Sequel to Dark Eden (2014), Beckett’s 2013 Arthur C. Clarke Award–winning tale of humans stranded on a remote planet who have mostly forgotten their origins.
Leaving aside the utterly implausible proposition of a society descended from just two individuals, Beckett’s sunless planet Eden has huge trees pumping hot water up from subterranean volcanic rivers to power its ecology. He doesn’t engage with the question of how this might work but populates Eden with a fine array of weird creatures perfectly adapted to the weak illumination provided by various luminescent organisms. At the end of the last book, the revolutionary Johnfolk left the conservative Davidfolk, crossing the Worldpool ocean to establish an innovative new colony, New Earth. Intelligent and restless Starlight Brooking, who lives on an island in the middle of the ocean and has never been anywhere else, decides to visit Veeklehouse, a town where the original landing vehicle reposes. There, she meets the handsome Greenstone Johnson, son and heir of New Earth’s brutal and ruthless strongman, Headman Firehand. The two fall in love, and Starlight accompanies Greenstone to New Earth. Firehand is dying, while his old rival and now right-hand man Chief Dixon nurses ambitions to take over. Still, Greenstone becomes the new Headman; Starlight wears the legendary Gela’s ring and discovers that New Earth’s workers, most of whom are serfs, worship her. Greenstone, seen as a weak leader, won’t survive long against Dixon’s plotting, so she tries to build support for his cause through the power the ring gives her to move the masses. What could possibly go wrong? Again, the narrative unfolds via several first-person accounts, this time more for effect than substance. Apart from the exercise in power politics, Beckett introduces some intriguing new ideas, which, presumably, he will develop in books to come.
Readers delighted by the first book will certainly wish to renew their acquaintance.