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Darwinia: A Novel of a Very Different Twentieth Century [Paperback]

Robert Charles Wilson
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 4 2007
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 was an act of divine retribution; to others, it is an opportunity to carve out a new empire.
Leaving an America now ruled by religious fundamentalists, young Guilford Law travels to Darwinia on a mission of discovery that will take him further than he can possibly imagine…to a shattering revelation about mankind's destiny in the universe.
Robert Charles Wilson has crafted a brilliant science fiction novel—a view of an utterly different 20th century.
Darwinia is a 1999 Hugo Award Nominee for Best Novel.

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From Amazon

In 1912, the entire European continent and all of the United Kingdom mysteriously vanished during the Miracle, replaced by an alien landscape known as Darwinia. Darwinia seems to be a slice of another Earth, one that diverged from our own millions of years ago and took a separate evolutionary path. As a 14-year-old boy, Guilford Law witnessed the Miracle as shimmering lights playing across the ocean sky. Now as a grown man, he is determined to travel to Darwinia and explore its mysteries. To that end he enlists as a photographer in the Finch expedition, which plans to steam up the Rhine (or what was once the Rhine) and penetrate the continent's hidden depths as far as possible. But Law has brought an unwanted companion with him, a mysterious twin who seems to have lived--and died--on an Earth unchanged by the Miracle. The twin first appears to Guilford in dreams, and he brings a message that Darwinia is not what it seems to be--and Guilford is not who he seems to be. --Craig Engler --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

The heroes and villains of this surpassingly strange novel are not who they think they are. Though the style is rich, lucid and literate, the point is dizzyingly abstract. Wilson, whose last novel, Mysterium (1994), won the Philip K. Dick Award, uses cosmological physics to envision an intergalactic sentience, millennia old, that fights insect-like "psions," machine intelligences, for the survival of consciousness itself. We glimpse this struggle directly only in occasional brief "Interludes" until well toward the end of the book. Before that, it is the story of Darwinia, a primeval landscape that in 1912 appears on Earth in place of most of Europe, transforming world history. When photographer Guilford Law joins an exploratory expedition, he lands in the middle of nationalistic skirmishes that wipe out most of his party in the bizarre forests of Darwinia, teeming with beasts from alien lines of descent. His personal life, notably his difficult relationship with his young wife, is intimately related, but he eventually learns that he and everything and everyone on Earth are instruments of the cosmic struggle of which Darwinia and the murderous skirmishes are mundane correlatives. Earth is an archive of consciousness that he must help protect. Hideous creatures mass and threaten in an ending reminiscent of Stephen King. Wilson's two-tiered story structure reminds one of Michael Moorcock's work, but it is much more coherent and accessible. In the blurring of character identities, he is comparable to Philip K. Dick or to A.E. Van Vogt. He owes something to Colin Wilson and Lovecraft as well, in the discovery through dreams and archeological wonders of a hidden reality. That he is able to weld the two realities so fluently is remarkable indeed.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Enchanting Read July 4 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
What seems, at first glance, like a simple adventure story in Robert Charles Wilson's "Darwinia" is actually anything but simple -- something you will learn as the book leads you deeper and deeper into a complex, rich, and hauntingly beautiful story.
"Darwinia" takes place in a world left reeling after Europe was transformed over night into a foreign and unexplored wilderness. The story follows the journey of Guildord Law who explores this new world and learns about the land and so much more.
The charecters in the book are vivid and you will come away feeling that you know each of them. It is science fiction at its best, full of surprises and powerfully written. One can't quite say enough about this book!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Kind of slow, but very good. May 6 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
It seems like there are more and more books where part of the Earth is mysteriously changed overnight. S.M. Sirling's Islands in the Sea of Time and Wilson's own Mysterium come to mind. In all of them that I have read, you simply accept this change as part of the setting of the story. Darwinia is different, in that the main character wants to find out why the change occured, and much of the story is dedicated to explaining that change, and this was why I liked this book better than I expected.
The story was pretty slow at the beginning, and I almost gave up on the book. However, once Wilson started to explain how the change happened, it got much more interesting, if not much faster. I enjoyed the characters in the book, particularly Gulliford Law, who is curious about what happened to cause the change in the Earth, but once he finds out, wants nothing more to do with it. As I mentioned, the story is kind of slow, but I think it is worthwhile.
I have read several books by Wilson, and they have never been quite what I was expecting going in, but I have enjoyed them all. I would recommend this book, and will look to read more of Wilson in the future.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Edgar Rice Burroughs meets "The Matrix" Dec 5 2002
Format:Mass Market Paperback
"Darwinia" is an eerie, frequently fascinating tale that takes place after Europe is suddenly and mysteriously transformed into an uncharted no-man's land. Guilford Law, a photographer drawn by the continent's enigma, takes part in an expedition to its interior, facing evolutionary mysteries and paradigm-toppling revelations. Wilson is one of the genre's most appealing and overlooked storytellers, and "Darwinia" is a canvas of cosmic scope. Unfortunately, the ending is something of a letdown after the initial build-up; "Darwinia" reads as a paleantological thriller unsuccessfully fused with a virtual reality shoot-'em-up, complete with interdimensional mutants and bullet-proof avatars. Edgar Rice Burroughs meets "The Matrix."
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Mass Market Paperback
'Darwinia' is really a tale of two halves. The book as which it begins is charming, mysterious, and deeply entertaining. Somewhere near the novel's midpoint, a plot pivot appears which transforms the novel into something *entirely* different. To say it was 'unsettling' to this unsuspecting reader is an understatement; however, sticking with it proved to be rewarding nonetheless. The reviewer who described 'Darwinia' as Edgar Rice Burroughs meets 'The Matrix' is dead on target, with maybe a sprinkling of Lovecraft's Old Gods thrown in for good measure. 'Darwinia' has a strange disequilibrium to it, and it is definitely difficult to categorize - but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's not a five-star book , in my humble opinion, but it is still a thoroughly enjoyable novel. It's a smart, interesting read unlike anything I've seen before.
'Darwinia' is the first writing by Robert Charles Wilson I've read. He definitely impressed me as an author worth seeking out, and will appear on my reading list again soon.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A remarkable tour de force Jan. 23 2002
Format:Mass Market Paperback
"Darwinia" establishes Robert Charles Wilson as one of the outstanding writers in contemporary SF. The Europe of 1912 is replaced by a strange, alien wilderness containing previously unknown forms of plants and animals and no sign of civilization. Religious fundamentalism bubbles to the forefront in the wake of the "Miracle" as most people believe that God sweep the old center of Western civilization out of existence because of its iniquity. Some people see inconsistencies in the theological explanation and seek alternate explanations based on science and logic. Guilford Law, the protagonist of the novel, is drawn into the latter camp and ultimately reaches a stunning explanation of the true nature of the "Miracle".
Wilson's technical writing skills are excellent. He draws a haunting picture of this strange world that was Europe. Wilson creates appealing characters with depth using a mature and well-crafted writing style. The characters behave rationally in this irrational world. Most importantly, Wilson thoroughly understands contemporary history and creates a series of events in the post-"Miracle" world that are both logical and reasonable. For instance, the obliteration of the British home islands leads Lord Kitchener to set up a rump government operating out of Ottawa that seeks to retain the claims of the British Empire. This is precisely what Kitchener, the hero of Khartoum and victor of the Boer War, would have done. A brief naval war erupts between the US and the British rump government that the Americans easily win. This fits with the deployment of the major forces of the Royal Navy in British home waters in 1912 to counter the growing threat of the German navy. With these forces gone, the American navy would have been easily superior.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Weird and interesting
Europe gets wiped out by a mysterious replacement continent called Darwinia (to mock people who trust science over miracles) in the 1890s. Read more
Published on July 22 2003 by Christopher Nelson
1.0 out of 5 stars ....
This book started out as being good. I started reading it and I thought it was going to be about some explorers trying to survive in a strange alien world. Read more
Published on April 14 2003 by Amazon Customer
3.0 out of 5 stars Food for thought. Well, maybe more like a snack.
Overall impression: An interesting idea, but not a very entertaining book.
First off, let me admit I'm not a huge follower of alternate history SF. Read more
Published on Aug. 13 2002 by Merryl Gross
2.0 out of 5 stars Good Premise, Bad Book
This book started out with a good idea, but soon flopped. I was looking for an alternate history novel, but this is more science fiction than anything really. Read more
Published on June 2 2002 by Amerigo Vespucci
3.0 out of 5 stars Has been done better by others
Intriguing premise, strong characters, weak conclusion. The best books have multiple climaxes throughout the story with interludes to develop character and build wonder. Read more
Published on April 25 2002
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
Darwinia is one of the types of SF novels that I hate most; it starts out with a great premise but then turns into a sloppy, forgettable mess by the end. Read more
Published on Feb. 27 2002 by not4prophet
4.0 out of 5 stars A little disjointed
I thoroughly enjoyed the first half of this book. I won't rehash the basic plot - you can read the synopsis above and many of the other reviews for that. Read more
Published on Jan. 21 2002 by shel99
3.0 out of 5 stars Unusual
"Darwinia" is one of the most unusual books I have read. It starts out in 1912 with the complete and mysterious disappearance of Europe and the British Isles. Read more
Published on Dec 8 2001 by AntiochAndy
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