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Darwinia    by Robert Charles Wilson order for
by Robert Charles Wilson
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 1999 (1998)
Hardcover, Paperback

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* * *   Reviewed by Marian Powell

As a boy celebrates his fourteenth birthday, the world changes. Europe vanishes, replaced by a new land that resembles the old one except that plants and animals are utterly strange. Man has never lived there.

The year is 1912. This date becomes significant because, obviously, without Europe, World War I will never occur. Instead, there is hesitant exploration and rebuilding, first in the alien England and then edging out into the mainland of Europe. What makes this novel so good is that after about a hundred pages of alternate history, the reader begins to realize Darwinia is really about something else, something much vaster in scope. It is about what caused the change.

The novel expands out across time and space. It is all seen through the eyes of the fourteen year old boy who grows up to become an explorer and to be haunted by memories of fighting and dying in World War I, an event he knows never happened. The story gets weirder and weirder.

I can't say more without giving away the secret that drives the plot. But be aware that just as you settle into an ordinary tale of exploration, the story will change utterly and take you to a very strange place indeed.

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