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Kepler (Revolutions Trilogy) Paperback – 6 Aug 2010
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Narrative art at a positively symphonic level. (Guardian)
One knows one is in the presence of a writer extraordinary. Wearing his vast research lightly, Mr Banville not only summons Kepler and his company of vivid souls but leads us into the small dark rooms. (Sunday Telegraph)
This very distinguished novel . . . is done with very considerable skill; it suggests that this is what such a life must indeed have been like and the result is a wonderfully human figure, rife with feelings, principles, regrets and courage. (Sunday Times)
An outstandingly good novel . . . a novel that dramatizes and celebrates intellectual passion. Which makes it a very rare novel indeed. (Irish Press)
Volume Two of the Revolutions TrilogySee all Product description
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Top customer reviews
The idea of whether these early stargazers believed their work documented truth or merely supported what they observed is taken a step further with Kepler and his work. When Kepler and his peers were working, mathematical proof was becoming the essence of what they would eventually publish. Work that appeared to explain what was seen was no longer enough, proving it to oneself and one's peers was the new test. One of the great enigmas that Kepler sought to solve was the orbit of Mercury. His findings were to change the Copernican view of the Universe, while Galileo was extending the very reach of it.
The science, and the math employed are raised a couple of steps from the previous novel, and are part of why I liked this work less. Understanding complex ideas should not be brought down to such simplistic levels so that no effort to understand is required, and whatever is learned is of little use as it relates to the true and complete idea. I always enjoy a writer that can explain complex theory in a manner that allows an inquisitive mind to be challenged, and the science enjoyed. In "Kepler", this did not happen the majority of the time. So the reader must just take on faith what is said, or study some pretty advanced geometry.
"Kepler" also does not have characters that gain your empathy, and at times you may struggle to find them interesting. Money, position, prestige, all conspires to intrude upon the greater goals, and I found them distracting. However the treatment of the Church and the Schism, and the effect on Kepler and his work, was very well done, interesting, and demonstrated the Church's constant interference with the scientists they were terrified of, for their work would undermine the Church's long taught fictions.
Mr. Banville is a writer of remarkable skill. I am reading the fourth of his books, and the quality of writing, his skill with a pen is never an issue. How he presents his story may or may not be enjoyable to a given reader, but all will appreciate the skill with which he writes.
Well, Banville seems to think we all have because he throws the reader right into the middle of this story as Kepler, accompanied by his pregnant wife and nine-year-old stepdaughter, arrives and instead of the warm welcome he expects is treated in an offhand way. From then on, we go backwards and forwards as Kepler's life is revealed against a backdrop of endless rain, gloomy castles, journeys on horseback across muddy tracks and fields, filthy inns, ignorant peasants, greedy merchants, arrogant clergy and aristocracy, disputes between Protestants and Catholics, and obscure mathematical questions.
I struggled through this mire until page 62 when my energy just ran out. The prose reads like a parody at times, e.g. “The country roundabout of countless small lakes and perennially flooded lowlands pained his poor eyesight with its fractured perspectives of quicksilver glitter and tremulous blue-grey distances.”
If you are interested in this subject, I suggest Arthur Koestler's “The Sleepwalkers: A History of Man's Changing Vision of the Universe” published in 1959.
+ It is a beautifully crafted book, inspiring and down to earth, just like the subject of the novel. Banville manages to weave an intriguing and engaging text about the man and his times.
+ The narrative structure of the novel is not linear but somehow reminiscent of Kepler's study and perception of the universe.
+ The book is 'alive' in terms of the rhythm: the slow-paced narrative of lived experience in the earlier parts of the novel contrasts with the speedy final pages where a sense of revelation (Kepler's) coincides with a sense of a closure-that-is-not-a-closure ('Never die, never die.')
+ Like Kepler, the reader often 'recognises' the ghost in the machine: 'That was the demon. He recognised it. He had known it before, the selfsame feeling [...] in order to destroy the past, the human and hopelessly defective past, and begin all over again the attempt of teetering on the brink while the gleeful voice at his ear whispered jump.'