EDEN ***
Written by Tim Lebbon.
RRP: £8.99, 384 pp.

Published 15th June 2020 from Titan Books.


With the threat of climate change wreaking havoc across the globe, grabbing the headlines and inspiring protests, EDEN, Tim Lebbon's eco-horror could not arrive on shelves in a more timely manner. Set at an unspecified point in the future, Lebbon presents a world where environmental damage is finally being combatted with Virgin Zones. Vast swathes of land set aside cut off from humanity in an attempt to let nature run its course and act as "the lungs of the world." Of course, as with the majority of forbidden objects, man's temptation to explore and exploit raises itself in the form of a group of adventurers who soon find themselves at odds with a lethal habitat which does not take kindly to strangers.


As well as taking inspiration from current events, Lebbon's novel also shares similarities and themes with Jeff VanderMeer's Southern Reach trilogy, as well as the first volumes film adaptation of ANNIHILATION. Nature running amok and playing havoc physically and mentally with humanity are familiar tropes from that series, and Lebbon seems to take inspiration from both sources. The group of adventurers who populate the novel each have their reasons for venturing into this paradise. Most notably and taking centre stage is Jenn who, unbeknownst to her fellow travellers, including her father, has reason to believe her estranged mother, Kat, is located somewhere inside the vast alien wilderness.


Lebbon introduces each chapter with details of how the Zones came into being and the problems with maintaining their boundaries. It is a fascinating device; a future history that hints at the real state of the world and the state that it is in now. It's one of the books most successful aspects showing Lebbon's skill in world-building with short and concise passages. It is a shame then that the story is set exclusively in an atmosphere that is all too familiar and one that Lebbon mostly fails to add anything new.


There are no real dramatic stakes or conflict here. A fact that is further bolstered by its slow pace. It's not until halfway through the book that the first real dramatic incident occurs. At times it is the novelistic equivalent of a slasher film, and you read on to see what horrible ending lies in store for the characters. It also reminds the reader of Scott Smith's The Ruins, another novel and film adaptation that details the woes of travellers running afoul of nature, but in a far bloodier claustrophobic environment.


Even though its ecological aspects are barely visible, only remarked upon in passing and despite its shortcomings, EDEN is an easy and fleetingly grisly read.


Iain MacLeod.


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