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4.5 out of 5 stars41
4.5 out of 5 stars
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An unusual historical novel in a series focusing on the major figures in the development of the modern science of astronomy. The first major protagonist, Galileo, and his confrontation with the Vatican establishment, is much better known than his contemporary Johannes Kepler, who is presented as here as the greater of the two, both in terms of achievement and sheer courage as a baptised Lutheran living in a Catholic environment. The author successfully conveys the hardships Kepler encountered in a country rapidly entering a period of disruption which became the Thirty Years War and laid waste to much of Central Europe. It is thus remarkable how much he was able to achieve, despite much personal tragedy and situations that often forced him to move on to escape imprisonment or even execution for religious heresy.

A scientist himself, Clark explains the quite complicated mathematics of Kepler's research into planetary orbits in a way that non-scientists can understand. This has been supplemented by a wealth of historical information about the conditions of life at this time: there has been a little bit of leeway in the chronology, but events like the trial of Kepler's mother for witchcraft are based on fact, and give a chilling picture of the superstition that still gripped Europe at this time, despite the many advances in science that were taking place. The complicated religious background perhaps needed a little more explanation: for instance the 'Utraquists' referred to in various places were followers of Jan Hus, the Bohemian reformer advocated the administration of communion in both kinds, bread and wine, against the Vatican instruction that the laity should receive the bread only.

I greatly enjoyed reading this book, filled with some fascinating characters, from the dissolute Rudolph II to Kepler's second wife, who provided much solace after the tragic death of his first epileptic wife, Barbara.
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on 4 November 2013
First off, cards on the table. Stuart and I knew each other whilst we did our respective degrees some 20+ years ago. I remember Stuart being intelligent, thoughtful and engaging. This book reflects these qualities like a mirror.

Metaphorically, I couldn't put the book down and was reading it between my iPad and iPhone at every opportunity. Not only that, I was using X-Ray to add even more background.

I love this type of book when it is done well, my favourite being Hyperion by Dan Simmons. This is a story weaved through the fabric of fact. In other words, a story that once you finish it, you take away a new learning and understanding of real things. Stuart does this as well as anyone. The difference between Hyperion and The Sky's Dark Labyrinth is that Labyrinth is the story of Kepler and in part Galileo, whilst Hyperion is hard core sci-fi that when you scratch under the surface, you find is giving you the life story of John Keats.

This is the first of Stuart Clarks books that I have read and I am now going to finish this trilogy as soon as I can. I don't know if Stuart has written any Sci-Fi, but I'm betting that if he did, it would be sensational.
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on 11 May 2014
This was a random pick for me something to read while on holiday. Turns out to be something of a page turner full of intrigue who can Kepler trust? The story unveils at a good pace and captures well the culture of the Papal court not to mention the conflict between politics and religion. In the back ground there is a web of Jesuit, Catholic and Lutheran characters each with their own agenda conspiring to ensure that any new discovery about the Solar system does not oppose the established view as set out in the Bible. This makes for dangerous times for the astrologer and his life is not without risk. I enjoyed this so much I have bought the second in the trilogy Sensorium of God - as Galileo dies so Isaac Newton is born. Worth a read for those interested in history and the development of knowledge in science.
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on 18 February 2013
I make no secret of the fact that I am obsessed by the universe and all the science that goes with it. So when I found this book by Stuart Clark, who works for NASA and knows what he's talking about, I was very excited to refresh my knowledge of the people who have made our understanding of the universe today possible. This book is not only for students of astronomy and the cosmos, but is written in an engaging and dramatic style that is accessible to all. Add to this, believable characters, vivid descriptions of 17th century society in Europe and a fascinating insight into the history of this period, with all its conflicts and abuses of power, and you have a powerful novel about real people and real events. Never dry and always accurate, I shall certainly be getting the next book in the trilogy.
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on 27 January 2012
The author really bring this period to life and makes it very interesting and hard to put down. Scary to think that 500 years ago people were being put to death by the church for saying the earth went around the sun !
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on 6 April 2012
Well written, intriguing more than it is gripping, but an excellent introduction for the non-academic, into the history of astronomy and it's struggle with religious authorities.

I finished the book in a week which is fairly quick for me as I kept returning to it whenever I had the chance, and was a little sad when I finished it. I have already order the next installment, The Sensorium Of God.

I found this book, an accurate history told as a fictional story, to be a great way of learning about important and interesting historical events, without being overly academic.

I would recommend this book to anyone with even a mild interest in the cosmos.
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on 2 July 2015
A very good fast-paced novel mainly about Johannes Kepler and Galileo Galileo.
It brings in Tycho Brave and other people who Kepler and Galileo were involved with in their careers. The book is delivers in an episodic format dealing largely separately with Kepler and Galileo and their trials and tribulations with their respective churches as they try to get their ideas published.
A good read for the layman with some interest in the history of science.
Stuart Clarke has an enjoyable and entertaining writing style and clearly knows his science. I am looking forward to reading the next instalment "The Sensorium of God" which is about Newton and Halley.
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on 20 February 2013
For me this book satisfies every criterion that I have when reading historical fiction. It gives a portrait of the times and events in the lives of several characters whose genius and insight brought about discoveries that changed long- held conceptions of how the world turns.
The characters are brought to life, foibles and all, not just left as names in a textbook on astronomy.
The writing touches on all the hardship and difficulties suffered when the ideas of innovators go up against the establishment, especially true in the case of Galileo.
The historical facts are all here, but are made extremely palatable
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on 26 December 2012
Fact-based novel, which moves at a good pace and interweaves the stories of Kepler and Galileo and their struggles to establish their astronomical findings in a turbulent world of conflicting religious views. A few slight adjustments to the strict chronological order of events in a few places but these are declared by the author and do nothing to detract from the main story. Believable dialogue and strong characterisation. A worthwhile read, though I did cross-check the actual chain of events elsewhere once I knew about those 'adjustments'.
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on 23 January 2012
the skys dark labyrinth by stuart clarke the first of a trilogy about 17th century science
this book tells the story of kepler and galileo
better on the chapters wih kepler played out against the events leading up to the thirty yeaers war with astrology obessed emperors, religious hatreds and astronomical egos, galileo less interesting as played out like bad brecht which let the book down
the next book ia about newton. halley and the royal society
waiting for this four stars to the author
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