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45 Reviews
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
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

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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"
"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...
Published on Dec 5 2002 by Mac Tonnies


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2.0 out of 5 stars Good Premise, Bad Book, June 3 2002
By 
Amerigo Vespucci (Fairbanks, Alaska) - See all my reviews
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. I like the fact that Wilson covers a wide range of history in this novel, so I gave it a higher rating than I would otherwise. The scope of the novel is it's only redeeming characteristic. If you wish to try this novel, I would recommend that you request it from your library, so in the likely event that you do not care for it, you may return it quickly.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Has been done better by others, April 25 2002
By A Customer
Intriguing premise, strong characters, weak conclusion. The best books have multiple climaxes throughout the story with interludes to develop character and build wonder. Unfortunately, this book doesn't create any tension or excitement in the reader.
While there is a reasonable message built into the story . . . what it means to be human, the value of life and why it's worth living, etc., there isn't much support for that message during the book. It makes sense given what the main character has gone through but it isn't particularly powerful.
If you want a book that combines a powerful concept, an interesting, sustainable alternate world and terrific suspense, try Holdstock's Mythago Wood.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A little disjointed, Jan. 21 2002
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. I was completely enthralled by the mystery of what had happened to the old Europe. I had absolutely no idea what to expect. And then, the first of several "interludes" jolted me from the alternate 1920 to the millions-of-years-from-now far future. It was a bit disorienting and didn't really seem to connect to the story thus far except for a few hints that didn't make sense until they were explained much later on.
Don't get me wrong, I finished the book and did enjoy it. Guilford Law is a very likeable character and if the plot requires a more-than-average amount of suspension of disbelief, it is still worth reading. But the story doesn't flow smoothly, the transitions are awkward, and the reality of what is happening, when revealed, is a bit cheesy. Take it out of the library, but I wouldn't spend the money. I'd give it 3 1/2 stars if I could.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Unusual, Dec 8 2001
"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.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Good start but goes downhill, Aug. 7 2001
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.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Premise with a Fatal Flaw, July 26 2001
By 
Rodney Meek (Austin, TX) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Half is fantastic, half is mediocre, July 15 2001
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.
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3.0 out of 5 stars okay or good, sort of, July 9 2001
By A Customer
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.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A good book, but not a classic, June 21 2001
By 
Kevin (Ann Arbor, Michigan United States) - See all my reviews
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.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Alternate history that becomes something else..., June 4 2001
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.
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Darwinia: A Novel of a Very Different Twentieth Century
Darwinia: A Novel of a Very Different Twentieth Century by Robert Charles Wilson (Paperback - Sept. 4 2007)
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