Darwinia

Robert Charles Wilson, Author
Robert Charles Wilson, Author Tor Books $22.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-312-86038-7
Mass Market Paperbound - 384 pages - 978-0-8125-6662-8
Prebound-Other - 978-0-606-18638-4
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-0-7653-1905-0
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The heroes and villains of this surpassingly strange novel are not who they think they are. Though the style is rich, lucid and literate, the point is dizzyingly abstract. Wilson, whose last novel, Mysterium (1994), won the Philip K. Dick Award, uses cosmological physics to envision an intergalactic sentience, millennia old, that fights insect-like ""psions,"" machine intelligences, for the survival of consciousness itself. We glimpse this struggle directly only in occasional brief ""Interludes"" until well toward the end of the book. Before that, it is the story of Darwinia, a primeval landscape that in 1912 appears on Earth in place of most of Europe, transforming world history. When photographer Guilford Law joins an exploratory expedition, he lands in the middle of nationalistic skirmishes that wipe out most of his party in the bizarre forests of Darwinia, teeming with beasts from alien lines of descent. His personal life, notably his difficult relationship with his young wife, is intimately related, but he eventually learns that he and everything and everyone on Earth are instruments of the cosmic struggle of which Darwinia and the murderous skirmishes are mundane correlatives. Earth is an archive of consciousness that he must help protect. Hideous creatures mass and threaten in an ending reminiscent of Stephen King. Wilson's two-tiered story structure reminds one of Michael Moorcock's work, but it is much more coherent and accessible. In the blurring of character identities, he is comparable to Philip K. Dick or to A.E. Van Vogt. He owes something to Colin Wilson and Lovecraft as well, in the discovery through dreams and archeological wonders of a hidden reality. That he is able to weld the two realities so fluently is remarkable indeed. (June)
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