>”Darwinia” was written by Robert Charles Wilson. It presents an alternate history of the 20th century with a twist in the middle. The story begins in 1912 with the “Miracle” – Europe disapprears and is replaced by a completely wild and uninhabited jungle with strange plants and animals. The new continent is sarcastically named “Darwinia“.
The main hero, Guilford Law, is a photographer who is part of an American expedition to explore Darwinia. As the expedition begins, Guilford leaves his wife and daughter at the New London settlements (since England was swallowed by the Miracle too) and continues with expedition to Europe. They plan to travel up the Rhine and explore the new continent.
About two thirds of the book cover what happends to the expedition. This was my favorite part of the book. The feeling was that of reading a Jules Verne exploration novel, like “20,000 Miles Under the Sea”or “Mysterious Island”. I liked the descriptions of the unusal flora and fauna – I wished the book had real illustrations.
Throughout this part hints are dropped that things are not quite as they seem. Guilford has dreams about a soldier in what are clearly World War I trenches, even though the no such war happened in his world. Moreover this soldier seems to be Guilford himself.
There are other characters in the book, who seemed to be taken over by “gods” – what they perceive as supernatural beings that tell them what to do.
Then, shortly after a disaster befalls the expedition in Darwinia, we are given an explanation for the unusal state of the world (spoiler warning!). The world is fact a simulated history that is a part of a cosmic Archive maintained by some outside intelligence. Unfortunately the archive has been invaded by “viruses” which are changing the past and messing up the recording.
Guilford and a number of other people, known to others as “Old Men” are actually immortal and are being readied for the final battle to save the Archive.
I must say I was disappointed by this turn of the plot. For one thing it’s yet another rehash on the “Martix” idea, for the other I find such complete explanations disappointing. I would have preferred to be left with a mystery.
However, I did enjoy the book and I read it less than a week.