Pros: Fascinating premise with wild action!
Rating: 5 out of 5
Tim Lebbon’s Eden shows us a world where “the Zones” are areas that have been given back to the planet. Pollution and other man-made problems were causing so many issues that as a kind of last-ditch effort to almost bribe the planet into not going too far downhill, these areas were cordoned off. They’re highly guarded by the Zone Protection Forces, or “Zeds,” and it’s not entirely unusual for infiltrators to get shot. At least one Zone has been infiltrated by human traffickers, and each zone seems to have something going on within its boundaries. Eden Zone is the oldest and most dangerous of zones. Those who go in either bounce and avoid it entirely thereafter, or never return at all. There’s an underground of adventure race teams who try to race across the length of each zone. No one has yet made it all the way across the Eden zone, and Jenn and her team aim to be the first to do it. The team leader is her father, Dylan. They’re accompanied by Aaron, Jenn’s boyfriend. Lucy, Gee, Cove, and Selina round out the team. Only Jenn has a secret agenda for coming to the Zone–she has reason to believe that her estranged mother, Kat, went in weeks ago and never made it out again. And she isn’t the only one with a hidden reason for coming. Meanwhile, Kat is still alive. Or… maybe not quite “alive” as one might think of it. Something has infiltrated her mind, something uniquely Eden, and it has an agenda of its own.
I enjoy the characters in here. They have a wide array of backgrounds. There’s a gay former cop, an environmentalist who just wants the chance to see an unspoiled wilderness, a former military man, and more. These people are highly-skilled endurance runners, and they’ve planned this trek very carefully. They’ve hired a woman called Poke to sneak them into the Zone, and she thinks they’re crazy for wanting to go in. She also seems genuinely afraid of the Zone. We also get a great peek into the mindset of people on all sides of the issue when the Zones were established through little quotations at the beginning of each section. It neatly establishes many of the issues and attitudes involved without the need for info-dumps or excess narration.
It’s been more than half a century since the Zone was established, but even that amount of time can’t account for how thoroughly all traces of civilization have faded away. Dylan’s old maps are hit-or-miss. Entire towns have been swallowed by nature. There definitely seems to be something amiss.
Then, of course, they start finding abandoned equipment, bullet shells, and bodies. There’s a ton of tension in this book. Early on we get a stealthy ride in a junker plane. There’s the intricate dance of trying to infiltrate Eden Zone. There’s the adaptation to the Zone, and then things go to hell and our heroes are fighting for their lives.
Content note for animal harm, although that’s hardly surprising in a book that’s at least partly man-versus-nature. The main characters might want to leave the flora and fauna in peace, but they aren’t going to get that chance! There are some neat ways in which tropes get twisted or neatly side-stepped, but I won’t go into that so as to avoid spoiling anything. This is a great book and I really enjoyed it!
Eden seems like a good place to die.