I read this from cover to cover almost in one go. It is a real inspiring story of Fitzroy and his voyages together with Darwin, how he came upon his first theories and his differences with the captain. Inspiring in such a way that I want to know more about those two characters.
It is fascinating that science at those days could be so adventurous making it wonder what our scientists are doing today locked up in a lab.
This is such a good, easy and enjoyable read that you would have wanted more. The only problem is the authors premature death leaving a wide black hole which he could have stuffed with a lot of more good reads such as this one....Continua
This exciting adventure is worthy of its longlisting for the Man Booker Prize. The story is mainly of the voyage of the HMS Beagle, the boat (as a ship of that size was known in the 1800s) that made history by carrying the young Charles Darwin to all corners of the earth and shaping his nascent scientific mind, prompting him with notions that eventually culminated in his historic publication of On The Origin Of Species. But the hero of this book is not Charles Darwin.
Though Darwin features prominently, it becomes increasingly clear that the captain of the Beagle, Robert FitzRoy, is the main protaganist. This aspect of the novel is what arrests one and challenges all the preconceptions one might have of Darwin and his "little trip" around the world. The impact of the novel is all the greater for having been written to closely conform to actual events, as evidenced by the extensive bibliography and the author's own explanation in the afterword of exactly which aspects of the story were "made up" or changed for the sake of the story (not many at all).
FitzRoy's scientific achievements are virtually unrecognized now, having been eclipsed by Darwin's monumental contributions, but they are nevertheless very substantial. FitzRoy was a remarkable character in every aspect, including his resolute literalist belief in the Bible, a Biblical flood, a 4004 year old earth, etc. He was absolutely wrong in his religious assumptions about geology and biology but there was so much more to this young man who obtained his own command at a mere 23 years old.
The story is riveting, tragic, and epic in scope - the science therein is extremely well laid out, the religious and philosophic arguments between protaganists are subtle and mature, and the period authenticity by all accounts is in every aspect, from naval to linguistic, impeccable. To truly appreciate what was achieved on that voyage and others like it seems to me impossible without a novelization of this stature. It certainly challenged some of my preconceptions and opened my eyes to aspects of the voyage I had never considered. Having read Darwin's own account of the voyage recently I could fully appreciate many of the accurate accounts in the novel, which seemed to cover everything I have ever read about it, and more.
If you want to have the feeling of "growing up" and obtaining an adult perspective of the historic events surrounding the voyage of the Beagle, gain insight to the fascinating and mostly forgotten part Captain FitzRoy played, and see Darwin in the unadulterated light of historic fact as opposed to adulating mythology, then this book is for you.
I am a huge admirer of Darwin but this book made him a real person to me for the first time. FitzRoy has risen immeasurably in my estimation and I feel I have learned a life-lesson about the harsh realities and cruelties of the uncaring world. FitzRoy's achievements are a matter of historic, though seldom recalled, fact - it was not a romantic fictional character that painted him in a new light for me but his actual achievements of which I had known nothing.
One of the best parts of this meaty novel is the afterword, in which Thompson gives an account of what happened to all of the characters in the book after the time at which novel ends. He delivers a splendid overview of the historical events, the horrors of British colonial life in the Falklands and New Zealand in particular, and a rousing account of the scientific and humanitarian achievements of the various crew members of the Beagle. That so few could achieve so much is also an event unparalleled in history by any other sea-going crew of a single vessel and unlikely ever to be equaled.
So, at the end of the day, I recommend everybody who admires evolution or is a die-hard Creationist to read this account of what really happened and of those who sacrificed their lives along the way. The novel is neither pro-Darwin nor pro-religion; it is merely an account of what happened. Luckily the actual events were immensely exciting. By turning these eager pages, both sides of the debate shall gain invaluable insight; both sides shall, hopefully, grow up a little bit....Continua