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3.6 out of 5 stars
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3.6 out of 5 stars
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on 9 June 2011
Kim Stanley Robinson is an absolutely fantastic novelist.

This book is a very unusual combination of historical fiction and science fiction.

If it comprised only the 17th Century Galileo story, it would stand as an absolutely first-rate historical novel in its own right.

This writing is subtle, funny, and in places very moving, especially in the way he depicts the wasted potential of so many of the people who lived in that time. You get a powerful sense that these were people just like us, with the very same needs, desires and weaknesses.

By combining this with a time-travel SF strand, he risks cheapening the achievement of the historical strand. And at first it seems like he has done just that. Initially the 30th Century seems thinly imagined and the story of what happens there quite frivolous.

But as it develops, this strand gains weight and momentum.

Ultimately, the two strands combine into a beautiful whole.

This book is so good that I did not want to end. I felt a little bereft when it did.
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on 31 March 2012
Just finished this book on my Kindle. I enjoyed it vary much and the story was certainly an interesting one mixed fiction with non-fiction.

Galileo is approached by a stranger who kickstarts his "invention" of the telescope, though it wasn't truly his invention but he did improve on somebody else's idea and that's what got him noticed in scientific circles - and by the Catholic Church.

Soon the stranger starts taking Galileo to the planet and moons of Jupiter using some sort of device that not only transports in space but in time too. He is sent to the third millennia. There he learns a lot of the knowledge he is credited for today, but he also has to deal with proplematic situations whilst he is there.

His health rapidly starts to deteriorate and the Catholic Church accuse him of apostasy, or something long those lines, and threaten him with torture and burning at the stake unless he recants.

I did get a little lost at times with some of the in-depth text about certain scientific debates but a vary enjoyable book which, as I said mixes fiction with non-fiction regarding Galileo's life.

A note on the Kindle version: No problems at all; no typos or formatting problems noticed.
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on 16 April 2015
....As all Kim Stanley Robinson's books do: a sense of wonder and the marvelous, of potentiality for what is best despite the horrors we humans inflict on the world. But the author's usual strengths, strong, believable characters and meticulous building of a whole environment loses out to this attempt to explain time within an attempt to bring the many worlds theory to life within Galileo's story and far, possible futures. It works at the last.
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on 21 December 2010
Having produced three trilogies (Three Californias, Red Mars and Science in the Capital), and novels like Antartica and The Years of Rice and Salt, all of which are wide-screen takes on the interaction of history, politics and science, this at first looks an odd work for this author.

It appears to be a retelling of the life of Galileo. Apart from a meeting with a stranger who discusses the idea of a telescope to him, and the occasional odd lapse into a perspective observing Galileo, the novel's first part takes a detailed look at Galileo's rise to fame and renown for his inventions and learning. The historical detail is well done and the everyday life of Renaissance Italy, and Galileo's continual struggles to earn enough money to support his large household and 'extended family' convince in their historicity, all the while fighting against ill health. Many of these troubles are assuaged by the success of his telescope business.

But the telescope is ironically his downfall, as his observations (hitherto impossible with the naked eye) of the moons of Jupiter prove to him that heavenly objects circle one another. Although his writings on his other observations, for example, of how objects fall, are the basis for the scientific approach, his strongly-held Copernican notion of the Sun as the centre of things, not the Earth, puts him at odds with the Church of his time.

To a certain extent, this is itself 'science fiction' but things take a more orthodox turn when the stranger re-appears and reveals himself to be from the future and is in need of Galileo's help. Something alien and alive in the depths of this Jovian moon is causing a power struggle, thousands of years in the future, between the local human inhabitants, and others (the stranger's faction) from even further into the far future. It is essentially a time war, in which both sides, to use the metaphor employed in the novel, are trying to alter the flow of the 'river of time' to the betterment of humanity and Galileo is a pawn in that war.

A problem for this novel is that the historical characters come alive to a level that the future humans do not. They unfairly hector Galileo for living in their eyes a less than worthy life while they act like feckless teenagers, flying around Jupiter and having wild parties at the drop of a hat. The main advantage for the novel of taking Galileo into the future is that, via learning drugs, he gets a awe-inspiring vision of the future of science, up to the ultimate answer in physics, the 'manifold of manifolds' which, although he loses memory of this epiphany, seems to give him the strength needed to stand up to the Church, on behalf of science. However, this also devalues the courage of the historical Galileo, who could not have known what the future held but simply put his faith in science, contradiction intended. In this novel the 'wide screen' approach is its weakest part.
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on 30 August 2010
I've always been cautious about Kim Stanley Robinson, given that people praise the Mars trilogy, which for me was tedium broken only by wondering how often once could use the word 'regolith'. He redeemed himself with 'The Years of Rice and Salt', which was still a bit too mystical for me, but it made me think about the science we take for granted.

No such worries with 'Galileo's Dream' though. It works at every level. If you're RC, please read it, if you're a materialist, please read it, if you want a novel that makes a nod to biography or history, read it. I cried at the end, and I'm proud to say so. It's a masterpiece, so "Bravo' seemed the right title for this review, KSR is a maestro with this book.

Thought experiment: Do you *know* how a telescope works?
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on 1 May 2014
I love pretty much everything that Kim Stanley Robinson has written, but this was just a little dull and tedious. I tried to give it a chance, but gave up about halfway through.
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on 3 December 2011
An interesting premise but the author is too fond of obscure words many of which defeated my own and the kindles vocabulary . the plot gets rather complicated at times and the jumps between past and future were abrupt at times. A good read but not up to the quality of his other work

Terry
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on 23 September 2015
Excellent!
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on 13 January 2011
I feel the same as many others about this book:

the historical parts of the novel do not meld with the science fictional parts.

that other than Galileo the characterisation is very bad.

that it is much too long.
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