The Evolution of Inanimate Objects by Harry Karlinsky
The naturalist Charles Darwin is world famous due to his incredibly forward-thinking research into evolution, most famously published in ‘On The Origin of Species.’ Although Charles and his wife Emma may have had only 10 children during their time together, Harry Karlinsky weaves the tale of their fictional eleventh child, Thomas Darwin.
On the 2nd of July 1879, Thomas Darwin was admitted to the London (Ontario, Canada) Asylum for the Insane after strange and threatening behaviour aboard a train. But what pushed a young man of such mental potential and ability to the brink? As Thomas was growing up, he often assisted his father in research and experiments. Be it unwittingly as a baby when Charles studied his tantrums and breastfeeding issues. When old enough, he assisted in collecting samples on walks and Charles was delighted as Thomas seemed to follow in his footsteps by attending the same University and joining the same groups as his father had. Thomas’ preferred study did not including any living subjects as his father’s most famous works did. Instead, Thomas’ entire life began to revolve around the evolution of inanimate objects, mainly cutlery. Although many thought his preoccupation with food-based utensils rather odd, his first talk on the subject was a logical description of how these items had been developed over time to perfectly fit their changing environments, such as varied eating fashions and the introduction of new foods. At some point, his mind faltered and his beliefs took a not so logical shift…
To put it simply, The Evolution of Inanimate Objects by Harry Karlinsky is stunning! The mix of fact and fiction with supporting evidence in diagrams, letters and photographs is so detailed, it’s impossible not to wonder where the two merge (the author’s notes at the rear of the novel carefully separate the details for people like myself who always need to know the fact and the fiction). What is very clear from this book is Karlinsky’s dedication to detail and this is what really makes the story. What could sound like an utterly insane plot, progresses with such excellent logic that Thomas’ studies seem completely rational until the final stages.
The Evolution of Inanimate Objects is a beautifully imaginative and unique reading experience. Working as a bookseller I quite often get asked for ‘something completely different’ and this is what I will now be recommending. For anyone that reads a lot of fiction, this really is a truly refreshing read.
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