Robert Charles Wilson
Orb (Tor), Sep 2007, $14.95
In 1912, war in Europe seems imminent when an alien realm Darwinia abruptly replaces Europe on planet earth. The United States is unconcerned with what has vanished; instead declares the cosmos event a Miracle and encourages colonization especially by the devout who believe this is God’s work to replace evil with good. Over the next few years a few struggling colonies settled mostly by religious fanatics are formed within the extraterrestrial forests.
In 1920 American creationist scientist Preston Finch leads an expedition to chart the New World. Boston photographer Guilford Law leaves wife Caroline and daughter Lily in New London as he joins the quest. However, the journey proves dangerous as outlaws and the strange alien wildlife attack them. However, it is the dreams and odd occurrences that frighten the participants. Guilford the photographer meets Guilford the dead WW I soldier before leaving Darwinia. In New London he learns that his family thought he died so they left to grieve in Australia. The other Guilford explains to the bewildered photographer that they are expendable military fodder protecting humanity in a universal war through time against demon controlled humans. When Darwinia came to earth to protect the enigmatic Archive from the Great War; hostility came with it to this time and place.
This extremely complex and convoluted alternate history thriller is a difficult tale to follow as the story line is not always linear especially when the scope widens laterally. Guilford the photographer is a fascinating lead character as his problems with his wife that seemed monumental before the expedition now appear molehill as he begins to understand what is happening on a global scale. Fans who prefer deep thought provoking thrillers will want to read this intricate tale as Guilford learns nothing is quite what it seems, not even demons.