Darwinia by Robert Charles Wilson

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Ironically I found this one while reading a short story a few months back. Usually when I see another book mentioned in something I am reading I look it up to see what it’s about. What really drew me into this one was the fact that it had to do something with a computer simulation, but I don’t want to give away too much away. So based on that fact alone I was sold knew I needed to check this one out.

Robert Charles Wilson is science fiction writer born in California but has spent much of his life in Canada. I have not read any of his other works but he certainly has quite a few to choose from. His series Spin, has won the Hugo Award in 2005. His other famous works include The Chronoliths, Mysterium, Darwinia, and Julian Cumstock. I am by no means an expert in sifi writers but I had not heard of Mr. Wilson and I am not sure if I would have read Darwinia had it not been mentioned in what I was reading at the time. I doubt very seriously if I would have ever found this book and read it per any other circumstance. So just another reason to keep reading you never know what you will discover.

IMG_2465The book opens up in the early 1900’s following a then young boy named Gilford Law. When he is younger there is an event that is called the “Miracle” that takes place. The Miracle has seemingly replaced all of Europe and some of the Middle East and Asia with a whole new world. In an instant millions of people are replaced with an entirely new flora and fauna. It does not take long before settlers from America and around the world are once again trying to colonize this new world. Law is among the first to explore the new continent with the famous Finch Expedition. While this is going on the story also follows another characters that seemingly have special powers and is able to talk to the dead through what he calls the “gods.” In the end these unlikely souls meet as their fates are ultimately tied together.

I have to say that before I started reading this book I kind of knew what it was about, but in all actuality I more or less just knew the overall premise. But I will say that I was utterly surprised by even knowing the premise how vague that was in comparison to the overall story. In my mind I had a whole other scenario that I thought the book was going to happen, so my expectations were a little off. Throughout most of the story I really did not known what was going on all the while knowing what was behind the smoke and mirrors. So I think that in some sense changed my reading experience. For me I think this book would have been better had I never known what was going on, however I doubt I would have read it had I not known. The ultimate conundrum!

What I found quite interesting about this book is that Wilson wonderfully crafted this book like it was written during the late 1800’s and the age of jungle exploration was at hand. At times I felt I was reading Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines or Conan Doyle’s Lost World, the visuals and writing style, as well as the overall tone of the book superbly fit into this category. I also felt there was somewhat of an Allan Quartermain character in this book as well. I found it interesting that Wilson put quotes from famous people into various parts of the book. There were a few from the creator of John Carter and Tarzan (E. R. Burroughs) and even mentions the author by name in the book. I thought this was neat to include real individuals throughout this story in the same time period and work them in so they made sense. I would assume and have to wonder if Wilson was a fan of Burroughs and his works?  Seems like a reasonable assumption given that Wilson threw in Burroughs to his book.

The overall plot in this book is pretty interesting and very unique. The themes in this book have been somewhat explored before, but certainly not in this aspect. It really is something very special and really and truly unique. It is tough to talk about without giving too much away. But the overall plot, without getting too out there, meaning that the book itself is just bizarre in and of itself, this book is really awesome in terms of just what the plot brings. Some books have a bunch of other abstract things going on such as S by J.J. Abrams, which was insane by the way, but just in terms of the plot this book is really cool. I guess what I am trying to say is that there are no gimmicks in this book it is straightforward with is uniqueness.

In saying that I have to say that I was somewhat disappointed in how the overall story played out. As I have already said I knew the underlying plot of the book and I think this really changed my reading experience. I thought the story was going to go in another direction and incorporate somewhat of a different path, but it certainly went in its own way. Still, I think the book was really good, but it is hard to dismiss your expectations and just accept the story as it is. So you have to take my disappointment with a grain of salt. I liked it but it was not what I was expecting.

This was a really interesting book one that I would certainly recommend. It has a very strange and interesting plot that when you start dissecting it has quite a few philosophical discussion points that can be extrapolated upon after reading. This certainly will not be the last book of Wilson’s that I read. As you know I am not a big fan of book series, but I would be interested in checking out the Spin Series or at least reading the first in the series. Check this one out if you get a chance.

Manik

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