I was introduced to the novelist Kim Stanley Robinson by hubby, who has Robinson’s most famous work, the Mars trilogy, in our library.
When we were in San Francisco this past New Year’s, there was an independent bookstore in the plaza across the street from our hotel in Japantown, where hubby picked up a copy of Robinson’s novel “Galileo’s Dream.” I’ve read it in the last few weeks, and the story continues to resonate, as all good stories do.
This novel may be one of his lesser known works, but it is yet another book that shows Robinson at his best. I haven’t encountered another writer with his depth of intellect; breadth of knowledge about science, math and history; and writing talent. He has mastered all the elements of constructing a novel, from setting up the fundamental story structure to fleshing out complex characters to creating sentences that are precise, astute and pleasurable to read. He is in tune with the music of the written word.
“Galileo’s Dream” is full of heart and wisdom. I imagine Robinson was going through the pioneering scientist’s works and came across some words that sparked his imagination.
Galileo Galilei discovered Jupiter’s moons, and Robinson creates an ambitious tale explaining his Jovian discoveries using scientific magic realism. The story begins with a mysterious person who prompts Galileo to create a telescope, which becomes the instrument for his astronomical discoveries. The mystery man is revealed to be someone from the future who inhabits one of Jupiter’s moons. There is trouble in the worlds of Jupiter, and trouble also brews for Galileo as he rides his ambition and ends up squaring off with the all-powerful Roman Catholic Church.
The story travels in time and space between Galileo’s Italy of the 1600s and the highly advanced Jovian civilization of humans beyond Earth in the future. Along the way, the story tells how such time travel is possible, describing time like a river with various eddies and currents all affecting each other.
As it is with ourselves: We live many lives in our one life. We carry the past inside us as we exist in the present that continually moves into the future.
Deep stuff. You have to read Robinson for his take on it.
There are so many passages in “Galileo’s Dream” that resonate with me. Here is but one:
“Despair is always there in potentia, an abyss under us. It takes courage to live. People with courage can stand all the reality there is.”