Picked this one up on a total fluke. Meezly and I were in the sci-fi/fantasy section of la Bibliotheque Nationale (can you tell I am living well!:)) when this book caught her eye. She is a student of all things Darwinian (being highly evolved). She only glanced at it and put it back, but being in a very pulp/explorer phase right now I was intrigued by the cover, kept looking and decided to take it out. Plus, I had read The Chronoliths by the same author and was still interested in reading more of his work.
The whim was a good one as this turned out to be an excellent book. It follows the life of a young man born on the turn of the twentieth century. When he is 8 years old, he witnesses, as does the rest of the world, a strange light in the sky and the following total transformation of most of Europe into an entirely different ecology. The landmasses are the same, but the plant and animal life is totally alien and all the humans and their work is gone. The book then follows the protagonists exploration of this transformed continent and how the revelations of its origins change his life and the entire world.
It is, in effect, an alternate history. I was a little disappointed after the first half because I was hoping there would be more exploration and discovery of the crazy details of this alien world transposed upon earth. I was also hoping for more depth on the resurgence of creationism (because with such an obvious 'miracle' the theory of evolution becomes completely discounted but for a few heretics) and the conflicts that would arise from that. I suspect that this book would have been better served in a longer format, like a trilogy, because the questions it poses and the story possibilities it creates are vast.
On the other hand, I appreciated that the actual source of the transformation and the great story behind it is fully explained and justified. I won't say more beyond that it is big picture science fiction (reminded me a lot of some of Zelazny's ideas). I am actually glad that it was kept to one single book, even though I felt some things were skipped or rushed over. As I have said many times, I have neither the will nor the time to get into long series and trilogies, so Darwinia served me well.
A rich and satisfying read, with a gripping story and some very cool concepts. Recommended.