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3.36  ·  Rating details ·  3,509 ratings  ·  348 reviews
In 1912, history was changed by the Miracle, when the old world of Europe was replaced by Darwinia, a strange land of nightmarish jungle and antedeluvian monsters. To some, the Miracle is an act of divine retribution; to others, it is an opportunity to carve out a new empire.

Leaving an America now ruled by religious fundamentalism, young Guilford Law travels to Darwinia on
Paperback, 372 pages
Published July 15th 1999 by Tor Science Fiction (first published 1998)
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Average rating 3.36  · 
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 ·  3,509 ratings  ·  348 reviews

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The War in Heaven

Religious doctrine has always been an impertinent imposition on spiritual and metaphysical imagination by those in search of power. Doctrine not only stops the development of religious thought, it also promotes anti-religious sentiment that limits understanding of ourselves, of others, and of the meaning of our existence in the universe. Darwinia is a brilliant exposition of the insanity as well as inanity of doctrinal formulation and enforcement. Its premise is that the theory
Nathan Harrison
"Darwinia" has a four-star first half, and a one-star conclusion. An interesting premise that at first seems unlikely to be fully explained (in the good, mysterious way) is later unraveled in one of the most unbelievable and ridiculous revelations I've encountered in a long time. I'm a fan of pulp and wild-eyed, fevered imaginations, but the explanation for the the "Miracle" that converted old-world Europe into a wasteland of alien flora & fauna is beyond any hint of the suspension of disbelief. ...more
Are you familiar with the simulation argument? If not, for sure you have seen The Matrix. In the last few years, the hypothesis that we are living in a simulated reality is more and more debated. But RCW did this 20 years ago, in this gem of a story.

Year 1912: the sky lights up in the middle of the night on the American continent and worldwide. People think Armageddon has come. But when the lights fade out, everything returns to normal on Earth, except that Europe with all its cities, people, fl
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
David Katzman
Sep 22, 2008 rated it it was ok
Hmmhh. I felt nonplussed by Darwinia. Unmoved and untouched. It was an odd book but not I felt in a good way. It wasn't a bad just didn't hold together enough for me to have much impact.

It's also hard to tell you much about it without spoilers. But I will say that it felt somewhat disjointed. The initial premise changes radically toward the middle as we learn why the premise exists. There were many unwieldy ideas shoved into the basic story. Imagine Out of Africa with extreme sci-fi co
Michael Fierce
Nov 10, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: fans of Philip K. Dick, and heady sci-fi

At firt glimpse I was immediately taken in by the cover stating Darwinia was a Hugo Award Finalist.

An important fact in my book.

The quotes I read here and there said it was a variation on The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle, in the tradition of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Jules Verne, and H.G. Wells, comparable to Philip K. Dick or A.E. van Vogt, and since then, armchair critics have said that it has a sprinkling of the Elder Gods mythos by H.P. Lovecraft, and that the creature portion was reminisce
Jun 10, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sciencefiction
This was OK. I remember seeing this book on the shelf when it came out way back when I was in high school (and in the middle of my longest-running SF phases) and being lured by the cover. I finally got around to reading it due to a dearth of reading options. (Hurricanes will do that to you.) I still think it has a lovely cover, and the blurb seemed to promise a book about ecology, evolution, and the 20-th century scientific spirit. I was excited about all of it.

Unfortunately, the book and the wr
Regrettably, this book had so much potential which was never fully exploited (in my opinion, at the least). The alternative Europe setting promised much excitement and suspense. But that world was never fully realized. I really wanted to know more about "Darwinia" but in retrospect it seems that Robert Charles Wilson never really considered that to be the driving point of his book.

The characters were 2-dimensional and too many were killed-off nonchalantly to keep me interested in the plot.

Jan 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
I had certain expectations going into Darwinia: A Novel of a Very Different Twentieth Century and it didn't meet those expectations. It turned out that it wasn't about what I thought it was about at all. It had a big twist that completely turned my assumptions of the reality of the novel's world upside down. I didn't like how that twist was revealed so blatantly so early in the story.

I know I'm giving the impression that I disliked Darwinia, however I don't mean that at all. The story is very in
Oct 09, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Reminiscent of such diverse writers as Edgar Rice Burroughs, H. G. Wells, and Philip K. Dick, Darwinia by Robert Charles Wilson is an amazing piece of literary alchemy. Imagine, if you will, a reality where in 1912 Europe transforms into a strange land of nightmarish jungles and alien creatures. This so‑called Miracle is the centerpiece of this fascinating and truly different alternate history.

Young Guilford Law joins an expedition to explore this Darwinia. What they uncover shatters conception
Jun 10, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf
The same author's Spin is a far better book, and there were points when the meta-reference became too much for me (yes, even me), but it's a really interesting premise that quite often delivers on its promise, especially in the first half. The second half, where the book threatens to eat itself, I'm not as big a fan of, but the storytelling works well. Wilson is a good writer.
Stewart Tame
Oct 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
1912. Europe vanishes, replaced by an antediluvian world inhabited by fantastic creatures. Naturally, an expedition is mounted. But it soon becomes clear that someone--or something--doesn't want Darwinia’s secrets exposed …

Wilson has done an impressive job of world building. There's a wealth of detail in the sights, sounds, and even smells that bring Darwinia to life. But it's not a world recognizable from Earth’s ancient past, more like a world where insects became the dominant life form. Wilso
Jul 24, 2011 rated it it was ok
Photographer in alt history 1920’s gets recruited into a battle for the memory of the universe taking place at the end of time. Which is a way more interesting summary than this book deserves.

Yeah, I think I need to stop digging through RCW’s back catalog in search of a book as brilliant and wonderful as Spin. There clearly isn’t one back there, and it isn’t worth having to slog through stuff like this.

This is supposed to be a skiffy meditation on immortality and memory and living, all wrapped i
Aug 09, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There comes a time when you read a book (especially science fiction, but that is a discussion for a whole new entry) when a concept is totally new a fascinating, and this is one of them. I guess every genre suffers from the adage - there are no new stories, just ways of re-telling old ones - or something like that.

Anyway this book I will admit had one such idea - I cannot really explain it since practically the WHOLE book hinges around it, what I can say is that I didnt see it coming and in a s
Jan 20, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2010, sci-fi
This book is a kinetic tumble of genres: alternate history, science fiction, geographical survey, action thriller, horror, mythology. The story is idea-driven much more than character-driven; it's the detached logic of situations that makes many sections heartwrenching. The complete strangeness of Darwinia juxtaposes the absence of Europe, direct ancestor of my literary development. Indeed, in this scenario, I would not have been born at all, as my paternal grandfather would have disappeared in ...more
Meris Bray
Jul 29, 2007 rated it it was ok
This came highly recommended, but my overall impression was "blah". It is well-written, I'll grant that, and the first half was just fine, but I spent the second half rolling my eyes so hard it's a surprise I actually managed to finish it. I don't usually have trouble suspending my disbelief, but this was just silly.
Apr 28, 2010 rated it it was ok
Gah. I loved the first half of this but it got too weird and convoluted and I sort of lost interest near the end. It was missing the great characters that Wilson does so well in his later novels, too. This won't stop me from jumping right into Blind Lake though. ...more
Jul 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this when it came out. Superior and original Sci-fi.
Storyline: 3/5
Characters: 3/5
Writing Style: 3/5
World: 3/5

So, Robert Charles Wilson's Darwinia starts of with a miracle. Or, rather, The Miracle. And the world changes, giving this alternate history a fantastic springboard to explore how the future is impacted. I dove in, completely submerged myself, and lived it. I was excited to adventure with the explorers, delighted with the cultural inversions, amused with the twists on 'classic' literature, and provoked by the politics of the future. These
Dec 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Billy Roper
Dec 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
The previous reviews ALMOST scared me off, but I'm glad that I pulled up my pants and waded on when, in the middle, what I had picked up as a dystopian alternate reality yarn took a turn for the downright metaphysical on me. Yes, it does go supernatural halfway in, and requires a doubling of the suspension of disbelief, but I have noted this fault in current fiction readers: their imagination is limited in transmissional ability, able to shift only once before grinding gears. As an example, even ...more
Sometimes an author's less well-known books can be the best ...

While I am a fan of Wilson's more popular, award-winning books (see, e.g., Spin ), I love his less-popular works, like Darwinia and Blind Lake , even more. I think Darwinia is one of Wilson's best. I know a lot of reviewers didn't appreciate it as much, though, and I think it's just a matter of whether this book clicks with you. This book clicked with me on different levels. I love books that force you to question the nature of
Apr 18, 2010 rated it did not like it
Two pages of lame science fiction padded by lengthy carrying on by not-so-compelling characters. The premise, (and this doesn't spoil much) has potential: Europe suddenly vanishes and is replaced by a Europe analog from another world, with a whole new family tree of life to discover. But only a small handful of silly organisms are mentioned, most are unimaginative in their detail, and the rest are only mentioned by name.

I really get angry when I read awful "science fiction" like this that attemp
Oct 27, 2016 rated it liked it
This book is worthy of recommendation, even if it doesn't quite fulfill the promise of that dynamite introduction. The story is a little gappy, and not wholly satisfying, but it's still strange, surprising, and affecting. Worth a read.
Jan 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sf-fantasy
An atmospheric and haunting novel that reminded me a little of Edgar Rice Burroughs' The Land That Time Forgot, one of my childhood favorites.
Dec 28, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Originally posted at:

Guilford Law was born two years shy of the turn of the century. He lives vicariously through the sciences and world-changing theories he reads about in magazines, imagining himself as part of a much larger and quantifiable 20th Century universe. Even when a strange light blasts the sky on his fourteenth birthday, Guilford isn’t charmed by the miraculous explanations made by others. Instead, he’s become so fascinated about unravelling
Aug 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
If goodreads allowed, I would rate this 3.5. It has the makings of more ascendant sci-fi, but misses the mark in its ambiguity. I really think there are some great concepts in play, worth contemplating during and after reading. What's missing is a greater affirmation of the more philosophical ramifications, parsing the cleverly scientific eschatology of the bigger story. What we get instead is a spectrum of second to third-person omniscience that does more telling than showing.
I applaud Wilson
Aug 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This was an amazingly good book. It starts as an adventure story set in a world that has undergone a strange and inexplicable replacement of the continent of Europe in the year 1912. Slowly, skillfully, the reality behind this unbelievable transformation is revealed. It starts like Edgar Rice Burroughs and ends like Philip K. Dick. Along the way, I sympathized with Guilford (crossing guile?) Law, as he struggles to understand the shadowy "Picket", an alternate version of himself killed in our Wo ...more
Nov 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
boy but this was a bit of a mind fuck, hey? TBH i think it went a bit off the rails near the end, but it's a curious ontological exploration.
James Joyce
That was... interesting.

This started out as I expected. Europe and some of the surrounding lands and waters are replaced one day, in 1912. One day it's the world we know, the next it's an alien world. Flora, fauna, the very ground, itself.

Miracle? Scientific oddity? Something else? No one knows, but the Finch Expedition heads out to explore this new world. And that's only one of the stories that you'll follow, though the main protagonist is Guilford Law, the photographer on the expedition.

I ca
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I've been writing science fiction professionally since my first novel A Hidden Place was published in 1986. My books include Darwinia, Blind Lake, and the Hugo Award-winning Spin. My newest novel is The Affinities (April 2015).

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