Most helpful critical review
on March 29, 2015
There is value in some authors writing a biographical novel. It is a format in which the writer takes liberties in creating dialogue to make the reader feel more connected to the subject matter. The late Mr. Stone was careful in not adding material that was historically inaccurate. You won't be finding Charles Darwin in 'The Origin' having wanton sex with village women, running around killing vampires or creating a machine and traveling back in time to the Paleozoic Era. The biggest problem I had with the tome is Mr. Stone's writing was awfully stale for my tastes. I wasn't sure if the author was trying to imitate Charles Dickens's writing style (1812-1870) or the time period Darwin lived (1809-1882), but none of the dialogue seemed natural.
I knew more about evolution than the man who wrote 'On the Origin of Species.' Mr. Stone's biographical novel seemed like a fun way to get to know the man. Oye, was I wrong. There is some interesting tidbits in the book about the gentle, thin-skinned workaholic who had no appetite for controversy, but the reader has to wade through oceans of mundane material. Even some of the situations would have been immensely better if the author had gone into more detail about the arguments between opposing viewpoints. Instead, Mr. Stone skitters over what could have been thought-provoking situations. Academic and church reactions to the publication of 'On the Origin of Species' were given as much space as mind-numbingly boring details about what the Darwins ate, where they traveled, and who they visited. Sweet Jesus, it was like being forced to watch your relatives slide show about their week-long vacation trip to Walmart.
Tragically for me, I have some sort of Obsessive Compulsive Reading Gremlin knocking around in my head that keeps me reading a book even when I don't enjoy it. It took me almost three weeks to read 'The Origin' because about 200 hundred pages into it, the novel became tedious. He saw this, he collected that, and then he saw some of this, then collected some of that... yadda, yadda, yadda. I started finding excuses not to pick up the book. For me, that is a rarity. Even Darwins's excursions into the South American jungles were delivered in a bland style. My word, the guy had to either be careless or sporting a serious set of brass balls to wander around country teeming with carnivores, bandits, revolutionaries, potentially hostile natives, and oodles of diseases. The book does a humdrum job of conveying the dangers and their feelings when you consider it's a biographical NOVEL. Heck, there are plenty of nonfiction works which I've read that did a better job of having me sitting on the edge of my seat as well as getting a fuller measure of the person. Half way through 'The Origin' it became a test of my perseverance to see if I would finish the sucker. Maybe you'll like it, but in hindsight, I wish I'd just gone to Wikipedia and read about Darwin.