cover image Galapagos Regained

Galapagos Regained

James Morrow. St. Martin's, $27.99 (496p) ISBN 978-1-250-05401-2

Morrow is best known for his quirky speculative fiction with plots that skewer religion and involve extraterrestrials and boorish people behaving badly. This latest (after The Madonna and the Starship) is a comic blend of Victorian science colliding with Christian faith as greedy folks enter the Percy Shelley Society%E2%80%99s %E2%80%9CGreat God Contest%E2%80%9D to win a hefty cash prize if they can either prove or disprove the existence of God. Unemployed London actress Chloe Bathurst is the zookeeper for scientist Charles Darwin in 1848, fascinated by his yet unpublished theory of natural selection. Desperate to get her destitute father out of debtor%E2%80%99s prison, she steals Darwin%E2%80%99s famous essay and enters the contest, intending to pass Darwin%E2%80%99s theory off as her own, to prove there is no God and claim the prize. Funded by the society, Chloe and her dissolute brother, Algernon, lead an expedition to the Galapagos Islands, racing against a rival expedition hoping to find Noah%E2%80%99s Ark in Turkey. The society%E2%80%99s pompous judges intend to prevent Chloe%E2%80%99s success, secretly sending a ship with orders to destroy any evidence of natural selection on the Galapagos. Although too long, the complex tale is a round-the-world romp of improbable but delightful fun and harrowing adventures, a cross between Phileas Fogg and Lara Croft. (Jan.)