January 3rd, 2011

agent

Galileo's Dream by Kim Stanley Robinson

(apparently, I take requests)

Galileo's Dream is a pretty odd duck. Other than the recommendation from Ajax, I didn't know a damn thing about it before I cracked it open. I'd say more than half of the book is essentially a well-crafted novelization of the life of Galileo, focusing primarily on the composition of his major written works, and his interactions with the Church and the Inquisition attendant upon their publication. I know a bit about the relevant history, and for the most part Robinson hews pretty close, hitting the established marks, and quoting many of the documents that survive, from the letters written by Galileo's daughter [Robinson acknowledges Sobel in his afterword] to the flirtatious letters the aging, blind Galileo wrote to Alessandra Bocchineri Buonamici, his daughter-in-law's sister ... a married woman 30 years younger than him, to the letter from Cardinal Bellarmine setting down for Galileo's records the result of his first run-in with the Inquisition.
Anyway, though the book takes care to be historically accurate, it's not a history, and Robinson creates a mostly believable Galileo as a character. Where there is no history to guide, Robinson either follows Thucydides' lead in making "the speakers say what was in my opinion demanded of them by the various occasions," or invents entirely novel speeches and situations for sheer entertainment.
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