In the latest review here on ReadySteadyBook, Robin Durie reviews Galileo's Dream by Kim Stanley Robinson:
I was intrigued by Kim Stanley Robinson's attack on the conservatism of the Booker prize, its tendency to favour historical fiction whilst overlooking science fiction, and his claim that science fiction at its best explores the new, for a number of reasons. First, I think the general thrust of his critique is well justified. Second, over the last 12 months I have consciously begun reading a fair bit of science fiction (a genre I had more or less ignored since my teenage years). And, third, when I read the article, I was in the midst of reading Robinson’s new novel, Galileo's Dream.
Whilst Robinson was making specific claims about the UK SF scene, the timing of his intervention nevertheless prompted the question of how his own book measures up to the criteria of his critique. The book -- which, at nearly 600 large scale pages, shares a common predicament with the tendency of both historical fiction and SF to indulge in length, often, it seems, for its own sake -- has a structure which has felt forced and not entirely successful to most reviewers. In "parallel" stories (how and why they are not parallel will prove to be significant), Robinson depicts Galileo more or less biographically, as his astronomical observations and interpretations inexorably lead him into conflict with the Catholic church; whilst, at the same time, Galileo makes a series of journeys to the moons of Jupiter, at a time some 3000 years in the future, where the descendants of humanity are about to encounter their first alien species. The threat would have been that, by this plot device, Robinson might risk undermining the scientific achievements of Galileo. Whilst for much of the book, the "parallel" stories do sit uncomfortably alongside one another, by its conclusion, Robinson's gamble reaps a very rich reward (more...)