EDEN by Tim Lebbon
Titan Books, p/b, £8.99
Reviewed by Dave Jeffery
The bestselling author of THE SILENCE returns in a taut eco-punk thriller.
A team of extreme sports enthusiasts brave the raw, untamed elements of EDEN, one of many eco-systems that have developed under the auspices of the United Zone Council as part of a proactive strategy to preserve the planet’s habitats. As part of this initiative, several vast areas have been sectioned off into Virgin Zones worldwide, the human population evicted, and those areas left to naturally reinvigorate over periods of decades. Humans are banned from entering the zones, enforced by legal mandate and policed by allegedly ruthless boarder security personnel or Zone Guards.
Led by Dylan and his daughter Jenn, the team are there try to break the record for crossing EDEN, but each team member takes with them their own agenda. For Dylan and Jenn, the alleged presence in EDEN of Kat – their adventure-seeking, respective estranged wife and mother.
As such, the characters are likeable and flawed enough, their reasons for doing what they do – credible; allowing those of us who are not uber-fit or have never engaged in the competitive antics on show throughout the story to identify with and root for them.
The conceit of nature versus humanity is a road well-trodden but with the highly competitive, ultra-fit team of central characters, Lebbon gives it spruce in a way not seen since the original Predator movie. We know that the set up is gearing us to tragedy but, unlike the effervescence on show in the characters, Lebbon takes his time in getting us there, making this a book more about tension and mystery than balls-to-the-wall horror.
Be under no illusion, there is horror here, and it is encapsulated in set-pieces that are action-focused as the team finally come face to face with the omnipotent presence that is determined to make sure they never leave its unnatural clutches. The second half of the book is a roller-coaster with only one feature: a sheer drop that has the reader screaming into oblivion.
Yet, as thrill-seeking as the book is, the joys come in the subtleties of storytelling. Each chapter is introduced by a brief vignette, be that an interview transcript or scientific news article, a report or blog-post item, that allows Lebbon to ingratiate the reader into the world he has created and give insight to its values and flaws. These were nice little touches, adding to the tension as each chapter begins. As one has come to expect, Lebbon’s writing is tight and assured, and his enjoyment for producing this kind of work oozes from each action-packed sentence.
Overall, EDEN is a thoroughly enjoyable, taut eco-punk thriller, sensitive to the current environmental issues without being preachy, and – perhaps – a warning of what ancient threats humanity may bring upon itself as it seeks redemption from its ecological ills.