Eden by Tim Lebbon

June 18, 2020

In a time of global warming and spiralling damage to the environment, the Virgin Zones were established to help combat the change.  Abandoned by humanity and given back to nature, these vast areas in a dozen remote locations across the planet were intended to become the lungs of the world. 

But there are always those drawn to such places.  Extreme sports enthusiasts and adventure racing teams target the dangerous, sometimes deadly zones for illicit races.  Only the hardiest and most experienced dare undertake these expeditions. When one such team enters the oldest Zone, Eden, they aren’t prepared for what confronts them.  Nature has returned to Eden in an elemental, primeval way.  And here, nature is no longer humanity’s friend.

A new Tim Lebbon novel is always cause for much celebration and rejoicing here at The Eloquent Page. Coldbrook and The Silence* are firm favourites of mine, and both retain a special place in my carefully curated horror novel collection. When I heard about Eden, and the premise behind it, I was beyond pleased. I was fortunate enough to receive a review copy and the good news is it’s another absolute blinder.

The main protagonist, Jenn, lives for adventure. She has travelled the world with her father and friends seeking out the next new experience. The Virgin Zones are too enticing to resist. Huge tracts of land given back to nature, untouched by human influence. A subculture of thrill seekers has formed, determined to run the length of all the Virgin Zones. So far, no-one has managed to complete the biggest of them all, Eden.

I’ve heard it said that authors should write about what they know. Tim Lebbon is an avid runner, competing in things described as “extreme triathlons”, as if normal triathlons weren’t bad enough. I suspect taking part in such events offers unique insight into pushing yourself to the mental and physical limit. You get a real sense that he has channelled some of that experience into Jenn’s character. Throwaway comments about dealing with running related injuries or modifying technique dependent on energy levels come across far more realistic when you know the author has experienced this, minus vengeful flora and fauna, themselves. That extra layer of detail fleshes out Jenn and makes her feel that much more authentic.

Each new chapter begins with a snippet of social media commentary documenting how the Virgin Zones are shaping how the rest of the world functions. Due to the zones isolated nature there are a whole host of conspiracy theories appearing around the web. I always love it when an author adds extra little details like this.

There is also an old school cinematic sensibility to the plot. This wild, untamed expanse is a genuinely evocative place, teaming with all manner of life. At its heart this is the most basic story, survival. Eden is the bastard love child of classic movies like Predator and Running Man, with modern survivalist tales like The Grey and Jungle. Throughout the entire story you are going to find yourself asking the question ‘how could I cope in Jenn’s place?’ For the curious amongst you, I would be that poor individual making some sort of smart-arsed comment while an unimaginable horror appears just over their shoulder. I would perish in a most violent fashion just after uttering the phrase ‘it’s behind me isn’t it?’. From a film casting perspective, I would likely be played by either Sean Bean, Jason Flemyng or Sean Pertwee. You know, those poor unfortunates who you can tell are dead as soon as you see them appear on screen.

There is a nice icky vein of suitably gross body horror running (I’ll stick by this very deliberate pun till my dying breath) throughout the narrative. If you are in Eden long enough, the environment is going to do more than just affect you psychologically. Nature is all about evolution, and Lebbon delights in describing exactly how in a Virgin Zone evolution is working on steroids. Eden is a living, breathing organism that is more than just the sum of its various component parts. I was watching a programme on television recently, and the host talked a bit about the giant Redwoods in California. Thousands of years old, capable of growing significantly in size in the space of a single year and happy to use CO2 as fuel. What do we do? People rock up and chop big chunks out to the trees for decoration. I think I could fully appreciate it if the planet did decide to fight back, sometimes we deserve everything we get. Based on all available evidence, I found myself siding with Eden more often than not.

Eden is fast paced eco-horror with a social conscience. It is going to gross you out, you are undoubtedly going to get caught up in all the action, but it is also going to make you think. I loved it. Can someone please get Hollywood on the phone and get this on the big screen as soon as possible. Thanks.

My musical accompaniment for Eden is the soundtrack to Annihilation by Ben Salisbury and Geoff Barrow. It has a weird, otherworldly vibe that fits perfectly with Lebbon’s novel.

Published by Titan Books, Eden is available now. Highly recommended.

*The movie of The Silence is worth your time as well while we are talking about it, Stanley Tucci always puts in a good turn.

One Comment

  • russell1200 June 18, 2020 at 7:24 pm

    Coldbrook is one of my favorites. Anyone who can make parallel world – zombie apocalypse seem plausible has my vote.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *