Mark Reads ‘The Science of Discworld III’: Chapters 9 & 10

In the ninth and tenth chapters of Darwin’s Watch, the wizards face a setback, and Darwin faces a million setbacks but somehow DOES IT. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Science of Discworld III. 


OH, NO, I KNEW IT WAS TOO EASY! And it also took me too long to realize that the ship itself was nine more tasks. So, in just a few pages, the wizards accomplished everything that Hex had told them to do. THIS IS BAD, THERE ARE OVER TWO HUNDRED PAGES LEFT, WHAT IS HAPPENING. And all of this was done so that Darwin could get on the Beagle, and it could successfully head out to sea. (I’m realizing now that maybe repairing the Beagle was just one whole tasks with nine tasks in it, given what chapter ten states.) Even then, it seems apparent that the wizards were ready to head out to make sure that Darwin stayed on the path, and then… well.


Things had been fine! Rincewind was about to spend time on an island that probably had no creatures that would eat him! But the derailment happens, and it’s so absurd and such a dramatic escalation that I can only laugh at it: 

I am unable to explain why this is the case, but there are now 1457 reasons why Darwin did not write The Origin of Species. The book has never been written in this history. The voyage has never taken place.

OH. OKAY. And let me guess: if they start “repairing” any of those 1,457 deviations, it’ll just exponentially create more, right? But at least I was onto something when I said that the book hadn’t addressed the weird thing we saw in the first chapter. So, what’s the “intelligent” force that’s actively intervening here? And it’s not lost on me that this is a representation of divine intervention, isn’t it? Some outside force is sticking their hand in Roundworld, pushing it in a specific direction. But why?


Oh my gods, y’all, I loved chapter ten so, so much. If you’re not a video person, a bit of a summary: much of this was new to me because my science education over the years left out practically all of the contextual history. I had no idea about Erasmus Darwin; I didn’t know what else Charles was reading and reacting to at the time; I DIDN’T KNOW IT TOOK HIM YEARS TO ACTUALLY DEVELOP HIS IDEAS. Sometimes, I’m surprised that I ever learned any science at all at the various schools I went to??? So, all of this was an utter delight, and the authors clearly had a lot of fun talking about the sheer improbability that Darwin’s journey happened at all. 

But given what I suspect is going to unfold—the wizards are going to have to delve deeper into Darwin’s life—I appreciated that this chapter spent so much time getting the reader familiar with Darwin. We need to know to know this stuff!!! Darwin’s passion for geology is KEY to understanding what drew him to get on the Beagle. I needed to know about his time in the Anglican Church and how the culture of that religion also influenced his interest in things like beetles. What if some of this stuff comes up later as the wizards attempt to repair Roundworld history?

I also can’t deny that despite that this is a heavily history-based chapter—with some necessary science to explain how Darwin eventually came to write The Origin of Species—it reads like a damn good story. Props to the authors for giving this history a narrative that moved. That’s not an easy thing to do, though maybe it was for someone with such an interesting succession of events in his life. Seriously, look how many times Darwin’s life could have EASILY gone down a different path! It makes even more sense now that these three authors would focus on Darwin for a story about wizardly intervention, you know? The history itself is ripe for a fictionalized exploration of how he came to propose new theories that would change the world forever. But I also loved it for one final reason: this shit took time. Darwin did not craft his theories of natural selection while on the Beagle, and it took him years of sifting through his notes and interacting with past work and his contemporaries for him to change the narrative. I appreciated that, especially since I did not learn about Darwin with this scope of time in mind. Again, I always thought the book came out right after his Beagle journey ended.

That simply isn’t the case. Darwin had to do work—a whole lot of work. He didn’t have instant epiphanies, none of this was handed to him, and he spent years slowly arriving to the most important transition in his entire life. Even then, the chapter cuts off before The Origin of Species is written! I’m interested to see if that’ll be addressed, too. Basically: I’M VERY EXCITED.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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