Review by Tahlia Newland
Title: A Distant Eden
Author: Lloyd Tackitt
Publisher: Lloyd Tackitt
Genre: Post-Apocalyptic Fiction/Survial Techniques
A Distant Eden is a chilling account of how a family survives an apocalypse while those around them are dying in droves. It’s the kind of book that makes you sit up and take notice of your world and question your place in it. Suddenly, you realise how easily the world we take for granted could be shattered, and you wonder if you would survive and how. This is thought-provoking stuff, written in a sparse, direct style well suited to the subject matter.
On one level, I enjoyed it a lot and on another level I found it deeply disturbing, either way, technically speaking, the book did have problems. Author, Lloyd Tackitt apologises for this in his introduction citing the fact that he wanted to write a survival manual combined with a novel as an excuse for dumping great chunks of information and having one dimensional characters. But if you know it isn’t good practice, why not find another solution, like put the details in an appendix.
I found the detail of the information interesting, so the info dumps didn’t bug me as they would have otherwise. You could actually make your own solar still from the description in this book. However, if we are to use it as a survival guide, there should be references and the author’s qualifications at the end of the book, so we can be sure the information is valid, otherwise, it’s better to stick to the novel form and make a really good job of it because this story has a lot of potential.
I enjoyed reading about characters who are sure of themselves in a situation like this, and how they rationalised their behaviour was both fascinating and scary, but all the male characters were too similar. We should have had some variety in approach. I had hoped that the Christian man would show a bit more compassion than the others. He provided a great opportunity for some solid interpersonal and moral conflict, and even for showing a way to survive that didn’t require you to throw away your moral code, but he too easily accepted the murder of a woman and her child as being the ‘compassionate’ thing to do. I guess he wasn’t a real Christian. If he was, he should have at least contemplated the fact that eternity in hell is a very long time, and that perhaps survival at all costs in this life isn’t worth the trade off.
There is violence in this story, but its matter-of-fact delivery doesn’t dwell on the gory details. What is disturbing about it is that not one of the characters questions the morality of it. I sure hope the readers question it. Yes, these characters must protect themselves against those who are starving and will hurt them in order to get food, and yes, they can’t support them all, but their answer to this quandary is to make a snap judgement as to whether the person is ‘good’ or ‘bad’, or useful or not, and then pull the trigger on anyone they deem ‘bad’ or useless. Yeah, the trigger happy guys survive, but at what cost? These guys are the basis of a new society, and it’s scary that they consider their judgement of a person’s worth as justification for murder. Characters that think like these guys do is why Australia has very strict gun laws.
Morality aside, the point in terms of evaluating it as a novel, is not whether or not you agree with the characters behaviour, but that all the characters act that way. The book needed a more diverse cast of characters and a greater depth and use of some of those that were there. We are told, for example, that everyone loved Sarah, but I never saw any reason why they would. We simply didn’t get to know her at all. The female characters were extremely sketchy and the children, though mentioned, never really existed. If they came to life as real characters they could provide a not only a counterpoint to the hardline males but another layer of reality and richness.
Also, the scenario masqueraded as realistic, but when you look below the surface, it really isn’t. Surely one of the family would have been injured, and could those guys who’d been desk jockeys for years, really have been able to do everything they did with the ease we were led to believe? The author needs to get inside his characters and live what he is making them do, only then will he be able to write them realistically and believably.
In summary, A Distant Eden a good idea, but much of the potential is wasted. With more work, it could be quite a good book. As it is, I give the book 3 stars, and for the price, I recommend it to those who have never read anything like it before. It will make you think.
If you want the kindle version clock on the cover image. here’s the link to the paperback at Amazon US