Source: Bought copy
Dean Crawford is well known for his Ethan Warner time-twist thrillers – you can read a review of one of them, Apocalypse, here. With Eden, though, Crawford is trying something a little different. Set apart from his successful and conventionally published series, Eden is a self-published labour of love, a dip into the digital publishing pool. It has also given Crawford the chance to move away from Ethan and his universe, to play with a scenario that, to my mind, can’t fail to entice thriller readers – the end of the world and the struggle for just a few men, women and children to survive in the face of the most extreme danger and the greatest enemy of all – themselves.
The thriller begins in the Arctic, in a science station populated by a small group of men and women that hopes to learn something of the the isolation and extreme hazards that they might encounter on a future journey to a different planet. It’s not long before the planet that they’re on is transformed into another world entirely. The most vibrant Northern Lights that one can imagine herald the Great Darkness; a solar storm that extinguishes human technology from Earth in an instant, almost as if a candle has been snuffed out. Isolated on the ice, all communication with the outside world vanished, Dr Jake McDermott, Cody Ryan and their male and female civilian and military companions have little option but to head south, on the trail of the one morse code signal that could be heard in the silence. It included a set of coordinates. Cody, the closest we have to a hero, is convinced that it may lead them to Eden, their only hope
The novel is divided into three parts. In the first, our characters have to survive on the ice, in the most unforgiving of environments, but before long they encounter a vessel, the Phoenix, that is also on a search for Eden. Where their search takes them forms the final third.
If the world were to end, it would be ugly. In Eden this is made clear from the very beginning. The seeds of man’s inclination to violence and destruction are glimpsed at before the end even arrives. None of the characters can be trusted, not the scientists we meet at the beginning and not one of the men aboard the Phoenix. When it becomes clear that something catastrophic has happened to the world that they had left behind – or fled – then several assume their own mission, whether it is to find a wife, daughter, brother or father or simply life. For some, there is nothing to find. It’s all about survival and finding the next meal.
Life becomes increasingly cheap as the few work to survive at the expense of others. As a result, Eden is a no holds barred gruesome novel in places, reminding me of zombie horror. Everyone is reduced to their most base instincts and the veil of social behaviour is torn away. Not everyone is bad, of course, but you get the sense that it would be easier for them if they were. I did find it difficult to like any of the characters. Circumstances conspire to bring out the worst in almost everyone. There is some hope but it is small. For many of the characters, the lasting image we have of them is their descent into blackness. The blackness of the end is far removed from the crispy white chill of the beginning.
I did have some issues with the novel, especially during the first third. I found elements of the characterisation and the plotline predictable and familiar. This made me put it down for a few days. But when I picked it up again and once the story moved away from the Arctic I finished the rest of it in a day. I found the second half utterly compelling and gripping. It is grim without doubt but that is because it is steeped in an air of apocalypse, doom and struggle. It’s very likely that a less squeamish reader than me will love every page. Eden is an extremely well produced self-published novel, written by an accomplished thriller writer, and at 99p it’s an absolute treat.
The Chimera Secret – review to follow shortly