When her employer declines to use his unpublished evolutionary theory to grab the winnings for himself, Chloe secretly copies his treatise, secures funding and a ship, and heads for the Galápagos isles to gather evidence for his Tree of Life. As she and her eccentric fellow travelers descend into the Amazon jungle while traversing South America, they encounter many obstacles.
The lofty narrative tone lends period authenticity, and there are some great comic moments as the characters undergo crises of faith. Fans of quest adventures may find the pacing exasperatingly sluggish, as the plot often gets buried under numerous details and digressions. For those fascinated by the meeting point between theology and science, though, it should be a rewarding expedition.
Galápagos Regained was published this week in hardcover by St. Martin's (496pp, $27.99). This review first appeared in Booklist's December 15th issue.
- I loved James Morrow's The Last Witchfinder, which (like this one) is a picaresque adventure novel about a woman's quest. It's set in Restoration England and 18th-century America and takes on the themes of bigotry and superstition during the age of witch-hunting. From the first sentence ("May I speak candidly, fleshling, one rational creature to another, myself a book and you a reader?" – it's narrated by the Principia Mathematica, you see), I was captured by the writing, humor, and originality. Definitely recommended. I reviewed it for Booklist in 2006; it was my first starred review for them.
- Galápagos Regained started out promisingly for me as well. The scenes on Darwin's estate in England are terrific, and the author's wit is as sharp and clever as always, but other parts were, well, simply too long and detailed. Reviews are mixed; Kirkus wasn't keen, Library Journal loved it, and Publishers Weekly admired its sense of fun but also said it was overlong. I cautiously recommend it and would be interested to hear what others think, if you decide to read it.