REVIEW: “The Darwinist” by Diaa Jubaili

Review of Diaa Jubaili, “The Darwinist”, Strange Horizons 30 Oct. 2017: Read online. Reviewed by Danielle Maurer.

It’s inevitable when writing regular reviews of a publication that a reviewer will find a story that doesn’t resonate with her. “The Darwinist” is one of those stories for me.

Set in 20th century Iraq, the story tells of the birth of Shafiq, a boy with a furry, banana-shaped birthmark and the son of a reviled Darwinist. After leaping back in time to discuss the boy’s father, the story then tells of Shafiq’s adulthood, searching for a banana to give his pregnant wife, and how that search ends in tragedy.

When I say “the story tells,” I do mean tells. “The Darwinist” has a distinctly newspaper-like quality to it as it lays out the events of Shafiq’s life. It maintains a birds-eye view, never taking the time to deeply explore any of the characters or moments it discusses. There’s little dialogue or opportunity to show the story. Instead, it reads like a synopsis of a novel without much plot (save for the banana search that takes up the last third).

It’s entirely possible that this story is meant as an allegory, and I’m missing some political or cultural connotations that would give it greater emotional depth (it is told in translation from Arabic). But as it is, the narrative distance from the characters and the lack of a clear direction for the early plot kept me from fully engaging with the story.

Published by

Danielle Maurer

Danielle Maurer writes fantasy and science fiction novels featuring tragic villains and publishes SFF book reviews on her blog. When she’s not hiding under her writing rock, she digitally markets things at her day job and reads while walking like a modern-day Belle. You can find her on Twitter at @WryRaconteur.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.