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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
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.
Well written, but two books caught under the skin of one, which is appropriate considering the plot but inelegant. First book is 'new world to explore' excitement and adventure. Read morePublished 7 months ago by M.
Europe gets wiped out by a mysterious replacement continent called Darwinia (to mock people who trust science over miracles) in the 1890s. Read morePublished on July 22 2003 by Christopher Nelson
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 morePublished on April 14 2003 by Amazon Customer
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
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 morePublished on June 2 2002 by Amerigo Vespucci
Intriguing premise, strong characters, weak conclusion. The best books have multiple climaxes throughout the story with interludes to develop character and build wonder. Read morePublished on April 25 2002
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 morePublished on Feb. 27 2002 by not4prophet