Engaging Sci-Fi Romance
Eden is a beautiful story. At its heart it is a science fiction romance, a retelling of beauty and the beast. However, it has a lot of depth, exploring the themes of survival and discovery, overcoming prejudice and redemption. It is also full of action and adventure. It defies being put into a specific genre or even sub genre and in my opinion it is books like Eden, which should be winning major literary awards.
In Eden, Jenny is a pilot on a space shuttle team sent from Earth to survey the planet Eden, the others being Commander Brodie and Matt, the Mission Specialist. Just as they are about to descend to the surface, the shuttle is damaged by asteroids. Nevertheless the crew descend onto the planet in their buggies. Once there, after a brief foray into the immediate environment to assess its flora and fauna, they discover a large crater containing the remains of an alien spaceship, which appears to have crashed some time ago. Excited, yet full of trepidation, as no evidence of extra terrestrial life forms has been found by humans, they approach the craft. Jenny impulsively enters and is apprehended by a large, dark, humanoid, alien who drags her back outside. Brodie and Matt, followed by Jenny, who escapes the alien, run towards their buggies intending to return to the shuttle. However, Jenny falls and is knocked unconscious.
Jenny finds herself stranded on the planet with the alien, whom she names Fly, as it sounds like a shorter version of his name in his own language (they are able to communicate with the aid of an alien translation device which has survived). What follows next is an extremely original story of survival in a hostile yet strangely beautiful environment. Fly is intrigued by Jenny and recognising that she is female views her as a potential companion to satisfy his sexual needs. Jenny is initially terrified of Fly, who although humanoid in appearance has expressionless black eyes and a battered face and is unemotional and at times violent. Fly is pretty upfront about what he wants from Jenny and for some time she lives in constant fear of rape which puts a severe strain on their relationship.
During this time Jenny manages some sporadic communication with Brodie and Matt, using the transmitter on the buggy. She ignores their advice to keep away from Fly as she recognises that she needs his help to survive and she initially plans to gain his trust and kill him. The shuttle is severely damaged and is losing fuel and they too are effectively trapped with nowhere to go. Jenny spends a number of nights taking refuge on the buggy. However, one night some of the native wolf- like creatures violently attack her whilst she is in the buggy. Matt and Brodie hear her screams and the creatures’ howls over the transmitter and believe that she has been killed, although she is eventually saved by Fly. The buggy is badly damaged and she loses contact with the shuttle. Matt and Brodie repair the shuttle as best they can and argue about whether to return to the surface to confirm what has happened. Meanwhile Fly, seeing that Jenny is afraid of him, seeks to try to gain her trust and encourage her compliance. Through sharing his food and shelter with her and eventually teaching her valuable survival skills they slowly get to know each other, discussing their respective cultures and form a growing mutual attraction, friendship and eventually fall in love. They begin to build a life together on Eden.
I do not want to give away any more of the plot, but suffice to say that the love between Jenny and Fly is severely tested in the remainder of the book as the both face prejudice and danger and revelations about Fly’s past.
The two main characters held my interest from the start. Jenny, the human, is a strong, feisty individual at the start of the book, but is severely challenged by the situation she finds herself in. She is ashamed of her initial dependence on Fly for her survival and is repulsed by the very idea of physical contact, let alone sexual relations with him. Fly has been damaged physically by the crash but he is also harsh and unemotional, making it clear to Jenny that is only because she is female that he has not killed her. For a long time she fears that he will rape her to get what he wants and there is one harrowing scene where it appears that her fears are being realised, before Fly redeems himself and begins to open up emotionally. I loved the way the relationship between them progressed and the turning point in the book where Jenny sees Fly as just another person and they succumbs to their mutual attraction is beautiful. I liked how their love for each other enabled them to grow and learn from each other.
There is a lot of sexual tension in the book between them, but the sex scenes themselves are not graphic, just a natural expression of their feelings at the time. The descriptions of the flora and fauna on Eden are also believable and the planet, which starts off as cold and uninviting, begins to thaw and reveal its beauty mirroring the relationship between Fly and Jenny.
The secondary characters, Brodie and Matt appear weak in comparison with Fly and Matt’s personality in particular is not attractive. He is jealous of Jenny’s professional achievements and like Brodie opposes her relationship with Fly. Brodie is very defensive of Jenny and her safety for reasons that become clear in the book. They too have to grow as individuals and overcome the prejudice they exhibit.
I read a lot of science fiction romance and I can say that this story stands head and shoulders above the others in its freshness, depth and intensity and character development. I would recommend this book to lovers of straightforward romance, science fiction romance and straight science fiction adventure novel enthusiasts. I read the book in one sitting so eager was I to find out what happens. The story can stand alone but Louise Wise’s website states that a follow up novel, dealing with the further adventures of Jenny and Fly, will be released in 2013. I will be purchasing this novel as soon as it is released.
Reviewed by Tina Williams