“But why should science have to have a
Kim Stanley Robinson is one of those quiet masters. Known
predominantly for his Mars series, Robinson has a
dedicated fan base who marvels at his vision and his storytelling.
When you bring up the genre of science fiction, other names
instantly gravitate toward the fore of the discussion: Asimov,
Bear, Ringo, Niven, Weber. This is not to suggest that Robinson is
a lesser novelist. In fact, where his Science in the
Capital series on a global warming disaster of a worldwide
level may have been a step back in terms of his storytelling
strength, his newest book, GALILEO’S DREAM, is a surefire
In GALILEO’S DREAM, we find ourselves embroiled in the
scientific community and the life of Galileo Galilei in 1609.
Science is expanding, and philosophers and mathematicians seek to
make bold discoveries all within the shadow of the Church --- which
seeks to make certain that no discoveries are too
With some help from a mysterious stranger, Galileo creates a
spyglass that he then expands into a telescope, which he uses to
map the surface of the moon. Intrigued by the power of his own
creation, he turns its sight on Jupiter. There, he discovers four
moons, which he eventually determines revolve around the main
planet body. His star is on the rise.
What he does not remember, however, are his late-night
visitations to the moons he has recently discovered. Manipulated by
the stranger who aided him in the invention of the device, Galileo
is an unwitting pawn in a battle on the Jovian moons in the year
3020. One group seeks to use his mind to convince the others not to
explore the oceans on the moon of Europa. In the midst of this
debate, Galileo learns that he is a “martyr to
science,” immolated in his own time for his heresy by the
Inquisition. Does it have to be this way, or can his future be
changed and his life spared without unmaking the future? And must
science and religion be at odds with one another?
Robinson has done some outstanding work with GALILEO’S
DREAM. The scientist/philosopher/mathematician truly springs to
life on the page, and reading of his discoveries as if in real time
is remarkable. The majority of the novel is clearly deeply
researched and impressive historical fiction to a large degree.
About a third of the book deals with the more fantastic: time
travel. Yet this is no mere time travel convention that has become
so cliché in science fiction. In this instance, time and time
travel are a major cog, and the philosophy of time and its makeup
is debated by Galileo and Hera, one of the Jovian leaders who seeks
to protect him in his own time.
GALILEO’S DREAM is a shining example of the level of
quality to be found in science fiction, an exemplary achievement
that brings 17th century Italy flaring to life in beautiful fashion
while instilling a bit of the fanciful and the prospect of what
could lie ahead in the distant future. Robinson has penned a book
that is deserving of attention and admiration.
Reviewed by Stephen Hubbard on January 22, 2011