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Galileo's Dream by Kim Stanley Robinson

Galileo's Dream

by Kim Stanley Robinson

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5903416,673 (3.4)47
  1. 10
    The Time Machine by H. G. Wells (AlanPoulter)
    AlanPoulter: Each novel speculates on the far future by means of a time-travelling scientist.

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I enjoyed this more than any of KSR's books since The Years of Rice and Salt, with which it shares a fascination for the history of science. However, in this case we have not one alternate timeline, but two different epochs: the real historical life of Galileo Galilei as he first turns his telescope to the skies and gets into trouble with the church, and a far-future civilisation in Jupiter orbit that summons him to participate in their parties and plots, while also trying to preserve him from the awful fate that threatens him. I found the retelling of the much-retold story of Galileo's life and tribulations very effective, though perhaps running out of steam towards the end. I didn't get as much out of the far future narrative, where I found the means and motivation of the main characters more difficult to grasp. I still liked it more than Forty Signs of Rain, 2312 or Aurora. ( )
  nwhyte | Dec 11, 2016 |

As a book of historical fiction this book works admirably. Unfortunately the Jovian Story Line almost ruins it. This part is mixed with the historical passages with brief visits to the distant moons of Jupiter - Galileo travelling through both time and space to discover the colonized moons.

To begin with, these passages felt as though they were implanted into the novel in a inept fashion and we readers, suffering the same confusion as the Galileo of this novel must have suffered. The passages set in the future were roughly sketched, the world-building not living up to the meticulously researched historical sections.

Robinson is a writer who is fascinated by science. Not just the knowledge it yields, but also with the entire process of observing, hypothesizing and testing. The many hours of hard work that is involved as well as the scarce moments of new insight. Many of his characters are scientists and their work as well as their impact on society is a frequent theme in his work.

The historical part of this novel was an absolute delight to read. Especially the machinations that lead to Galileo's conviction and the banning of his book by the Vatican are very interesting.

The Jovian story line was the one which I had most troubles with. It's interesting in it its own way but it cannot balance to absolutely brilliant historical part of the novel.

This novel shows the continual fascination with science that gave us science fiction in the first place. That's one of the reasons why I read SF.

5 stars to Galileo's characterization and 1 star to the Jovian story line.

Galileo lives on through this novel. ( )
  antao | Dec 10, 2016 |
An entertaining read, overall.

I give it three stars because I found the "future" portion of the plot (without giving away too much!) flat; it just did not engage me. The story of Galileo's life was well enough told, but a decent (semi fictional) biography is not what I signed up for :)

If you are unfamiliar with Galileo's life, or only know the bare-bones, you might get more out of this; for me, three stars. ( )
  dcunning11235 | Oct 17, 2016 |
A mixture of biographical (mostly) information about Galileo and a far future interaction with a new intelligence, didn't really grab me for either part of the story. ( )
  kale.dyer | Aug 12, 2016 |
Two stars because this was mostly a biography of Galileo with the science fiction as an uninteresting afterthought. ( )
  MikeRhode | Feb 6, 2014 |
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The Muses love alternatives. -- Virgil, Eclogues, Book III
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All of a sudden Galileo felt that this moment had happened before - that he had been standing in the artisans' Friday market outside Venice's Arsenale and felt someone's gaze on him, and looked up to see a man staring at him, a tall stranger with a beaky narrow face.
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Late Renaissance Italy still abounds in alchemy and Aristotle, yet it trembles on the brink of the modern world. Galileo's new telescope encapsulates all the contradictions of this emerging reality.
Then one night a stranger presents a different kind of telescope for Galileo to peer through. Galileo is not sure if he is in a dream, an enchantment, a vision, or something else as yet undefined. The blasted wasteland he sees when he points the telescope at Jupiter, of harsh yellows and reds and blacks, looks just like hell as described by the Catholic church, and Galileo is a devout Catholic.
But he’s also a scientist, perhaps the very first in history. What he’s looking at is the future, the world of Jovian humans three thousand years hence. He is looking at Jupiter from the vantage point of one of its moons whose inhabitants maintain that Galileo has to succeed in his own world for their history to come to pass.
Their ability to reach back into the past and call Galileo "into resonance" with the later time is an action that will have implications for both periods, and those in between, like our own.
By day Galileo’s life unfurls in early seventeenth century Italy, leading inexorably to his trial for heresy. By night Galileo struggles to be a kind of sage, or an arbiter in a conflict ... but understanding what that conflict might be is no easy matter, and resolving his double life is even harder.
This sumptuous, gloriously thought-provoking and suspenseful novel recalls Robinson’s magnificent Mars books as well as bringing to us Galileo as we have always wanted to know him, in full.
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From the summit of their distant future, a charismatic renegade named Ganymede travels to the past to bring Galileo forward in an attempt to alter history and ensure the ascendancy of science over religion. Yet between his brief and jarring visitations to this future, Galileo must struggle against the ignorance and superstition of his own time.… (more)

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