Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Darwin Conspiracy

Ever contentious it seems, - I got more then I bargained for when I searched for a cover image of this book I recently read. The ever-present controversy over evolutionary theory is, I guess, part of what keeps Darwin in the public memory and part of why I was interested in the book in the first place.  Turns out that what the web had to offer on Darwin Conspiracy was also pretty interesting reading.

A far as historical fiction is concerned there seems to be two types. One sets fictitious characters in the past and tells a story that accurately reflects the atmosphere of the time and place. Something like the story of Aminata Diallo in The Book of Negros would be a good example of this kind. The second kind uses real historical characters of interest and adds fictitious artifacts/events to add to the history.  The Darwin Conspiracy by John Darnton clearly was the second type and the trouble I encountered within it was that this kind of historical fiction can sometimes blur where the history ends and the fiction begins. In this case, so much so that I was distracted from the fiction and distrusting of the history. While the historical details are apparently well researched, I felt like I couldn't trust any insight into the time because so many details seemed to have been invented for the story's sake. It was very much a la Da Vinci Code and while it was an original idea on the telling of Darwin's story, its own telling wasn't as inspired.

I echo the feelings of a fellow web bookreporter, Kathy Weissman, "If you're looking for a nice, light entertainment with a sprinkling of natural science and history, plus a bit of a mystery, try it. But if you want a genuinely good book, go elsewhere...1"

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