by Robert Charles Wilson
A book review by Mark L. Olson
Tor, 1996, 320pp, $22.95
Here's a strange one which just barely misses being a truly great piece of SF.
The time is about 1910 and after a night in which there are strange lights in the skies, it is discovered that Europe is gone, replaced by a continent (named Darwinia) which is physically fairly similar, but covered with life which might have resulted from a parallel evolution in which insect-derived life dominated. People explore the strange, new world and a big chunk of the story follows the Finch Expedition up into the Alps about ten years later.
The expedition is nearly wiped out by hostile humans (people from various European colonial empires have returned to lay claim to what had been France, Germany, etc.) but discovers a mysterious cyclopean ruin high in the Alps before the remnants stagger back towards civilization.
Then things get strange!
Wilson does a fine job of making this all fit together and manages to turn something which began like a piece of ersatz early 20th century lost world fiction into fine SF. The characters are interesting and he explains enough, but not too much.
So what was missing? I can't put my finger on it, but I think that he relied on just a few too many "just because" reasons -- the picket's limitations and need to communicate with the main character: why? Just because. The similar limitations of the forces of Evil and their possession of other humans. Etc. (Though how he could have plugged these minor gaps and made it all appear to be natural outgrowths of the story is beyond me.)
Still, this is a first-rate piece of work. Recommended!
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