Eden by Tim Lebbon
Titan Books (April 2020)
384 pages; $11.99 paperback; $8.99 e-book
Reviewed by Kevin Lucia
It’s amazing how quickly nature overcomes what man has built. During quarantine, I’ve spent hours walking paths in the woods I haven’t for years, visiting old camping spots, and one spot in particular: a clearing near a creek where, five years ago, we built a fire pit with cinder-blocks, erected a small, portable charcoal grill, and built several wooden tables and chairs.
We haven’t been down there for a few years, and I figured things would be a bit disordered. I wasn’t prepared for what I found. With the exception of the cinder-block fireplace, the entire site had been destroyed. Tables completely rotted and fallen into the ground, the same with the chairs. The charcoal grill had rusted into a brittle shell. All within a matter of a few years.
To be fair, the chairs and tables we built weren’t that sturdy, and it was a pretty cheap charcoal grill. But all of it was under heavy tree cover, and it amazed me to think it could’ve fallen apart so quickly. Even more haunting, I felt like things had fallen apart simply because we had left them to fall apart. I couldn’t help but think of Tim Lebbon’s most recent eco-thriller/horror Eden. It’s a little daunting to think of nature as more than “countryside scenery and weather,” but also as a powerful force that’s been around a lot longer than we have, and will still be here when we’re gone.
Eden imagines a future in which “Virgin Zones” have been established across the world. A desperate gamble to try and selectively let the Earth repair itself, these areas have been, for all intents and purposes, quarantined against human interference. No humans are allowed into the Zones, so that Nature can be allowed to renew what we’ve mistreated and destroyed.
The Zones are patrolled by armed guards to keep humans from trespassing, but, of course, humanity has always been a little too curious and stubborn for its own good. An underground extreme sports culture has evolved over the years, featuring teams of thrill-seekers, explorers, runners, rock-climbers, private biologists and the like, who live to sneak past the guards and race across the Virgin Zones as fast as they can. They bring minimal supplies with them—an effort to maintain the Zones’ integrity, even in their trespass.
Rumors have circled for years, however, that something strange is happening in those Zones. Nature left to itself has certainly repaired land and hills and rivers, but without the interference of humanity, something….else has grown. And the rumors circle heaviest around the Virgin Zone known as Eden. When a renowned adventure group led by a father-daughter team sneaks into Eden, they discover that Nature has indeed retaken the land, and it is not eager for humans to trespass onto what It has remade.
Tim Lebbon’s apocalyptic eco-horror The Nature of Balance has always been one of my favorites in this sub-genre, and he’s managed to top it with this offering. This is one of those novels marketed as a “thriller,” but there’s plenty of horror to be had. Not only in the death and the violence, but in the alien, strange power of the force in Eden, and how it has consumed—literally and figuratively—all those who have tried to trespass. Lebbon offers weirdly beautiful and horrific images that call to mind those delivered in the theatrical version of Annihilation, and many times I was left chilled by his depictions of a remorseless Nature determined to thrive and grow. A truly gripping and horrifying read.