Welcome back to the next installment of Revealing Eden: A Review of Race and Logic. In a bid to preserve my sanity (and aid in my procrastination), I’ll be splitting off the science fails into a chapter-by-chapter spork because yes, they are that bad, and they must be seen in all their glory to be fully… appreciated.1

Onto the review!

Society’s Sad Economic Errors

As I mentioned earlier in the review, the infrastructure of the underground society is poorly defined. All that’s really hinted at is that resources are extremely scarce, to the point where they are strictly rationed to the milligram. Food is dispensed as pills, water is dispensed on a daily basis, oxy and Mood Scents and Midnight Luster are indiscriminately dispensed, and pets are not only allowed but fed by the system. There is also mention several times of some form of currency, called uni-credits, though they’re only used apparently for the purchase of luxuries (like vintage dresses) and the legal right to conceive a single child. They also have androids with sophisticated enough AIs to act as security and medical personnel, laser showers, laser weapons, shuttles, jets, hover trains, holographic internet, 24/7 brain-implanted link to said holographic internet, air conditioning, and all sorts of electrical goodies…

Which begs the question, where are they getting all this from? Unfortunately, this issue is never addressed. We’re just expected to take the scarcity of things at face value to hit home the whole “world after global warming = no luxuries” thing upon which the class system is partially based.

I don’t know. Rationed pill food and water aside, such a highly tech-integrated society doesn’t sound all that bad. I mean, it’s not like all of everyone’s basic needs aren’t being met. Because they are. And then some. Even those of the lowest social class, the Pearls.

Which brings us to…

Rampant Racefail, Obliterated Ozone

If you’ll recall, the ozone layer has been completely obliterated, dramatically increasing the risk of skin cancer and radiation poisoning, a phenomenon currently known as The Heat. Nevermind that The Heat displays all the symptoms of heatstroke rather than cancer or radiation poisoning, or that over-exposure to solar radiation does not result in radiation poisoning, or that they live underground and have air conditioning – black people are naturally better-suited to surviving in this blisteringly sunny environment, and so of course you have racism, right?

Right???

One of the things that always irritates me as a biologist is this societal obsession (at least, where I live) with race as a means of classifying people. Simply put, race has no valid genetic basis.

Let me repeat that.

RACE HAS NO VALID GENETIC BASIS.

Race is a purely social construct, and while it is true that different ethnic groups display different traits, this is true of ethnic groups, not racial, and has more to do with members of that ethnicity sharing common ancestors, the ancestor populations being isolated from others (due to constraints of distance and travel), and the latitudes at which the populations historically lived. In other words, although two people may share the same skin color and fall under the same “race” superficially, they may come from entirely separate populations which have not mingled for thousands of years. Race is not an indicator of genetic divergence, especially when you consider that the Asian “race” has more genetic diversity between ethnic groups than Africans and Europeans, with Asians ranging in skin color from white, like the Bai people of China who take pride in their whiteness, to black, like the aboriginal Ati of the Philippines.

In other words, race is a horrible way to classify human morphs. It’s the human equivalent of classifying different dog breeds as separate species.

Racism is also not universal across all cultures as the concept of “race” as used in the modern Western culture is not universal.

With that said, Foyt’s portrayal of race is horrendous on so many levels, not least because the reason in-book for race as an institution to continue to exist is stupid. For one, the solar radiation excuse holds no water as everyone is currently living underground. Second, AIR CONDITIONING. Third, they have androids with sophisticated enough AIs to act effectively as security and medical personnel. Fourth, the underground society is supposedly made up of people from all sorts of different cultures (though apparently they don’t mingle outside of the mandatory monthly dance due to high racial tensions…).

In other words, there are absolutely no reasons why any stratified class structure should exist.

Combine the above with stereotype after stereotype. Coals, as I mentioned in Part 1, are portrayed as African American stereotypes. All Ambers are stereotypically Chinese. Tiger’s Eyes are stereotypically Mexican (at least, the one Tiger’s Eye we see). Cottons are all stereotypically pale in every way with impossibly pink eyes and only exist to make the love interest appear compassionate. And then there’s the names.

Coal, Tiger’s Eye, Amber, Pearl, Cotton – the one thing they have in common is that they are all explicitly stated to be racial slurs in-book. Unfortunate racial implications aside (considering how Coal and various variations have been used as actual racial slurs for a range of groups in the past), we have a very obvious inequality in the slurs themselves. Three of the slurs are precious stones, one is a fiber I’m sure we would all sorely miss if it were lost from our lives (especially in the underwear department) that is associated with comfort and softness of the best kind, and one is a notoriously dirty source of fuel that many currently see as outmoded.

While one could try to argue the whole far future world so shift in terminology thing, the fact remains that Foyt wrote this book in part as an answer to modern racism. As such, the use of such unbalanced terms combined with the stereotypes are a MAJOR issue because they actually work in tandem to reinforce current and historical racist tendencies despite Foyt’s stated intention to turn racism on its head. Black people are lazy, petty, bestial, and big. White people are the pinnacle of beauty with their paleness, extremely intelligent, brave, independent, and loving.

In addition, the names aren’t even consistent. Three precious stones, a fiber, and a rock. There’s just enough consistency to make the other two stick out as misfits, but not enough variety to make sense. They also aren’t particularly descriptive of the racial skin tones, particularly Amber and Tiger’s Eye. What would have made more sense is a naming theme that was completely consistent (Coal, Rust, Sulfur, Gypsum, Talc) or completely inconsistent. Better would have been the complete omission of singular slurs as racial slurs are quite complex and never limited to just one, singular term.

Actually, cutting out the whole racism angle would greatly improve the book as the racism serves no point to the story except to facilitate Eden’s self-discovery.2

Oh yeah. There are Aztecs, too.

Except they’re not Aztec. Or are they?

The tribe used in the book are stated to be the Huaorani, a people (and not a singular tribe, which is how they are treated in the book) who are linguistically and culturally distinct from other surrounding cultures in their native Ecuador. Those of you who paid attention during History class should recall that the Aztec Empire spanned most of what is now southern and central Mexico, and that many Mexicans proudly claim descent from the ruling Aztecs (who called themselves Mexica). Those of you who paid attention during Geography class should recall that Ecuador is in South America, next to Peru, which means it is nowhere near any area of historic Aztec influence, and on a completely different continent.

The Huaorani traditionally have been a semi-nomadic, hunter-gatherer people; they traditionally did not build permanent structures or settlements. The Aztecs were farmers and conquerors, and to this day, some of their pyramids still stand with others acting as the foundations for modern settlements (i.e. Mexico City). The Aztecs had a strongly stratified society and believed in a pantheon of deities; the Huaorani have no formal leadership and hold an animistic view of the world. The Aztecs crafted elaborate calendars and looked to predict events in the far future; the Huaorani concept of time is strongly oriented to the present.

There are many more differences, but these are just some of the more obvious ones a brief glance at Wikipedia supplies. And yet the two cultures are apparently used interchangeably.2

A glance at a map would have also been a good idea, considering the Amazon River is mentioned multiple times even though it doesn’t actually flow through Ecuador.

Now, I could go into more detail about the racial issues in this book, but the topic has been covered quite thoroughly in this review by Margaret Bates, with this article providing plenty of examples from the text of the treatment of the Huaorani.

I’m going to leave it at that, if you all don’t mind; my face cannot survive much more of the frequent planting it’s been experiencing recently from reviewing this book.

That said, I did promise a section on Unfortunate Implications…

The Unfortunates, Unfortunately

Perhaps the most unfortunate source of Unfortunate Implications is Eden herself.

In addition to being intensely racist (which was only partially intended by Foyt), Eden as a character is extremely misogynistic, describing all her female rivals as bitches, with other women being indifferent (i.e., uncaring bitch), callous (i.e., unfeeling bitch), or nonexistent. The only women described favorably are Eden’s dead mother (who spends most of the book dismissed as a sentimental fool) and a native woman named Maria who acts as a surrogate mother to Eden from the moment she’s brought to the surface world. So, basically, the only good women are married, motherly women that are not black, do not want to be black, and do not oppose Eden.

Additionally, Eden has the emotional awareness and maturity of a three-year-old. She cannot tell the difference between lust and love, pretends to be the love interest’s dead lover in order to learn his deepest, darkest secrets, constantly places herself in life-threatening situations just to spite and incense the love interest, consistently misjudges people when reality is too inconvenient, and yo-yos between emotions like a bipolar who knows they’re bipolar but deliberately avoids taking their meds in order to scare people. Our heroine and vehicle for our Aesop, everyone.

The love interest, Bramford, is perhaps the most compassionate and reasonable character in the entire book. He is haunted by the mistakes of his past, even as he deeply loves the result. He works diligently to protect his employees and their families, giving the Pearl widow of a tragically dead pilot in his employ a cushy job as his personal stewardess, bringing Eden and her father to the surface to save their lives, and cutting off all ties to his bodyguard and half-brother who would otherwise be targeted by the main terrorist organization in the underground society. He, in stark contrast to Eden, displays respect for the Huaorani and Aztec’s cultures and traditions rather than dismissing them out of hand, and is truly colorblind.

Unfortunately, as a direct consequence of Eden’s actions earlier on, Bramford is transformed into a freakish half-beast, and his beastliness is glorified by the other “good” characters and pursued sexually by Eden. Additionally, while Bramford is presented as a genuinely compassionate person, this presentation comes at the cost of the lynching of an albino child, systematically stupid racism, an anvil of an Aesop about corporate greed destroying the very resources it seeks to exploit, the appropriation and mangling of Huaorani and Aztec belief systems by way of a myth of a Jaguar Man who will restore balance to the world (guess who that is), Bramford regularly consuming a potion reserved for the strict use of tribal shamans that makes him mentally unstable like woah, the demonization of his first wife, and the extreme (sometimes violent) measures Bramford takes to ensure his son’s safety. It’s also revealed that Bramford still loves his first wife deeply, even after her betrayal, and that he essentially sees Eden as his first wife, especially considering they look like identical twins. Additionally, Bramford strongly pressures Eden into transforming into a creature just like him, and even tries to force the transformation upon his young son (out of the belief that it’s the only way his son can survive to adulthood, but still).

Basically, the every element within the book can be boiled down to three functions: it enables Eden to undergo a journey of “self-discovery”,4 makes Bramford look like a good guy, or does both at the same time.

Even the racism.

That’s it.

Come, Conclusion!

A lot of the issues with this book could have been avoided with proper research and taking the time to think through the implications of such a society, i.e. the pressures that caused it to form in that particular way, the consequences of living underground, where they get the materials for all the drugs, etc. Foyt engaged in neither. That she did not research or think through the implications is inexcusable, but even more inexcusable are the ways in which she not only promotes but defends her work.

This book is racist. There is no valid defense that can claim otherwise without being inherently racist itself.

And I say this as someone who is not one of those “members within the African-American community who have not read the book”. Looking at you, Foyt.

Further Reading

http://rosepetals1984.wordpress.com/2012/08/06/review-revealing-eden/
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/foz-meadows/racism-revealing-eden-and-stgrb_b_1739219.html
http://dermatographia.wordpress.com/2012/08/03/goodreads-and-bullies-or-its-worse-to-call-someone-racist-than-to-be-racist/
http://racebending.livejournal.com/326120.html

Footnotes

1 Especially the anaconda fight. Just thinking about it makes my brain hurt.

2 More on that later.

3 Which really pissed me off on a personal level. One of my first loves was the study of mythologies and cultures, and to see such a rampant disrespect for the cultures and belief systems of both the Aztec and the Huaorani, especially when coupled with the racism that pervades every paragraph of the narrative, just made me incredibly sad and angry. I can only conclude that, like the racism, the ethnocentrism the disrespectful treatment of the Aztec and Huaorani cultures reveals was unintentional, but no less terrible for it. Nothing can excuse the cultural appropriation Foyt employed thoughout.2

4 If it can even be called that. Recall the bipolar comment? It was not an exaggeration, and it extended to her ability to reason. Eden’s thought and emotional processes can be best described as a series of games of shark jumping with the shark occasionally getting in a bite. Or three. And then a big-lipped alligator pays a visit every once in a while just to throw things for an extra loop. Or two. And a new game is commenced with the start of each new paragraph/page/chapter, with the occasional detour through the Wonkatania.

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Comment

  1. Taku on 30 October 2012, 07:55 said:

    I can’t decide if this book is painfully stupid, or maliciously so. I’d almost be willing to consider this as an example of Poe’s Law ( “Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humor, it is utterly impossible to parody a {fundamentalist or extremist} in such a way that someone won’t mistake it for the genuine article.” ), except it’s probably closer to Poe’s Corollary (“It is impossible for an act of Fundamentalism to be made that someone won’t mistake for a parody.”)

  2. Pryotra on 30 October 2012, 11:56 said:

    Eden sounds like a real treat, and Bramford sounds like a semi normal character that completely loses his mind. How is this romantic?

    And I maintain the fact that this story would be better if the issue of race was taken out completely. The book doesn’t seem to need it, and Foyt obviously doesn’t have the talent to discuss serious issues.

  3. swenson on 30 October 2012, 13:10 said:

    This book just… it gets worse the more I hear about it. Did Foyt spend one moment thinking about it before she wrote it?

    Unfortunately, I suspect the answer is “no”.

  4. Nate Winchester on 30 October 2012, 14:50 said:

    They also have androids with sophisticated enough AIs to act as security and medical personnel, laser showers, laser weapons, shuttles, jets, hover trains, holographic internet, 24/7 brain-implanted link to said holographic internet, air conditioning, and all sorts of electrical goodies…

    How… how is this supposed to be post-apocalyptic? just… gah!!! [head asplode]

    In other words, there are absolutely no reasons why any stratified class structure should exist.

    Especially since with androids, the stratification is more likely to come between “live” people (natural folks) and “dead” people (the robots).

    Coal, Tiger’s Eye, Amber, Pearl, Cotton – the one thing they have in common is that they are all explicitly stated to be racial slurs in-book.

    In addition, the names aren’t even consistent.

    I was just about to call that out! Argh, bad book!

    Actually, cutting out the whole racism angle would greatly improve the book as the racism serves no point to the story except to facilitate Eden’s self-discovery.

    So… she made the book controversial, when it didn’t need to be or serve any plot purpose?

    In addition to being intensely racist (which was only partially intended by Foyt), Eden as a character is extremely misogynistic, describing all her female rivals as bitches, with other women being indifferent (i.e., uncaring bitch), callous (i.e., unfeeling bitch), or nonexistent.

    This and books like Twilight… 50 shades… etc lend only further fuel to the idea that the most sexist, misogynistic people, are women. Way to fight the stereotypes people!

  5. Kyllorac on 30 October 2012, 15:39 said:

    @Taku

    This is not a parody. It was written in utter seriousness.

    Bramford sounds like a semi normal character that completely loses his mind.

    Apt description.

    So… she made the book controversial, when it didn’t need to be or serve any plot purpose?

    The entire plot of the book is Eden’s journey of self-discovery. During this journey, Eden learns that she was the most racist out of all the people she’d ever met, that it was wrong of her to hate Pearls because that meant she hated herself, that her skin color was not her defining trait, and that black beastmen are sex gods and so she was a fool to deny her lust for Bramford for so long.

    just… gah!!! [head asplode]

    The story of my reading the book.

  6. Nate Winchester on 30 October 2012, 17:25 said:

    The entire plot of the book is Eden’s journey of self-discovery.

    I defy you to prove that any self-discovery (or self-awareness) took place. ;-)

  7. Tim on 30 October 2012, 17:31 said:

    The entire plot of the book is Eden’s journey of self-discovery.

    From the excerpts I’ve seen, it seems more a journey of self-congratulation.

  8. Oculus_Reparo on 30 October 2012, 18:42 said:

    “Eden learns that she was the most racist out of all the people she’d ever met . . .”

    Yay!

    “. . .that it was wrong of her to hate Pearls because that meant she hated herself . . .”

    Noooo! (Accompanied by horrendously loud basketball-game buzzer)

    Not that self-hatred is good, but if this is the sole reason for her change, then is she really a better person?

  9. Pryotra on 30 October 2012, 19:05 said:

    that black beastmen are sex gods and so she was a fool to deny her lust for Bramford for so long.

    And she has no idea that the idea of black men being connected with sexuality is extremely racist. This woman must be clueless. No one writes like this on purpose.

  10. Kyllorac on 30 October 2012, 20:15 said:

    I defy you to prove that any self-discovery (or self-awareness) took place. ;-)

    Why would you do that to me? D:

    Not that self-hatred is good, but if this is the sole reason for her change, then is she really a better person?

    No.

    This woman must be clueless. No one writes like this on purpose.

    Unless they’re trolling. Which Foyt was not.

  11. Nate Winchester on 31 October 2012, 10:01 said:

    From the excerpts I’ve seen, it seems more a journey of self-congratulation.

    You win +0.5 internets Tim.

    Why would you do that to me? D:

    My love can take strange forms.

  12. Kyllorac on 31 October 2012, 13:14 said:

    Your love can go under a press until it straightens out.

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