Robinson's Galileo's Dream is a Sci-Fi book unlike any other I've ever read. At its heart Galileo's Dream is Robinson's blood and tear soaked letter to the man responsible for igniting the scientific process. Told through someone very close to Galileo, Galileo's Dream reads more like a biography of the legend that has become Galileo, but gives the reader a deep appreciation of the long and painful life full of triumph and devastation he went through on his way to becoming a Scientific revolutionary.
Galileo's Dream starts at what most would consider the height of his fame before the infamy from the Church took over. The bulk of the narrative takes place in Galileo's time and begins when he is coming in to prominence around his creation of telescope. The story gives a perfect rendition of how Galileo implemented what is now known as the scientific process. We also learn about the daily life in the 17th century and how engrained religion was to its people.
Robinson uses a lot of Galileo's personal correspondence interspersed throughout the narrative, which gives the work a strong historical aspect unseen in most Science Fiction. At times the story can be overly dry and take longer to move along as Robinson strives to keep an accurate record of all of Galileo's follies, foibles, and foes.
There is definitely a space opera bent to this story as well. Galileo is visited by a mysterious stranger who's suggestions often lead Galileo back to or into a new train of thinking he hasn't explored much. Eventually he travels to the far future with this stranger where humanity is still at odds with one another and an important decision is being debated. These sections are very cloudy at first, but as Galileo learns more the situation is revealed. One tiresome part was how Galileo kept having his memory wiped, but never cleanly from these advanced people.
The future sections were far too brief for my liking, in their instances not their length. It did feel right for the visits to be short, but in the last half of the book we only visit this time period a couple times which left a lot of questions unanswered about the future. In a way I think that is precisely what Robinson was going after as a fundamental question in the book is that our future in not knowable and if it were would it change our actions and therefore the future? But this also had me wondering if Robinson forced himself a little to divorce more material from the latter time frame in lieu of revealing more about Galileo.
Galileo's Dream is a challenging, but rewarding reading experience. Galileo comes alive as he earns his moniker of The World's First Scientist. I give Galileo's Dream 7.5 out of 10 Hats. For long-time Robinson fans this will be a must. However, historical science buff will get the most out of the reading experience. The work just begs the question: If Galileo was instead brought to a more contemporary time what would he think of our world?
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