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Galileo's dream

by Kim Stanley Robinson

  Print book : Fiction  |  1st ed

Dreaming Is Real; Dreams Are Only Dreams    (2013-09-14)


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by dacase

Kim Stanley Robinson’s (hereafter KSR) Galileo’s Dream is masterful, delightful, and inspiring, recalling Red Mars, his only other novel I read cover-to-cover. The writing style is certainly passable, but the science fiction is the best of any I know (admittedly, not very much), which is redundant of course (but also, appropriately I guess, one of the book’s rare defects: saying the same thing twice in the same sentence with other words is an instance of what I call, as experimental psychologist, ‘response twinning’). Particularly impressive was his ingenious treatment of time travel. I found it interesting how KSR every now and then brought to awareness his character Cartophilus telling Galileo’s story (“…which I tried so hard to stay out of.” p. 526). KSR could have done it either way other than this, but that would have been too traditional and unartistic. I tended to get bogged down in the descriptions of unearthly things—too slow for my taste. The notion that extraordinary innovation in science is other-worldly is terribly appealing, however unscientific, ironically. I liked very much the observation on page 37 that paying attention is a kind of magnification. Here’s a fun quote to give a flavor of the sophistication: (Galileo speaking of his new student met late in life.) “There were no words that would reach the youth. You could never teach other people anything that mattered. The important things they had to learn for themselves, almost always by making mistakes, so that the lessons arrived too late to help. Experience was in that sense useless. It was precisely what could not be passed along in a lesson or an equation.” I had remarkably few quibbles, minor too insufficiently minor a qualifier for these complaints. On page 180, KSR wrote, “And some people have arrived here who want to talk to you.” I would stylistically correct this to, “And people who wish to speak with you have arrived.” On page 179, ‘energy conservation’ should have read mass-energy, since neither alone is in fact conserved (E=MC<sup>2</sup> duh!) I found a little incredible the notion on page 81 of a magnetic field (Jupiter’s) so strong that people in it would die if unprotected, but that there was a manufactured counterforce of unspecified nature. A couple of times (p. 510 being one place) KSR used the word crux, meaning a critical or turning point. Crux derives from cross and reminds of the Jesus myth. In its place he could have used ‘pivot’ which reminds of Archimedes and science. Is ‘plash’ a word, or did KSR intend ‘splash?’ On page 141, line 6 from bottom, a second ‘that’ was omitted. Similarly, or conversely, on page 33, line 13, an excess ‘had’ appears. There were a precious few others like these. Overall a very good job, Mr. Robinson!


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