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   I started these pages in an effort to keep track of books that I was reading and had read, and it seemed that one thing led to another.  Now I am adding this page to keep track of my impressions of these books and authors.

   The Darwin Conspiracy by John Darnton, 2005, 309 pages. (Finished May 14, 2006) is basically a whodunit that capitalizes upon some confusing aspects of Darwin’s life.  Darwin, after his return from his Beagle voyage, became an invalid after a few years in England and never again showed the vigor that he exhibited on the voyage.  For the rest of his life he was wracked by unexplained ailments which many have said were partly psychosomatic.  He also waited almost twenty years before publishing his theory.  This story deals with two Darwin researchers who uncover facts that lead them to believe that Darwin is a fraud and a possible murderer. 

     The plot is full of flashbacks from several points of view and all in all is well written. The author weaves parallels between one of the researcher’s life with that of Darwin’s and could provide an introduce into the history of Darwin’s idea for the novice.

      Darnton has also gotten most of his facts correct, but there are so many incongruities that require a suspension of belief which I am unable to make even though I am a science fiction/fantasy devotee! (e.g. Would a native american with limited contact with Europeans be familiar with giraffes?.)   The two researchers find letters written by Darwn’s daughter Elizabeth that seem to question the character of her father.  Further research reveals various letters that drop with mysterious ease into their hands, and which reveals that Robert McCormick the Beagle’s surgeon had some previously unknown role in Darwin’s theory.  

     I enjoyed the book but I was left very disappointed with the ending.  The ultimate explanation for all the mysteries was simply unbelievable.  I thought that there could have been alternate explanations without resorting to what I considered a gimmick.

            Cryptonomicon…do you like historical novels, puzzles and codes, spy novels, lots of action, philosophical speculation, computers and geeks, treasure hunting, Nazis and submarines, suspense novels?  Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson (1999) is all this and much, much more (finished May 15, 2006).  This incredible book, over eleven hundred pages, held me absolutely enthralled.  Do you ever find a book which is so good that you can’t put it down, but at the same time you try to slow down the reading because you really don’t want to finish it too soon?  That’s the way I felt about this book.  I am always on the lookout for good authors, and I am delighted that I found Stephenson…even more so because he has written many more books.  I anticipate that I shall have a great time going through his works.

     The book jumps back and forth through time, from the present to WWII; it also jumps between the viewpoints of multiple characters all of whom are fully developed to the point where you feel that you know them intimately.  It deals with modern computer geeks setting up a new company intertwined with the story of the code breakers of WWII.  It goes into almost mind numbing detail concerning aspects of computers and the subculture of geeks, combined with details of codes and code breaking.  It was funny, scary and in parts totally surrealistic.  My only criticism is the last portion which I thought was a tad weak.   This was a thought provoking book which I thoroughly enjoyed.  I can’t imagine how I have missed this author, but I shall certainly make up for lost time!


















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