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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

The Amazing Dr. Darwin by Charles Sheffield. New York: Baen, 2002. ISBN: 0-7434-3529-X.

Although published under a Sci-Fi imprint, and written by an author known for his science fiction efforts, this book resists categorization. It’s not really science fiction in the traditional sense. More like historical fiction, in that it chronicles the fictional adventures of the grandfather of the more famous Charles Darwin. I find the stories more like Sherlock Holmes mysteries, but with a strong emphasis on science (as understood in the 18th century) and with more than a touch of the occult or supernatural, though these elements are invariably debunked by the good doctor. A portion of the first story (chapter) is available online.

All of the stories have been previously published in magazine form, but appear here for the first time as a complete collection. Dr. Erasmus Darwin does appear to have been a remarkable man, a scientist who looked for natural causes and explanations for things that many in his day would have been happy to relegate to the supernatural. Sheffield spins good yarns, and the stories are entertaining, if in the end, a bit unsatisfying, in that some of the plot elements remain unexplained, or at the very least, a bit far-fetched.

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