Expedition book cover
|Author||Wayne Douglas Barlowe|
|Illustrator||Wayne Douglas Barlowe|
|Cover artist||Wayne Douglas Barlowe|
|Published||1990 (Workman Publishing Company)|
Expedition is a science fiction book by artist-author Wayne Douglas Barlowe. Subtitled "Being an Account in Words and Artwork of the 2358 A.D. Voyage to Darwin IV", it is written as though published in the year 2366, five years after Barlowe's participation in a voyage to an alien planet, dubbed Darwin IV in honor of Charles Darwin.
In the 24th century the exploitation of the Earth's ecosystem has created an environment so toxic that mass extinctions have wiped out nearly half of its animal population. Most of the remaining fauna, save humans, have suffered horrible mutation. Aided by the benevolent and technologically superior alien race, the Yma, humanity begins to repair their ravaged world while simultaneously learning more about the universe around them. When an unmanned Yma probe discovers evidence of alien life on another planet, the "expedition" of the title is sent to investigate.
Barlowe writes as a sort of 24th century Audubon, presenting his findings in a collection of paintings, sketches, field notes, and diary entries from his explorations of Darwin IV. He details a bewildering variety of alien lifeforms such as Gyrosprinters, Arrowtongues, Grove-backs, Daggerwrists, Skewers, Emperor Sea Striders and Eosapiens. Unlike the aliens presented in much of popular science fiction, which often seem to be variations of terrestrial lifeforms, Barlowe's creatures are truly alien: None of them possess eyes or true jaws; their body structures are often unlike any found on Earth; they have unique modes of locomotion, sensing, and eating. Very late in the expedition, the explorer encounters lifeforms which use tools (the Eosapiens), giving a very strong indication of being intelligent.
A conservationist theme is present throughout the book. The expedition is designed to have as minimal an impact as possible on the environment of Darwin IV. When two of the expedition's members suffer a fatal accident, Yma technology is used to remove all traces of the accident from Darwin IV's environment. At the conclusion of the expedition, Darwin IV is left in the same pristine state it was in prior to the expedition, with the exception of a metal obelisk placed in a remote area by the expedition.
The Discovery Channel produced a television special adapted from Barlowe's Expedition entitled Alien Planet, which first aired on May 14, 2005. This program was faithful to the book in its presentation of the lifeforms found on Darwin IV. However, instead of being presented as the artist's own experiences, the program is presented as the findings of two autonomous robotic probes.