Thursday, October 30, 2008


Darwinia by Robert Charles Wilson was originally published in 1998. My paperback copy is 372 pages. This is an alternate history science fiction novel. In 1912, after shimmering aurora-like lights played across the sky world wide, almost all of Europe disappears and is replaced by an alien, primeval wilderness. This event is eventually called the Miracle. In the first part of the book, an expedition is assembled to explore the new continent, called Darwinia. Guilford Law witnessed the Miracle as a boy and he is the photographer of the expedition. We eventually learn that Darwinia is not what it seems to be and several characters, including Guilford, are not who they seem to be.

Wilson's novel held my attention and had great promise until the middle, where it takes an abrupt turn in the plot. One reviewer adeptly described this twist in the middle as resembling The Matrix meets The Lost World. For me, the fusion of the two stories was unsatisfactory. As I see it, Wilson could have improved the novel by going one of two ways. He could have stayed true to the Lost World storyline or more fully developed The Matrix-like angle. It's not a bad novel, but it had the potential to be so much better. Rating: 3.5

Description from cover:
In 1912, history was changed by the Miracle, when the old world of Europe was replaced by Darwinia, a strange land of nightmarish jungle and antediluvian monsters. To some, the Miracle is an act of divine retribution; to others, it is an opportunity to carve out a new empire.

Leaving American now ruled by religious fundamentalism, young Guilford Law travels to Darwinia on a mission of discovery that will take him further than he can possibly a shattering revelation about mankind's destiny in the universe.

"Guilford Law turned fourteen the night the world changed." opening sentence

"But the event itself, the terrible knowledge of it and the diffusion of that knowledge across what remained of the human world, lacked parallel or precedent." pg. 4

"From Berlin, Paris, London, all the capitals of Europe, the rippling light enclosed the entire span of the sky." pg. 4

"It was not what a forest ought to look like or smell like, and - perhaps worse - it was not what a forest should sound like." pg. 12

"Buckley felt a prickle of heat and pressure as the creature pierced the cloth of his trousers and then the skin above his knee with the point of its daggerlike muzzle." pg. 13

"...the sheer enormity of what has happened began to emerge....there was no Ireland, no England, no France or Germany or Italy... nothing but wilderness north from Cairo and east at least as far as the Russian Steppes. as if the planet had been sliced apart and some foreign organism grafted into the wound." pg. 15

"... Europe transformed, the miracle continent the newspapers still called Darwinia." pg. 22

"The generally accepted explanation for the Miracle was that it had been just that: an act of divine intervention on a colossal scale." pg. 47

"The summer of 1920 was a chill one, at least in Washington, for which people blamed the Russian volcanoes, the fiery line of geologic disturbance which marked the eastern border of the Miracle and which had been erupting sporadically since 1912..." pg. 105

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