: attraction, rejection, repulsion, trust, friendship and eventually love. Given they are the sole survivors on a foreign planet, I think they go through the appropriate struggles in their relationship before we see the fireworks. The progression felt natural and believable. And Kaufman and Spooner aren’t afraid to show some sex. If I was in a life threatening situation and I felt like I would die at weeks end, you bet I’d be seeking some pleasure. But just like everything with their relationship, the physical aspect isn’t rushed.

“And there it is, against all hope, like the sun peeking out from behind the clouds. The smallest hint of a smile.”

Even though Lilac and Tarver are the only characters for 80% of the novel, I wasn’t bothered by this at all. Some reviewers have criticized this decision, but there’s plenty of action and plot development to eradicate any doubts. Also, switching narrators every chapter breaks up any stagnant plot points and constantly increases the reader’s worldview. What I found really interesting about the story was after each chapter there was a continuous interrogation happening. I’ve never seen a similar literary device in young adult, and I felt like it really added to the sci-fi/paranormal storyline. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’m not going to speak about the paranormal aspects of the novel. However, it’s definitely unique!

In conclusion, I was delightfully surprised by These Broken Stars and give major props to the authors for a successful co-authored novel. The writing is brilliant, the characters are well developed and the storyline is unique and pure pleasure to read. I can’t wait to continue the “Starbound” series!


Would I read it again: Yes!
Will I read the next book: Absolutely!

a character polygamist_lc


Lit Lover Logic: Books as a reward

lit lover logicSo I’ve done it. I figured out a way to get my husband on board with me buying physical books. I think I’ve mentioned this before, but he has this kind of prejudice against hard copies.  He does not read, so he doesn’t really get it, but on the other hand, he doesn’t care if I buy e-books. That is actually preferred since it is typically cheaper.

So far, my method for getting my hands on a book is to check the library, and if it isn’t there, I try to wait it out until it is available or is for sale via Kindle on Amazon. I’ve started getting books from Netgalley and Edelweiss now, but that aside, I’ve never been one to really buy physical books. But I have always wanted pretty lined shelves.

Like I said before, I have discovered a way to get my books without the guilt-sneak-it-into-the-house purchase thing (I don’t want to be that person). I am using books as a reward for exercise.

That might sound lame, and oh it is, but I think it will work. I need to get my buns in gear and start getting fit again. Let’s just say the end of my college years were not kind to me (hello, beer. I like you now), and I never really bounced back.

So how will my mad plan work? I proposed that if I clocked four workouts at the gym per week, that I could buy a physical book. Some of you may be all psshhh, I do seven workouts a week, but I literally do one every three weeks, so motivation is huge for me. I just don’t enjoy going (I think others can sympathize with that) because I can think of a million other things I want to do (writing, reading, blogging). AND, I cannot read while on the elliptical or treadmill, too much movement makes it impossible. I’ve tried in vain many times because I am so jealous of people who can multitask like that.

The books are the little carrot in front of my nose that will get me in gear. I mean, if I stick to it,  I get four shiny books a month, in addition to becoming healthier. Four books?! I haven’t bought an actual book for myself in a loooong time (and the last time I did it was a writing guide, which is not the same).

I’m really pumped to challenge myself. Tonight I already made plans to do a spin class with a good friend who excels at regularly working out. Eek, I don’t know what I’m in for. Wish me luck!

book reviews by anne engelhart

So many questions I have for you! Do you buy books regularly? Can you read while working out? Do you use books as a reward for anything? Let me know what you think of my crazy endeavor!

Review: Burn Out and coining a new literary trope

Burn Out by Kristi Helvig review I was provided a copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley. In no way did I receive compensation for my review.

So, Burn Out. I had conflicting feelings for this YA scifi/thriller from Kristi Helvig. The first in a planned series, Burn Out is also Helvig’s debut book and came out on April 8. It has action, it has pseudo-science, and predominantly, it has a horny teenage protagonist at its core. While reading this I thought we’d get an installment of insta-love, and though that wasn’t exactly the case, there was instant sizzle-can’t-keep-our-hands-away-from-each-other attraction.  Despite the constant danger and treachery, our MC cannot focus because a boy looks so appealing. I’ve coined a new term to reflect this:

Distrattraction: noun \di-ˈstrə-ˈtrak-shən\
When a character(s) is so caught up in the physical and immediate appearance of another character that he/she is unable to use common sense while making decisions or trying to survive.

Example of Distrattraction in a sentence:
Tora should have watched out for herself while amongst a group of strangers who previously tried to kill her, but severe distrattraction was brought on by James’ fine abs.

Tora is Burn Out’s heroine, she is possibly the last girl on a dying Earth. The sun has been creeping closer and closer to the planet, drying everything out and burning anyone who steps foot on the surface without a special suit. Tora lives underground on a strictly reduced water supply, recycling her pee to stay alive (yes, seriously). Her father, before his death, invented a large quantity of weapons that work only when Tora touches them. Tora is given the opportunity to leave the planet by a gun-dealer named Markus, but she refuses due to principle, because these guns are really powerful and she does not want them to end up in the wrong hands. So, surprise surprise, Markus comes back with a gun-toting entourage that means to take Tora’s stash, with or without her. What follows is a confusing, but action-packed sequence of events on a dead planet.

I have to say right away that I gave this book a three, as in it was just okay. Partially because it amused me in one of those bad ways (eye-rolling commenced), but also because it was a super quick read. Honestly, you could never make a movie out of this book, because all it really amounts to is enough action for a TV episode. And a pilot at that, where the actors are not really filling in their characters fully. But it didn’t feel like a complete waste of my time. I enjoyed it despite myself.

I read in an interview that the author did do research for this book, and not just with Google. She actually worked with researchers on her story. Kudos for her, but I am not convinced the science all makes sense. Maybe it had something to do with the narrator being completely useless about how it worked:

“The space drive technology, something to do with the eleventh dimension, M-theory, and other crap I didn’t understand, could bend the space-time continuum.”

Riiight, that aside, I liked Tora up until she meets James, one of the rag-tag shooting buddies of Markus that has a deeper side. We are then also introduced to Britta, the only other female in this novel, who Tora completely hates and singles out as the worst. She gives her nicknames like, “Britta the bitch” and “Britta the twit,” yet has no ill words for the men who also shot at her. This senseless girl-hate determined that I would not be able to sympathize with Tora.

I believe a lesson in this story is supposed to be about trust and letting others in, but Tora, just don’t. She gets so sucked in by dream-boat James’ looks and general boy-ness that she let’s her guard way too far down. I’d like to think better on my sex than that we all turn to complete mush when we see slick muscles.

Overall, although it had a lot of faults in its main character, I did finish this book without being mad about it. The writing was good, and the story paced well. I kept reading without pause and that’s a true test of enjoyment for me. If you just gloss over the reasoning, the science and the fact that Tora needs to learn how to prioritize a hell of a lot better, there is action and suspense to enjoy. Plus an appearance from the last dog on earth, and you know I’m a sucker for canines. However, we are left on a total cliffhanger at the point when the story feels like it is really going somewhere. I think some added length would have been good this time around. Just less time focusing on James’ man flesh.

man flesh lotr

Looks like someone forgot to wear his sun suit outside

Would I read it again: Probably not
Will I read the next book: Quite possibly.

book review for Dark Eden by Chris Beckett

So, what do you think about my new term? Have you seen cases of distrattraction in books where characters become useless?

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish things I’d like to own


Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish where people who love lists and books can share their favorites based on a certain topic each week.

I am super excited for this week because we get the chance to gush over all the awesome bookish things we would like to own. Let’s face it, this list could go on forever! We hope you enjoy our picks and we can’t wait to read about yours!


1. Anne of Green Gables Infinity Scarf

I absolutely love Anne of Green Gables. It was something my aunts and I bonded over when I was younger, so every time I see the film I’m always reminded of them. I received the Pride & Prejudice scarf by Storiarts for my birthday last year and it was probably one of the best gifts ever! I get compliments on it all the time, and it really is a unique gift for the true Austen aficionado. Actually, Anne and I have the same scarf and were complete nerds and wore them to see a production of “Pride and Prejudice” at The Guthrie last summer.

2. Remington Typewriter

I’ve always wanted a vintage typewriter. And thanks to my lovely friend, Anne, I’m now learning about vintage typewriters with my monthly calendar! I admit I’m partial to the Remington design, but I haven’t quite landed on an era I like the best. This picture is of a 1920s Remington, and it looks awfully beautiful!

3. Book Nook

As long as there’s sun, a kitty, puppy, cozy bed, and plenty of books I’ll be happy!

4. Chaise lounge

I will have the most comfortable chaise lounge chair in my reading room one day. This isn’t the exact one I want, but when I find it, I don’t think I’ll leave that room for a week!

5. Feather pen set

I saw this at Barnes & Noble and thought it was super fun.


6. Jane Austen First Editions

Jane Austen First Editions Sense and Sensibility

7. Outdoor hammock bed
Hammock bed outdoor by polyvore

8. Literary embosser — personalized

literary embosser by horchow

9. Dachshund bookends

Daschund bookends

10. Book silhouette necklace

book stack silhouette


What do you think of our picks? What bookish items do you want in your life?

Stay-in-Bed Sampler: The quest for a new Kindle cover

stay in bed sampler kindle cover

This is our first Stay-in-Bed Sampler, where once each weekend Ashley or I will bring you a mixture of items we’ve been eyeing, or links we’ve been loving on the interwebs. This edition I’m talking about Kindle covers and some random links to love.

Earlier this week, the most horrific thing happened to me. My long-loved original Kindle with keyboard went and cracked itself up. I picked it up from the shelf where it was resting, and flipped the switch only to discover that its inner screen had shattered. I had used it a couple days before and it was fine. Googling the issue told me that this was not the first case of Kindle spontaneous combustion. So, of course I ordered a new Paperwhite right away. I have important reading to get to!

Here’s a look at some of the covers I thought were pretty neat to go along with my new eReader. All are from Etsy. I do believe I have a thing for gray.


1. Gray case by NUACA

2. Dr. Seuss by eKover

3. Read by SewitGirl

4. Lucky Cat by beesocks

5. Peacock feather by dobeeubags

6. Octopus by StudioPapilio

Interwebs links to love

Here’s a sampling of some of the stories and news I was reading this week!

  • Eleanor & Park to hit the big screen. It was announced that DreamWorks recently bought the rights to Rainbow Rowell’s YA novel. I haven’t read this one yet, but here’s hoping this adaption isn’t one of those unspeakable YA-books-to-movies failures.
  • In a decision that will shock no one, Lionsgate/Summit has decided to split Allegiant into two parts, bringing the total Divergent series movies to four. Well, more Theo James. I’m on board.
Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton Only Lovers Left Alive

Image from io9

  • Yes, you are looking at that image right. It’s Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton and they are playing swanky hipster vampires in the movie Only Lovers Left Alive. I’m going to find a way to watch this. Tom Hiddleston!
  • Onwards to the silver screen. Are you a fan of Game of Thrones? I’ve read all the books, and haven’t started watching this season for two reasons. 1) I know what is going to happen already – Purple Wedding – and 2) I don’t have HBO any more. Oh well. Here’s a wicked “graphic tribute” to Game of Thrones that you should totally check out. It is quite amazing.
  • Charmed is coming back, although not to TV, which I totally would have watched. Instead, the Halliwell sisters are coming back comic book style and will pick up from where the series left off.
  • And deeper into comic book news, Amazon has purchased comiXology, a digital comic-book distributor. I’m still waiting for the day when I will become property of Amazon.

So, that’s where I leave you. I know this is kind of late, and you may or may not be still in bed. But, what did you think of our first Stay-in-Bed Sampler? Did you find it interesting? Regardless, have an awesome weekend, and get all the reading done you want!!


Epic Recs: March Madness

epic-recssgifIt’s now month two of our Epic Recs (by Amber from Books of Amber and Judith from Paper Riot) journey and we haven’t cried uncle yet! You can find my review of Memoirs of a Geisha here, and Anne’s review of Anne of Green Gables here. While most people were obsessing over their basketball brackets, Anne and I were catching up on some popular literature we missed out on reading.

Ashley’s questions for Anne

So, what did you think of the infamous character Anne Shirley? Do you think you’re kindred spirits?

Well, honestly no. I mean, I liked her, but I think if we ever hung out I would cut her off mid-ramble. She did have admirable qualities though, like her intelligence and willingness to make amends for her mistakes. So, she’s still a good role model for young girls who would read this book growing up.

Which scenes were your favorite and why? Least favorite?

I mentioned this in my review, but I liked when Matthew goes to try and buy Anne a dress. It was sweet. Least favorite was any time that Marilla blamed her for something that was actually her mistake. Like telling her to use a bottle of vanilla that was actually filled with something called liniment. Poor Anne.

Since this was originally published in 1908, what did you think of the writing style?

I could tell I was in trouble when the first sentence of the book was also the first paragraph. Overall though, the prose is good. I think clearly it has stood the test of time, so fundamentally the writing is solid.

Anne’s questions for Ashley

Who was your favorite character from Memoirs of a Geisha, and why?

Honestly? Even though I ranted about her, I have to say Hatsumomo. She’s the kind of character you love to hate. And while most of her motivations were driven by jealousy and fear, in the end we learn Sayuri and Hatsumomo aren’t that different after all. I can’t condone her horrible actions towards Sayuri, but I did end up feeling sorry for her. Sayuri gets a happy ending but Hatsumomo just fades away.

I know you like historical romance novels, what was it about this particular romance made you dislike it?

I feel like the romance was ruined for me since I saw the film before reading the novel. Because I knew what was going to happen, it didn’t really feel special. In reality, the Chairman is hardly involved in the story.  Plus, his motivations are veiled, so when the big reveal happens, I didn’t quite buy it. I understand he was trying to help Sayuri, but if he really loved her, he wouldn’t have made her suffer the geisha lifestyle. Now, it would’ve been interesting if we were able to follow the story through his perspective.

Putting yourself in Sayuri’s shoes, if you had the choice of becoming a geisha or remaining a servant, which would you have picked?

This is a tough question. If Sayuri knew what being a geisha meant, I have a hard time believing she would’ve continued with the process. Either way you’ll be owned by someone, but as a servant, at least you wouldn’t have to be subjected to rape/prostitution. Would I want to scrub floors the rest of my life? No, but I don’t think I could live with myself if I were a geisha.

Writing Workshop Wednesday: A houseplant is dying. Tell it why it needs to live.

Writing Workshop Wednesday

Here at Lovely Literature, we always try to keep things interesting. So, we’re proud to introduce a new series, where each Wednesday we’ll provide writing inspiration in the form of prompts, tips or quotes. Our goal is to become published authors, and the only way to do that is to write! We hope you enjoy our latest series!

From 642 Things to Write About by San Francisco Writers’ Grotto.

“A houseplant is dying. Tell it why it needs to live.”

You have to know I never meant to hurt you. I just wanted something beautiful. Everybody does. When I first saw you, I knew we’d be great together. You were small, luscious and not high maintenance like some of your friends. Do you remember when I first took you home? How I doted on you? I made sure you were the center of attention, and never neglected you. I realized, too late, it was slowly killing you.

I’m so sorry! Can you ever forgive me? Even now, as you’re slowly wrinkling, you’re still beautiful to me. I don’t care what anyone else thinks. You’re special. You were my first, and you never forget your first.

So don’t you dare give up on me!  Can’t you see I need you? We need each other!  You need someone to appreciate you just how you are and I need something to love. Please. I’m begging you. Don’t leave me.

a character polygamist_lc



Feel free to contribute your own reasons in the comments, below!

Top Ten Tuesday: Most unique books we’ve read


Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish where people who love lists and books can share their favorites based on a certain topic each week.

This week we’re asked to list the top ten most unique books we’ve read, and I’m really glad this is a topic. Sometimes we can get in a reading rut where it feels like everything we read feels the same, but every once and a while an author comes along and shakes up the genre, renewing your devotion and faith to literature. We can’t wait to see your lists!


1. The Book Thief by Markus Zusack
I’m sure this will be on everyone’s lists, but it truly was a unique read. I’ve never read a story where the narrator was death, so to me if was interesting to hear its perspective. Also, there weren’t really chapters, just the idea that time is a continuously moving object. Death would jump ahead or back in time, after each section, but it never felt confusing or awkward. Excellent writing on Zusack’s part!

2. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
I read this in a contemporary literature class in high school, and even then I kept getting tripped up on the title. The chapters weren’t listed in sequential order, rather by sequential prime numbers, and Christopher solves random math problems in between interviewing his neighbors. It definitely is curious and one of the first novels to give some insight on the day-to-day lives of those who are autistic.

3. White Noise by Don DeLillo
I’ll admit this wasn’t my favorite read in college, but it was unique. After an “airborne toxic event,” the main character, a middle-aged family man, struggles with a cancer diagnosis, which will kill him 20-30 years. DeLillo comically comments on our obsession with technology and fear of death.

4. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
I can’t really say too much without giving away the plot, but from start to finish, this novel kept me guessing and second-guessing. Along with the plot, the characters are elaborately thought-out and despicably fun (like watching the debauchery unfold in “Jersey Shore”). I can’t wait to see the film adaptation!

5. The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber
I’ll admit I liked the BBC mini-series, starring Romola Garai and Chris O’Dowd, better than the novel. However, the construction of the novel was very interesting. I dare you not to get hooked after reading the first paragraph. Throughout the novel the narrator chastises you for lingering too long in one place or wasting your time talking to plot filler characters. It’s quite a unique experience.


I just did a review on Dark Eden, and I would include that here, but wanted to branch out today!

Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse -- unique books

6. Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
Philosophy + required reading = this book. An interesting classic probably on many read before you die lists.

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

7. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
Another required read, Things Fall Apart is a classic unlike any story I’ve read before.
“There is no story that is not true, [...] The world has no end, and what is good among one people is an abomination with others.”

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

8. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
I knew going in that the main character was a hermaphrodite. I have to say that alone makes this book unique. I haven’t come across many other stories that can say the same. A wonderful book.

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

9. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
I didn’t really love this book, but it is so different that you have no chance of forgetting the plot. And it ends in such a way that you realize that it was all a test.

How I live Now by Meg Rossoff

10. How I Live Now by Meg Rossoff
I enjoyed this read, and liked the movie version staring Soairse Ronan even more. The first-person narration of this story was erratic, with strange capitalization, use of grammar and sentence structure, but it captured the mind of a scattered 15-year-old girl during a war.

Have you read any of our reads? Have any unique books of your own to share?

Monday Movie Magic: Kushiel’s Dart

kushiel's dart movie casting

It’s my turn again to cast my picks for a book I’d like to see as a movie. And, may I say, I am terrible at this. I feel like such a voyeuristic perv searching for “male actors under 30 with blond hair.” The female picks are always easier for me, maybe because we’ve been doing a lot of younger casts lately, and I seem to only know older actors.

Anywho, that aside I’ve decided to play with the idea of a Kushiel’s Dart movie. The trilogy takes place over I think ten years or more, so my ideas for final book Phèdre are different than the first. With that in mind, I’m strictly thinking of a stand-alone book one movie here.

kushiel's dart movie casting1. Camilla Bell as Phèdre

She may be a bit too tan for the part, but she looks like what I’d picture Phèdre to be. I haven’t seen Bell in any movies lately, but that back looks like it wants a briar rose tattooed on it.

2. Wilson Bethel as Joscelin

This was the hard one. Like, really head-scratching. I know Joscelin is supposed to be near perfect looking, but honestly, those people are models and they can’t act. So I went for a bit more scruffy looking. I seriously looked for a long time before I stumbled on Bethel. I have seen Hart of Dixie, and while he plays a bit of a fool, I’m sure he can stretch a bit.

3. Eva Green as Melisande

I really like Eva Green. She just has a face that says, don’t fuck with me. I have yet to see her in 300, but I’m sure she is quite the bad-ass, which Melisande is.

So there you have it. I know I could have done a heck of a lot more characters (Hyacinthe), but I really can’t search the interwebs any more today looking for men. Yea, really I can’t.

book review for Dark Eden by Chris Beckett

FUN FACT OF THE DAY: Blond vs. blonde. I didn’t know the distinction, but blond refers to a man with “yellow” hair, and blonde refers to a woman with “yellow” hair. Pretty neat huh? I think generally, American English calls for “blond” no matter what.


Review: Dark Eden

Dark Eden by Chris BeckettFull disclosure: I received a copy of this book through the Goodreads First Reads program and was provided an ARC from the publisher. In no way was I paid for my review.

If pressed to describe Dark Eden, the winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award for Best Novel in 2013, in one word, I’d have to do it in two: unique unique.

Chris Beckett’s story takes you to the planet Eden, where the 530-or-so descendents of two stranded astronauts from Earth live in a simplistic hunt-and-gather society around their ancestors’ original crash site. The inhabitants are all one family, a term that’s used to describe the unit and the inescapable truth that inbreeding has caused genetic abnormalities like clubfeet and cleft palates to run rampant among the race. John, a teen from the Redlantern group has had enough of following the status quo and begins to question family and its decisions, or essentially its lack thereof. John wants to spread family out, to discover Eden beyond the cramped crash site, and to improve life in order to reach what humanity once was capable of on Earth. A choice John makes creates an irreversible, rippling effect on his small society that threatens to tear family apart.

The story is inventive and strange, and its uniqueness lies in the depiction of the world around this abandoned sect of humans and its ability to make a familiar tale seems so fresh. The aptly named Eden (this is a creation story in core as well) is starkly different than Earth, a fact that digs at its inhabitants who wait for the day when they are rediscovered by their long-lost cousins.

glowing plants in Dark Eden by Chris Beckett

Living by the glow of plants josef.stuefer via Compfight cc

In Eden, there is no sun. Animals and plants produce their own light, and family is dependent on the trees around their camp in order to see. The crash site is also situated in a valley, and due to 163 years of hunting and gathering since the arrival of Tommy and Angela, our Adam and Eve, food sources are running scarce. The beginning of the novel really sets the stage for the rest, describing how family hunts, survives, cycles through the day, holds meetings, reproduces and so on and so forth. You get to understand the culture of family and its origins from beyond the pitch dark sky.

This is not the most entertaining portion of the book. But it is necessary. Without this set up, Dark Eden wouldn’t be as effective as it is. Family sounds far from similar to us as it begins, but through the course of the novel you realize you can’t take the man out of humanity, even if you stick them on a far-away planet. It’s akin to watching the beginning of 2001: A Space Odyssey all over again.

While I hesitate to divulge any more sense of the plot, I will say that it tended to be a bit predictable because history repeats itself. It wasn’t necessarily a bad thing for me, just a realization that this isn’t going to be a shocker, but rather a book where you come away with a bit of introspection on how we treat each other and our quest for knowledge.

As far as the writing goes, Dark Eden is told in an alternating first-person POV. A lot of people tell the story, and while some of them were distinct sounding, John and another main character named Tina sometimes had a familiar voice. They had distinct thoughts, but when describing the world around them or acting as an observer, I sometimes had a hard time telling who was narrating. Despite this, I think the alternating POV was valuable, as we get more insight into characters and can really see how John’s decision making sets him apart from the rest of the group.

Beckett also has some special diction for family, particularly the repetition of a word to emphasize something instead of using an adverb like “really” (like  unique unique). They speak English, as their ancestors did, but there is a good deal of slang and some bastardization of words that refer to technology. I thought this was effective and realistic, and brought another layer to this highly developed concept world.

Overall, Dark Eden is a good read that can be slow at times, but if you stick it through you will be rewarded with a feeling of all-knowingness at the end. You’ll start saying double words though, and that might piss off your friends. I say that’s okay okay.

Would I read it again: Probably not, but I have already passed it on for others to read.

book review for Dark Eden by Chris Beckett

Have you read Dark Eden or any other Arthur C. Clarke award winners? Do you enjoy science fiction reads? If so, feel free to recommend me a few!