Renowned evolutionary biologist, William Hamilton (1936-2000) was a naturalist and geneticist who was well known for his wide-ranging and influential research. At his funeral service in the chapel of New College, Oxford, he was described as “the greatest evolutionary biologist since Charles Darwin.” His official biography is Nature’s Oracle published by Oxford University Press in 2013. Between 1995 and 2005, they also published three volumes of The Narrow Roads of Gene Land, his collected scientific papers. The Dark of the Stars is his only novel, written largely in the 1980s, edited and published posthumously.


Orphaned and alone, Robert doesn’t expect much from his 15th summer.

But when a mysterious milkman named Karl taps him for an unexpected safari to the remote land of Santania to save its inhabitants from disease, his life will never be the same. There are diamonds hidden in those wild, dangerous lands, and Robert discovers that he must get to them first, before the jewels fall into the hands of a mad, tyrannical ruler named Dr Paul.

The trip is fraught with peril, and only the bravest will survive. Along the way, Robert will encounter love, friendship, and treasure beyond his wildest dreams, proving that sometimes, the hardest part of any journey is deciding to take that first step.


  • William Hamilton wrote not only scientific papers and books, but also this novel, his most serious creative effort. He was also an occasional poet and an excellent correspondent. Letters and postcards from William were a delight to receive. Always containing a story, some thoughtful or interesting observation or detail that reflected the depth of his thoughts about the world and the person receiving the letter. They were usually very densely packed with content and occasionally hard to decipher.
  • As a young man, just a little older than his hero character Robert, William and his sister Mary, whose illustrations appear in this novel, wrote each other a series of postcards. Now in the collections of the British Library, they are fascinating not only for what they say, but for how. Layers of different coloured pen overlaid at different angles allowed them to pack a multitude of ideas onto a tiny scrap of card. These letters reflect the enthusiasm and productivity of their minds at that time and speak to William and Mary’s lasting sibling friendship.
  • William Hamilton was a lifelong traveller. In the 1950s he travelled widely across Europe as a young man with his siblings and friends. Then he travelled to Turkey for 2 years of national service, where he first contracted malaria. His love affair with Brazil began in the 1960s. He travelled and worked there throughout his life, at one point establishing a nature reserve in the flooded forest of the Amazon. His work allowed him to travel all over the world to conferences, to receive awards or visit research centres. He would take the time to understand the nature and culture of a place. This talent for travel and deep love of wild places, tropical landscapes and cultures is reflected in The Dark of the Stars
  • Also reflected in the book is a darker side of his psychology. His fear of and respect for disease developed from personal experience and as a result of his mother and two of his sisters (including Mary) being doctors. The characters play out some of his misgivings about the power granted to humanity by modern medicine, its great benefits but also the potential for control or abuse.
  • Age did not fade his passion for his work, for travel or for tropical forests. He died at age 64, after complications from a disease contracted on a strenuous research trip in the rainforests of Central Africa.


“The story undulates: the reaches of its villains and heroes prove to be broader than first thought. But [main characters]Karl and Robert endure to the end, trying their best to save the world from rapacious villains—and helping to make The Dark of the Stars a thrilling young adult quest.” 


March: National Reading Month

March: March Into Literacy Month

March 3: World Book Day in UK and Ireland

March 7: Anniversary of Hamilton’s death (2000)

March 20: World Storytelling Day

April: (DEAR) Drop Everything and Read Month

April: School Library Month

April 14: Celebrate Teen Literature Day

April 27: National Tell a Story Day