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Doctor Mirabilis Paperback – 29 Mar 1984

2.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Paperback, 29 Mar 1984
£114.00 £3.13
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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Arrow; New edition edition (29 Mar. 1984)
  • ISBN-10: 0099339609
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099339601
  • Product Dimensions: 17.2 x 11 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,510,397 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I read this when I was a teenager, quite liked it then, and thought I'd give it another try about 50 years later! Blish draws out the life of Roger Bacon from a (very) few known facts and extant documents, so most of the story is fantasy. None the worse for that, but the author irritates by including Latin, Middle English and his pretty dreadful versions of English regional dialects, often combining all three in one character's speech! Blish explains in the preface why he's doing this, but for me anyway it doesn't work well. A valiant attempt, but not an easy read at first.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I loved this book when I read it on paper, but the Kindle version has been scanned and OCR'd, with no proofreading. Letters such as thorn have been replaced by 'p', and 'hath' is repeatedly rendered as 'bath'. So 4 stars for the book, but only 2 stars for this edition.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 3.5 out of 5 stars 6 reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars The diction keeps you on your toes and gives a good insight, I feel 16 Oct. 2016
By Andrew Dunne - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Very well researched, fasinating story ("fiction") of Roger Bacon.The diction keeps you on your toes and gives a good insight, I feel, into the forces at play in 13th centuary Europe and the beginnings of a scientific awakening.
1.0 out of 5 stars Unless you can understand old english forget this book 25 July 2015
By S. Gardos - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is one of the only books I couldn't finish. Written in some version of old english is was too frustrating to get thru.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Roger Bacon comes alive 12 July 2010
By John L Murphy - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Along with Helen Waddell's "Peter Abelard," this novel recreates the struggle for individual conscience against clerical conformity marvelously and movingly. It is not easy; more difficult than Waddell if as ambitious as the previous reviewer's nod to "The Name of the Rose" by Umberto Eco in its intellectual range and intricate themes. As a "trained medievalist" myself I found Blish's research impressively integrated into his evocation of the times when Roger Bacon fought the political and ecclesiastical powers to advance experimental science, and the need for the forces of reason to assert themselves, however hesitantly due to the lack of scientific progress, during the thirteenth century.

As Blish tells in his preface, he captures the syntax and flavor of Middle English in passages where characters would have reverted to it rather than the French of court and diplomat, or the Latin of friars and scholars. The earlier chapters can take, therefore, a while to sink in as you adjust your mind to a different dialect, a different mode of expression. But this then allows you deeper immersion into the mentalities of the characters, often taken from real life chronicles, in an era where friars and inquisitors, kings and barons, heirs and bishops, all contended for the prizes that Church and State contended to control.

Blish expands the little we may know of Bacon's personal story and mixes in the ideas of his era. He captures what Paris and Oxford must have felt like as the universities grew larger and less tolerant. This makes a nice companion with Waddell for the scene since Abelard, and with Eco for the twist on the controversies that while shelved under philosophy or theology now back then drew partisans and protesters to take sides as vehemently as would Marxists or neo-cons in our own time.

Roger outwits his temporal masters, and he learns how to practice disguise. He inquires into alchemy and takes on Thomistic doctrines in the name of greater fidelity to innovation, even as he must rein in his own tendencies under an Order and Papacy who fear schism and heresy, as well it seems as any independence of thought. You find yourself eager to see who wins the Parisian disputation of Roger with Albertus Magnus, you watch as the chained mastiff at a decaying castle snarls as Roger talks with a forlorn noblewoman, you witness the interrogation of radicals by those in charge. You enter the prison cell where dissident friars seeking the apocalyptic reforms and Holy Poverty are jailed, and you are there, somehow, at this dogged English Franciscan's last moments.

For all its challenges, this book proved a valuable testimony to Blish's ability to make us care about the plight of an inquirer whose name now, if barely recalled, is shrouded in magic and hearsay. Blish separates what may well have happened, and he brings us as close to the what-if reality as we can come. Highly recommended for the undaunted reader willing to rise up to a level demanding attention and rewarding concentration.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Blish's best book 2 Jan. 2011
By Les carbonnades flamandes - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I cannot understand why this marvellous work is not still in print today; it merits both soft and hardback publication. I have read and re-read this powerful novel for 35 years. An enthralling (and unsparing) description of the mind and emotions of one of the West's earliest "scientific" thinkers, "Doctor Mirabilis" also throws us into the deadly maze of mediaeval politics and religious conflict.

It is perhaps no coincidence that James Blish's other masterpiece, "A Case of Conscience", set in the future, similarly treats a central character who is both a Jesuit and a scientist.

Try to find Doctor Mirabilis in a library. Booksellers are charging hundreds of dollars for the 1964 Faber hardback!
33 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb -- both historical fiction and science fiction 15 Aug. 1999
By R. B. Bernstein - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This novel about Roger Bacon, the great English medieval monk and scientific thinker, is one of the finest historical novels ever written, and yet -- paradoxically -- it is also one of the finest science-fiction novels ever written, by one of the greatest writers of science fiction who ever lived.
It is science fiction because it deals with a man who dares to envision a future changed by scientific discovery and technological innovation, in a time and a place where such thoughts are all but unimaginable ... and yet, because Blish so carefully yet unobtrusively grounds his work in superb historical research and recreation, it works perfectly.
It is a tragedy that this book is out of print.
[NOTE: DOCTOR MIRABILIS is the first volume of what Blish intended to be a trilogy under the general title AFTER SUCH KNOWLEDGE..., from the ancient question, "After such knowledge, what forgiveness"? The middle novel actually is two novels -- BLACK EASTER and THE DAY AFTER JUDGMENT, which are entertaining and disturbing but not quite up to the first and third novels in the sequence. The last novel in the trilogy is A CASE OF CONSCIENCE, every bit as magnificent as DOCTOR MIRABILIS. Some brillaint publisher should do an omnibus volume.]
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