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5.0 out of 5 stars An Enchanting Read
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...
Published on July 4 2003 by Sara Mangan
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. Most interesting part is how Wilson manages to explain his odd beginning (which I won't give away for those who haven't read it). Superb as that part is, Wilson confronts a problem that he really doesn't do a good job of resolving...
Published on July 22 2003 by Christopher Nelson
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3.0 out of 5 stars Unusual,
This review is from: Darwinia: A Novel of a Very Different Twentieth Century (Mass Market Paperback)"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. In place of the Old Europe is a new Europe which is shaped similarly but which is unpopulated by humans and contains an alien flora and fauna. Guilford Law is a boy when this event takes place and is fascinated by it. By 1922, the US is in the throes of a religious revival, the world is in an economic depression, and what to do with the "new" Europe is a subject of politcal controversy. Law, now a young man, joins an expedition to explore the interior of the new continent, leaving his wife and daughter in "New" London. What follows is a pretty good adventure as Law and his companions trek through the alien wilderness while his wife stumbles into a relationship with a soldier in "New" London.
Suddenly, about a third of the way through, the scene shifts and the reader is confronted with a galaxy "collapsed into its own singularity" where "noospheres" meet "in million-year cycles to exchange knowledge and to create hybrid offspring, metacultures embedded in infant noospheres dense as neutron stars." The upshot of this is that all sentient history/experiece has been accumulated into an "Archive" of incomprehensible magnitude. The purpose of the Archive is to preserve all knowledge, but it is under attack from what can perhaps best be described as computer viruses blindly attempting to alter or destroy the stored data. Much of this aspect of the story is dense and obscure.
Subsequent to this revelation, the story changes dramatically, taking on a bizarre nature. Law meets his alter ego, who actually died in France in WW I on the original earth. This alter ego tries to enlist Law in the "war" against the "evil" virus entities.
This is a very odd story. The latter part is much different from the first part, and the connection between Earth and the Archive, as well as the nature of the Archive and the war going on in it, are never adequately explained. Indeed, much of the story struck me as very dark, and it reads like a horror story. It was relatively fast-paced and I got through it pretty quickly, but I was less than satisfied with where it had taken me by the time I got to the end. I can't honestly recommend it to other readers, even though some parts were entertaining enough. I'm sure some folks will like it, but proceed at your own risk.
3.0 out of 5 stars interesting premise, but ultimately too head-scratching,
This review is from: Darwinia: A Novel of a Very Different Twentieth Century (Mass Market Paperback)At the beginning of the twentieth century, the continent of Europe is replaced (yes, replaced) by a wild, uninhabited version complete with un-Earthly flora and fauna. This is the jumping off point for a twisting, "What is reality?" story that aspires to be a cross between Philip K. Dick and William Gibson. Unfortunately, it's just a bit too head-scratching.
2.0 out of 5 stars Good start but goes downhill,
This review is from: Darwinia: A Novel of a Very Different Twentieth Century (Mass Market Paperback)This novel did start as a clasic Edgar Rice Burroughs or Jules Verne type novel - as stated on the back cover by the Toronto Globe reviewer. However, that reviewer must not have read past the middle of the book because it then turns into a garbled story-line about the changed continent of Europe is due to a computer virus attempting to rewrite the archieved history of the universe. While interesting to read to its conclusion once started, I would not recommend it to others and won't keep it on my bookshelf.
3.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Premise with a Fatal Flaw,
This review is from: Darwinia: A Novel of a Very Different Twentieth Century (Mass Market Paperback)This novel has great movie pitch appeal. Its premise can be summed up in one sentence but is so unique and fresh and startling that it just jumps up and grabs you. The basic plot can be sold simply by stating: "In 1912, the world discovers that all of the civilizations and people of Europe have been replaced overnight by a primeval wilderness."
This bizarre transformation fuels the action of the first half of the book, as explorers from the United States and other unaffected areas begin to probe the mysteries of the vast and unpopulated depths of Darwinina, as the transformed Europe is now called. Needless to say, the balance of international power has been changed by the disappearance of most of the great nations, and the global economy has been sent into a depression. Because of its overseas empire, which remained unchanged, the English are able to re-establish a tenuous foothold in New London, which draws immigrants from Canada, Australia, India, and South Africa. Other countries, such as Germany, Italy, and France, are less fortunate due to their lack of colonies, and hence are easily bullied by the Americans.
The description of the events of one American expedition sent to probe the Darwinian hinterlands is fairly engrossing. This is Jules Verne and Edgar Rice Burroughs territory, vigorous pulp fiction with heroic explorers and uncharted depths and fantastic events, and even the mandatory lost city. But the reader's expectations are abruptly upset when Wilson pulls the curtain aside and reveals the truth behind the Darwinian miracle.
At this point, the novel becomes a weird fusion of "The Lost World" and "The Matrix", and the intimate human scale is lost. It becomes quite evident that the apparent conflicts in Darwinia are but the vaguest echoes of a far greater war which is beyond all contemporary human comprehension. Wilson should be given credit for his boldness, but unfortunately, this sudden change in tone plays quite poorly and the reader's connection to characters and events becomes singularly detached.
However, this is a noteworthy book simply for the sheer audacity and playful brilliance of the first half. The cover art is also gorgeous.
3.0 out of 5 stars Like so many others.......,
This review is from: Darwinia: A Novel of a Very Different Twentieth Century (Mass Market Paperback)I felt this book started strong, it had captured my imagination and felt it was leading to exciting discoveries. When more is revealed I was dissappointed but thought after a strong start Mr. Wilson would take it to more interesting heights. He just didn't appear to know where is was going with it and it wandered and floundered, the characters weakened and it fell apart. Very inconsistent in parts...I don't ask for everything to make sense in Sci-fi but you have the responsibility for making it plausible in the plot/setting. DCS
4.0 out of 5 stars Half is fantastic, half is mediocre,
This review is from: Darwinia: A Novel of a Very Different Twentieth Century (Mass Market Paperback)Robert Charles Wilson is one of my favorite authors so I was a little disappointed with this book. The first half of the book detailing the metamorphasis of Europe is interesting and exciting but the second half where you discover the cause of the change is less interesting. I liked the adventurousness of the first half, but I found the second half to be plodding in some places.
Still, Wilson is a great author and this book is better than most of the science fiction being published today.
3.0 out of 5 stars okay or good, sort of,
By A Customer
This review is from: Darwinia: A Novel of a Very Different Twentieth Century (Mass Market Paperback)I really wanted to like this book more than I did...it sounded so promising and began well. However, I finished it feeling unsatisfied. The premise is fascinating, but it seemed that the book couldn't decide what it wanted to be about, really. The characters didn't seem real; the odd, interludes explaining that nothing really exists are a confusing disruption that don't really illuminate much (what the heck is a noosphere, anyway?). I did plow through to the end, and encountered some interesting and even one or two compelling moments along the way, but the sick, half-fascinated voyeuristic feeling wasn't the aftertaste I was hoping for.
4.0 out of 5 stars A good book, but not a classic,
This review is from: Darwinia: A Novel of a Very Different Twentieth Century (Mass Market Paperback)Darwinia has an interesting premise: Europe disappears overnight, replaced by a similar continent with completely different flora and fauna. The main character, Guilford Law, is part of an expedition to cross the Alps, or what _were_ the Alps, anyway... I liked the initial focus on Darwinia itself, and assumed that this would be a semi-hard-sf adventure novel about exploration. After all, the cover quote compares Wilson to Jules Verne and Edgar Rice Burroughs. A little less than halfway through the book, I found out that I was completely wrong. This book isn't even remotely similar to anything Verne or Burroughs ever wrote! I was disappointed at first, at least about the Verne part. (I was never much of a Burroughs fan.) However, this book did resolve itself into a good book, not the book I'd been hoping for, but certainly worth reading. My complaints about the novel are as follows:
<Warning: Spoilers ahead. Stop here if you plan to read the book.>
Several major things were never adequately explained. We never find out exactly where the psilife came from, where Darwinia came from, why the psilife built the city, or why the psilife would bother enslaving humankind instead of just destroying it. The (not-so) final battle never resolves--we eventually find out who won, but we don't actually see them win. Despite these shortcomings, Wilson's writing style manages to salvage the book. I'll definitely be looking into his other works.
4.0 out of 5 stars Alternate history that becomes something else...,
This review is from: Darwinia: A Novel of a Very Different Twentieth Century (Mass Market Paperback)Before I read this book I read a lot of the reviews by other readers, and I learned a lot about the plot of this book that I would have been better off not knowing and discovering on my own within the pages. Read other reviews at your own risk...
So with that said, I compare Darwinia a lot to the movie _Fight Club_... no joke. If you have seen _Fight Club_ you know it starts out with a relatively straight forward plot and ends up becoming something entirely different- even epic in scope. This is what Darwinia is all about, giving you an interesting premise and then taking you on a very intriguing ride with an ending you would not have anticipated when you first began the story.
Darwinia is not perfect, but it certainly is a breath of fresh air and quite different than probably anything you have read lately. Of course, your mileage may vary.
2.0 out of 5 stars Good Concepts, Bad Fiction,
This review is from: Darwinia: A Novel of a Very Different Twentieth Century (Mass Market Paperback)Let it first be said that Wilson's novel does contain a number of interesting concepts (that is why I gave this book two stars instead of one), especially ones pertaining to evolution, as the title obviously suggests. However, overall this book is a good example of stagnant fiction. The plot goes nowhere until probably page 200 in 360 page book. The author seems to be heavily influenced by the "Highlander." Moreover, the prose of this book is simply awkward, not to mention a number of anachronisms (the novel is primarily set in the 1910-1920s).It is more like a second rate Western than a science-fiction novel. In fact, the "science-fiction" part can be summarized in probably two pages. It is hard not to notice the heavy influence of Stephen King (and I mean the worst parts of Stephen King). Frankly, I am surprised that TOR would publish this nonsense. Overall, a disappointing read--not worth the time or money.
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Darwinia: A Novel of a Very Different Twentieth Century by Robert Charles Wilson (Paperback - Sept. 4 2007)
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