Eden is a novel that began with potential, but quickly squandered it. The general idea of the Virgin Zones was initially interesting and unique – something that I hadn’t really encountered before and hadn’t given much thought to. Lebbon proposes an interesting scenario where humankind has basically destroyed the world, and these zones without human interaction are a last ditch effort to keep the planet from dying completely.
However, the idea that supposedly experienced adventurers and scientists would enter these feral zones without any kind of protection at all is absolutely absurd. These Virgin Zones are known to contain all manner of undiscovered wildlife and, in some cases, violent human factions. And yet, here you have a group of people that are depicted as being intelligent going into the wilderness completely unprepared. This is a blatant plot device to facilitate events throughout the novel, and nothing more.
The characters within Eden are no more believable than their actions. It was the supposed scientist and animal expert that actually utters the phrase, “nothing here will harm us” as the group is preparing to enter the Virgin Zone. The idea is, apparently, that any predators dwelling within Eden will leave the group alone because they haven’t had any interaction with human beings. I’m not a scientist, but wouldn’t the lack of fear make animals more prone to attacking humans? There are other stupid choices made throughout that make Eden a painful read.
Nothing happens for the entire first half of Eden. The group walks through nature, observing different aspects of flora and fauna. Mostly Jenn muses upon the fact that her mother walked out on her, and Jenn’s father often shares in these ruminations. Over and over again. This is a recurring theme throughout Eden. Lebbon re-uses the same old topics ad nauseam in order to fill out the otherwise uneventful pages. Which brings me to my next gripe about Lebbon’s writing style – he tells the reader everything rather than showing. Characters think about how scared or hurt or nervous they are, or make awkward verbal remarks about what they’re doing
Lebbon’s descriptions are not bad. He does a good job of setting a scene and, in some cases, even an atmosphere. The real downfall is his dialogue. It’s absolutely awful. Lebbon’s characters don’t resemble an actual human being in either action or speech. Utterances and conversations are cringeworthy at best.
The idea of intellectual animals banding together to attack the humans didn’t strike me as menacing or scary, but instead just came off as dumb. Lebbon’s descriptions of the action sequences didn’t help anything, as most of them involve Character X swinging a stick at a wolf or coyote or lynx. The culmination of laughable stupidity involves Jenn leaping from the top of a crane on top of her feral mother, crushing her into the ground.
Overall, there’s really nothing to like about Eden. Dull, irritating, and at times completely dumb, Eden is a prime example of a good idea with poor execution. I can honestly say I won’t be bothering with any more of Lebbon’s work.