Two Tribes (2020): Chris Beckett


It was only a matter of time, wasn’t it? Behold: a speculative Brexit novel! Despite being weary of the whole Brexit conversation, I was curious to see how this particular author might project its results into the future. Chris Beckett is a smart and perceptive sci-fi writer, and I’ve read several of his other books, although, so far, I’ve only posted on Dark Eden. He’s interested in human society, the way it develops, and the way that small events can knock history onto different paths: in short, an ideal person to tackle the far-reaching potential effects of Brexit. The two tribes of his title refer, on a superficial level, to the Leave and Remain Brexit factions; but they also reflect the British world of two centuries later. Here we meet Zoe, a London-based historian who is researching the foundations of her society, using a cache of 2016 diaries alongside the rich digital records of the period. I’d come to the book assuming that we’d be spending much of our time with Zoe in the future, so I’ve got to admit I was a little disappointed to discover that it’s predominantly set in 2016: a Romeo-and-Juliet story framed by the Brexit divide.

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Dark Eden (2012): Chris Beckett


Dark Eden: Book I

One good thing about travelling for work (as I have been for the past week) is that it gives me lots of time to read. I’ve recently found it hard to ‘click’ with books, but was thrilled to become deeply, voraciously engaged with Chris Beckett’s Dark Eden trilogy: a series which asks us to think about what it means to be human, about the stories that we tell one another, and about the way that civilisations develop. It wasn’t love at first sight: I was initially put off by the mannered language, but its rhythms soon wormed their way into my mind and even into my dreams. Beckett’s story takes place on Eden, a strange and exotic world where a small cluster of some five hundred people struggle to survive in the heart of an alien forest. They are all descendants of two people, Angela Young and Tommy Schneider, survivors of a space mission almost two hundred years before. They do their best to keep the stories of their ancestors alive, and to remember how they came to be in this inhospitable place, believing that one day help will come from Earth to rescue them. But not everyone is content to simply sit and wait and trust. John Redlantern is one of these, and his questioning and challenging will push the entire history of Eden in a new direction, changing the world forever.

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