At the beginning of August I reviewed Robert Charles Wilson’s science-fiction novel Spin. And since I enjoyed that book I went back and found an earlier novel of his, Darwinia.
Darwinia was first published in 1998, and it won the Aurora Award. In fact, judging by the cover of the UK paperback edition, you might think that it had won the Philip K. Dick Award, but that went to an earlier book of Wilson’s, Mysterium.
Anyway, you will get the point that Wilson is not without honours. And deservedly so, because he is a skilful writer. His narrative technique is very sound, and it would repay study if you are into writing yourself. He knows how to use viewpoint, and he writes in scenes, with a lean, spare style of storytelling.
At the beginning of Darwinia there are perhaps too many characters introduced for my taste, but we soon settle down and concentrate mainly on the fate of Guilford Law.
Guilford has to cope with the fact that, in 1912, the world changes overnight. Europe and all its inhabitants disappear, being replaced with a continent which has the shape of Europe but different animals and plants. The new land becomes known as Darwinia.
Robert Charles Wilson is a writer capable of developing a powerful vision of what the universe might be about, and how it might work. But he wisely concentrates on the human element. And at the end of the book he manages to make us feel very deeply about the ultimate fate of his principal characters.
The book, in other words, is a success. Recommended if you like science fiction.