Two years old at the birth of the new century, Guilford Law is fourteen when the world changes forever. Overnight a swathe of Europe was replaced by an unpopulated vista that has the same shape but wholly different flora and unfamiliar, treacherous fauna. Seen by many in the New World as a Miracle, dually asserting God’s dominion over all and His condemnation of the old, the new land is dubbed Darwinia, a mocking snub to those who accepted the clearly flawed theory of evolution.
In 1920, now a young man, married and the father of a young daughter, Guilford heads from his native Boston to the new London painstakingly being resurrected. Much to the distress of his wife, he’s about to embark on a potentially dangerous but nonetheless important expedition to discover more about this uncharted land. Leaving Caroline and four-year-old Alice in the care of her aunt and uncle, Guilford joins a group of men, headed by Preston Finch. Through a series of disastrous turns, Guilford’s devotion to Caroline never wavers, and he writes a journal to her regularly.
This ambitious novel adds gods, visions and foreseeings, dual universes, strange and terrible creatures, and the affect of This World survivors on our world’s war victims. If that all sounds convoluted, complicated and muddy then I’ve convincingly portrayed the novel, or at least as much of it as I could manage. I persisted long after I’d had enough but just couldn’t manage to complete Darwinia. Perhaps it was because I’ve been ill (with a genuinely high fever), but I suspect it’s not just me. The Toronto Star found one of Wilson’s novels to be a “seamless blend of mature philosphizing and crisp story telling” but they weren't reviewing this novel. I did enjoy two previous offerings from Wilson, and haven’t given up on his work, but I’ll be taking a break before tackling him again. – Alex