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Darwinia: A Novel of a Very Different Twentieth Century Mass Market Paperback – July 15, 1999

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Science Fiction; First Edition edition (July 15, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812566629
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812566628
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (101 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,185,003 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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

First, the characters were not adequately developed.
C. Bashara
4 stars overall, highly recommended for alternative universes SF and also a book that will still be readable and enjoyable in 20 or 30 years.
Overall impression: An interesting idea, but not a very entertaining book.
Merryl Gross

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

55 of 57 people found the following review helpful By Rodney Meek VINE VOICE on July 26, 2001
Format: 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.
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53 of 56 people found the following review helpful By Alan Robson on November 17, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Darwinia is a flawed masterpiece. In March 1912, half the world disappears. Great Britain and Europe and all the people who live there vanish into nothingness and are replaced by a land that is geographically similar to the old land but which is covered in forests of plants and trees unknown to science. The forests are inhabited by birds, animals and insects the like of which have never been seen before on the Earth.
Expeditions are mounted to explore and exploit the new lands and speculation as to the cause of the catastrophe run wild. The story follows one such expedition deep into the heart of what was once Europe. One by one the members of the expedition die. Only two survive to return to the outside world and these two, for their own reasons, remain silent about what they found.
Up to this point the book held me enthralled. An exciting adventure, an eerie mystery, what more could anyone want? But then there was a brief interlude in the middle of the book that completely destroyed the spell. The interlude explained all the mysteries - but only to the reader, not to the characters in the book. They don't discover any of these secrets until much later on. Such a massive spoiler in the middle of the story completely destroyed its momentum. I didn't like possessing information that was unknown to the characters and while the book did eventually pick up again, there was a long dry patch where it simply stopped working.
It's an ingenious book with a carefully worked out plot and the reasons for the strange thing that has happened to the Earth are beautifully original. The sheer detail of the new lands and their flora and fauna are exquisitely presented and the hardships of travelling through them are excellently dramatised. All this is high praise indeed and the book deserves it. But the structure is very badly flawed - I really did hate that massive spoiler in the middle.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By C. Duncan on February 8, 2003
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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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By not4prophet on February 27, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
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.
Here's the idea: In 1912, all of the people and signs of civilization on the continent of Europe vanish and are replaced by alien plants and animals. A few years latter, an expedition is sent up the Rhine River to explore the new continent. The main character of the book is a photographer named Guillford Law who joins the expedition in hopes of becoming famous. After the expedition is attacked, he is one of the few survivors and becomes caught up in a battle to save the world. Two other storylines follow Guillford's wife in London and a psychic from the United States.
The biggest problem with the book, as others have mentioned, is that the author decides to give away the secret about the disappearance of Europe after just 100 pages. From there on, the rest of the book grows very confusing. Wilson tries to wrap all of the diverging plot lines together, but there were so many of them, and the writing was so vague that I couldn't keet track of who was doing what and how each character related to the central storyline.
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