Author: Kenneth C. Johnson
Release: June 12th 2018
I received a copy of The Darwin Variant through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
The Darwin Variant is described as a ‘day-after-tomorrow thriller’ full of catastrophe and danger. I found it to be reminiscent of a lot of science fiction already out there, which can be considered good or bad depending on your opinion on the matter. The earlier parts reminded me of half a dozen space collision stories out there, while the latter half reminded me very much of Annihilation.
The other thing worth mentioned before we begin is the storytelling style Kenneth Johnson opted to go with. It’s written as sort of an oral story being told after the fact. So it’s more a collection of stories from a half dozen people that lived through the events. I don’t mind this style of storytelling, as long as it’s done right, but I know it grates on some people’s nerves.
The Darwin Variant had very high ambitions, right from the start, and it’s difficult not to respect what was attempted here. Its multiple concepts wrapped into one: a science fiction novel where humanity comes together to fight off the big bad asteroids; a biological horror story; an oral history. That’s a lot to try and fit in one mere novel, and unfortunately I do feel that it fell just a little bit flat.
I actually went into this read fully expecting to love it, so when I say I was somewhat disappointed I want you to understand that I’m not being intentionally harsh. There are good bones here, it just needed some reworking to have the impact I was hoping for.
I really do think the problem is that this book tried to do too much with too little time. I wonder how things would have been had they split this into two novels or slimmed one concept. While the impending comet part was interesting it really didn’t need to be as detailed as it was. Mostly it served as a way of getting to know all the main characters.
The Darwin Variant has half a dozen main perspectives, which as I said above I’m okay with. They’re all telling the events as they saw them. They had different levels of expertise and experience, and even lived in different parts of the world. Thus their opinions on the matter and how they interpreted the same events varied wildly. Naturally there were some characters I liked more than others, I’m not going to lie and say I liked them all (because I didn’t). But there were a couple I found myself attached to, and that really did help carry the story along for me.
The writing itself was well done on the whole – there were parts that dragged here and there, but overall the pacing was pretty spot on. I do think the author fell into a couple common writing tropes, but they weren’t blunt or terribly done, so I didn’t really mind it.
There was a lot of potential in this novel, and there’s still quite a bit I enjoyed about The Darwin Variant. Despite how it sounds I am happy that I took the time to read it, and I honestly do think part of the problem is that I let my expectations get too high.