Galileo's Dream

Galileo's Dream

by Kim Stanley Robinson

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Overview

At the heart of a provocative narrative that stretches from Renaissance Italy to the moons of Jupiter is the father of modern science: Galileo Galilei. To the inhabitants of the Jovian moons, Galileo is a revered figure whose actions will influence the subsequent history of the human race. From the summit of their distant future, a charismatic renegade named Ganymede travels to the past to bring Galileo forward in an attempt to alter history and ensure the ascendancy of science over religion. And if that means Galileo must be burned at the stake, so be it. From Galileo’s heresy trial to the politics of far-future Jupiter, Kim Stanley Robinson illuminates the parallels between a distant past and an even more remote future—in the process celebrating the human spirit and calling into question the convenient truths of our own moment in time.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780553590876
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/28/2010
Pages: 544
Sales rank: 654,179
Product dimensions: 8.68(w) x 11.34(h) x 1.21(d)

About the Author

Kim Stanley Robinson is a winner of the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards. He is the author of nineteen previous books, including the bestselling Mars trilogy and the critically acclaimed Forty Signs of Rain, Fifty Degrees Below, Sixty Days and Counting, The Years of Rice and Salt, and Antarctica. In 2008 he was named a "Hero of the Environment" by Time magazine, and he recently joined in the Sequoia Parks Foundation's Artists in the Back Country program. He lives in Davis, California.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


The Stranger All of a sudden Galileo felt that this moment had happened before—that he had been standing in the artisans' Friday market outside Venice's Arsenale and had felt someone's gaze on him, and looked up to see a man staring at him, a tall stranger with a beaky narrow face. As before (but what before?) the stranger acknowledged Galileo's gaze with a lift of the chin, then walked toward him through the market, threading through the crowded blankets and tables and stalls spread all over the Campiello del Malvasia. The sense of repetition was strong enough to make Galileo a little dizzy, although a part of his mind was also detached enough to wonder how it might be that you could sense someone's gaze resting on you.

The stranger came up to Galileo, stopped and bowed stiffly, then held out his right hand. Galileo bowed in return, took the offered hand, and squeezed; it was narrow and long, like the man's face.

In guttural Latin, very strangely accented, the stranger croaked, "Are you Domino Signor Galileo Galilei, professor of mathematics at the University of Padua?"

"I am. Who are you?"

The man let go of his hand. "I am a colleague of Johannes Kepler. He and I recently examined one of your very useful military compasses."

"I am glad to hear it," Galileo said, surprised. "I have corresponded with Signor Kepler, as he probably told you, but he did not write to me about this. When and where did you meet him?"

"Last year, in Prague."

Galileo nodded. Kepler's places of residence had shifted through the years in ways Galileo had not tried to keep track of. In fact he had not answered Kepler's last letter, having failed to get through the book that had accompanied it. "And where are you from?"

"Northern Europe."

Alta Europa. The man's Latin was really quite strange, unlike other transalpine versions Galileo had heard. He examined the man more closely, noted his extreme height and thinness, his stoop, his intent close-set eyes. He would have had a heavy beard, but he was very finely shaved. His expensive dark jacket and cloak were so clean they looked new. The hoarse voice, beaky nose, narrow face, and black hair made him seem like a crow turned into a man. Again Galileo felt the uncanny sensation that this meeting had happened before. A crow talking to a bear—

"What city, what country?" Galileo persisted.

"Echion Linea. Near Morvran."

"I don't know those towns."

"I travel extensively." The man's gaze was fixed on Galileo as if on his first meal in a week. "Most recently I was in the Netherlands, and there I saw an instrument that made me think of you, because of your compass, which, as I said, Kepler showed me. This Dutch device was a kind of looking glass."

"A mirror?"

"No. A glass to look through. Or rather, a tube you look at things through, with a glass lens at each end. It makes things look bigger."

"Like a jeweler's lens?"

"Yes."

"Those only work for things that are close."

"This one worked for things that were far away."

"How could that be?"

The man shrugged.

This was interesting. "Perhaps it was because there were two lenses," Galileo said. "Were they convex or concave?"

The man almost spoke, hesitated, then shrugged again. His stare went almost cross-eyed. His eyes were brown, flecked with green and yellow splashes, like Venice's canals near sunset. Finally he said, "I don't know."

Galileo found this unimpressive. "Do you have one of these tubes?"

"Not with me."

"But you have one?"

"Not of that type. But yes."

"And so you thought to tell me about it."

"Yes. Because of your compass. We saw that among its other applications, you could use it to calculate certain distances."

"Of course." One of the compass's main functions was to range cannon shots. Despite which very few artillery services or officers had ever purchased one. Three hundred and seven, to be precise, had sold over a period of twelve years.

The stranger said, "Such calculations would be easier if you could see things farther away."

"Many things would be easier."

"Yes. And now it can be done."

"Interesting," Galileo said. "What is your name again, signor?"

The man looked away uneasily. "I see the artisans are packing to depart. I am keeping you from them, and I must meet a man from Ragusa. We will see each other again."

With a quick bow he turned and walked along the tall brick side wall of the campiello, hurrying in the direction of the Arsenale, so that Galileo saw him under the emblem of the winged lion of St. Mark that stretched in bas relief over the lintel of the great fortress's entryway. For a second it looked as if one bird-beast were flying over another. Then the man turned the corner and disappeared.

Galileo turned his attention back to the artisans' market. Some of them were indeed leaving, folding up their blankets in the afternoon shadows and putting their wares into boxes and baskets. During the fifteen or twenty years he had been advising various groups in the Arsenale, he had often dropped by the Friday market to see what might be on display in the way of new tools or devices, machine parts, and so on. Now he wandered around through the familiar faces, moving by habit. But he was distracted. It would be a good thing to be able to see distant objects as if they were close by. Several obvious uses sprang to mind. Military advantages, in fact.

He made his way to one of the lens-makers' tables, humming a little tune of his father's that came to him whenever he was on the hunt. There would be better lenses in Murano or Florence; here he found nothing but the usual magnifying glasses that one used for close work. He picked up two, held them in the air before his right eye. St. Mark's lion couchant became a flying ivory blur. It was a poorly done bas relief, he saw again with his other eye, very primitive compared to the worn Roman statues under it on either side of the gate.

Galileo put the lenses back on their table and walked down to the Riva San Biagio, where one of the Padua ferries docked. The splendor of the Serenissima gleamed in the last part of the day. On the riva he sat on his usual post, thinking it over. Most of the people there knew to leave him alone when he was in thought. People still reminded him of the time he had shoved a bargeman into the canal for interrupting his solitude.

A magnifying glass was convex on both sides. It made things look larger, but only when they were a few fingers from the glass, as Galileo knew very well. His eyes, often painful to him, had in recent years been losing their sharpness for nearby things. He was getting old: a hairy round old man, with failing eyesight. A lens was a help, especially if ground well.

It was easy to imagine a lens grinder in the course of his work holding up two lenses, one in front of the other, to see what would happen. He was surprised he hadn't done it himself. Although, as he had just discovered, it didn't do much. He could not immediately say why. But he could investigate the phenomenon in his usual manner. At the very least he could look through different kinds of lenses in various combinations, and simply see what he saw.

There was no wind this Friday afternoon, and the ferry's crew rowed slowly along the Canale della Giudecca and onto the open lagoon, headed for the fondamente at Porta Maghere. The captain's ritual cursing of the oarsmen cut through the cries of the trailing seagulls, sounding like lines from Ruzante. You girls, you rag dolls, my mother rows better than you do—

"Mine definitely does," Galileo pitched in absently, as he always did. The old bitch still had arms like a stevedore. She had been beating the shit out of Marina until he had intervened, that time the two had fought; and Galileo knew full well that Marina was no slouch when it came to landing a punch. Holding them apart, everyone scream- ing . . .

From his spot in the ferry's bow he faced the setting sun. There had been many years when he would have spent the night in town, usually at Sagredo's pink palazzo—"The Ark"—with its menagerie of wild creatures and its riotous parties. But now Sagredo was in Aleppo on a diplomatic assignment, and Paolo Sarpi lived in a stone monk's cell, despite his exalted office, and all the rest of Galileo's partners in mischief had also moved away or changed their night habits. No, those years were gone. They had been good years, even though he had been broke—as he still was. Work all day in Padua, party all night in Venice. Thus his rides home had usually been on a dawn barge, standing in the bow buzzing with the afterglow of wine and sex, laughter and sleeplessness. On those mornings the sun would pop over the Lido behind them and pour over his shoulders, illuminating the sky and the mirror surface of the lagoon, a space as simple and clear as a good proof: everything washed clean, etched on the eye, glowing with the promise of a day that could bring anything.

Whereas coming home on the day's last barge, as now, was always a return to the home fire of his life's endlessly tangled problems. The more the western sky blazed in his face, the more likely his mood was to plummet. His temperament was volatile, shifting rapidly among the humors, and every histrionic sunset threatened to make it crash like a pelican diving into the lagoon.

On this evening, however, the air was clear, and Venus hung high in a lapis lazuli dusk, gleaming like some kind of emblem. And he was still thinking about the stranger and his strange news. Could it be true? And if so, why had no one noticed before?

On the long dock up the estuary he debarked, and walked over to the line of carts starting out on their night journeys. He hopped on the back of one of the regulars that went to Padua, greeting the driver and lying on his back to watch the stars bounce overhead. By the time the cart rolled past Via Vignali, near the center of Padua, it was the fourth hour of the night, and the stars were obscured by cloud.

With a sigh he opened the gate that led into his garden, a large space inside the L formed by the big old house. Vegetables, vine trellises, fruit trees: he took a deep breath to absorb the smells of the part of the house he liked best, then steeled himself and slipped into the pandemonium that always existed inside. La Piera had not yet entered his life, and no one before her could ever keep order.

"Maestro!" one of the littlest artisans shrieked as Galileo entered the big kitchen, "Mazzoleni beat me!"

Galileo smacked him on the head as if driving a tomato stake into the ground. "You deserved it, I'm sure."

"Not at all, maestro!" The undeterred boy got back to his feet and launched into his complaint, but did not get far before a gaggle of Galileo's students surrounded him, begging for help with a problem they were to be tested on next day in the fortifications course at the university.

"We don't understand," they wailed contrapuntally, though it appeared to be a simple problem.

"Unequal weights weigh equally when suspended from unequal distances having inversely the same ratio as the weights," Galileo intoned—something he had tried to teach them just the previous week. But before he could sit down and decipher their teacher Mazzoni's odd notation, Virginia threw herself into his arms to recount in officious detail how her younger sister Livia had misbehaved that day. "Give me half an hour," he told the students, picking up Virginia and carrying her to the long table. "I'm starving for supper, and Virginia is starving for me."

But they were more afraid of Mazzoni than they were of him, and he ended up reviewing the relevant equations for them, and insisting they work out the solution for themselves, while eating the leftovers from their dinner, all the while bouncing Virginia on his knee. She was light as a bird. He had banned Marina from the house five years before, a relief in many ways, but now it was up to him and the servants to raise the girls and find them a way in the world. Inquiries at the nearby convents, asking for prenovitiate admissions, had not been well received. So there were some years yet to go. Two more mouths, lost among all the rest. Among thirty-two mouths, to be exact. It was like a hostel in Boccaccio, three stories of rooms all overoccupied, and every person there dependent on Galileo and his salary of 520 florins a year. Of course the nineteen students boarding in-house paid a tuition plus room and board, but they were so ravenous he almost always fed them at a loss. Worse, they cost time. He had priced his military compasses at five scudi each, with twenty more charged for a two-month instructional session, but considering the time it took from him, it had become clear that he made each sale at a loss. Really, the compasses had not turned out as he had hoped.

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Galileo's Dream 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 33 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
To the colonists on the moons of Jupiter, Galileo is the prophet who led humanity on the first great leap into space with his telescope. He is a God in the future, but in his own Renaissance time in Italy, he faces condemnation by the Church for heretic acts. As he faces trial that could lead to his burning, a man calling himself Ganymede claims to have come from the far future to consult with him and encourage him in 1609 Padua. Ganymede knows his side in a future debate over mankind wants to bring Galileo forward in time in order to save the man and change history; others also want to influence history perhaps by insuring Galileo burns at the stake rather than go under house arrest. This is a thought provoking alternate history science fiction that is not an easy read, but worth the time for those who relish a cerebral thriller. Galileo makes the story line with a mix of diverse emotions like a need to advance science but a fear of what he is doing. With an underlying message that humanity must stay alert to keep those who claim divine communication to thwart advances by burning scientific research on a media inferno. Fans will appreciate Kim Stanley Robinson's deep tale that connects renaissance Italy with man in space. Harriet Klausner
Sylvan More than 1 year ago
While this is science fiction of the highest order, it is also biographical as the novel "Galileo's Dream" tells the story of Galileo Galilei from the time of his developing interest in the telescope to his death. This is an amazing read and, true to Kim Stanley Robinson's style, is hard science fiction. He even proposes a new, string-theory-based idea for time travel involving what he calls "the manifold of manifolds". It's an amazing tale and truly had me on the edge of my seat, throughout!
JGolomb More than 1 year ago
I'm a huge fan of Kim Stanley Robinson's "The Years of Rice and Salt" which is a terrific blend of pseudo science fictional philosophy and religion, and fun and entertaining alternative history. It's deep and touching and provides a strong sense of activity (if not specifically action and adventure). The concept behind "Galileo's Dream" drew me to the book the instant I read the description: Galileo is taken from Earth to the moons of Jupiter (which he discovered) in an attempt to modify the past to make for a better future. Unfortunately, while it's a fun concept, Robinson provides an uneven implementation. The vast majority of the book follows Galileo over the course of 30 or 40 years through his major astronomical discoveries and inventions. His is, by far, the strongest character throughout the book that includes a mix of humans from the future, Galileo's daughters, and numerous other good and bad guys from 17th century Italy. The first several times that Galileo is spirited away by "The Stranger" the table is set for a interesting view of human life in the future, living on a moons of Jupiter. I was settling in for a nice space/time travel ride but became disappointed and the increasingly shorter visits to space and the future, and the increasing focus on philosophies of time travel, it's impact on the past, and vagueness on the battles between science and religion. These elements are interesting and good scifi fodder, however I found them to be bluntly addressed and not well balanced with the minute details of Galileo's daily travails and triumphs. If you're interested in a solid period piece, with strong historical research and a decent story, then I'd recommend this book. But read with appropriately measured expectations.
gypsysmom on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This must be some kind of a record for me but not a good one. I started this book 2 weeks ago and just finished it. It's 527 pages long but I'm sure I've read books longer than that in less time. I'm not saying the book isn't good because I enjoyed it; but it's not a book one can whiz through.This book follows the life of Galileo from the time he perfects the telescope until his death. Purely as a work of historical fiction this book would be fascinating. But Robinson is a science fiction writer and so he interposes a visitor from the future who is attempting to change history by having Galileo burned at the stake for heresy. The thinking is that this would cause science to overcome religion earlier. The stranger hopes that this would mean, in his time, that he would be believed about non-human intelligence found on Jupiter and other celetial bodies. I can't say I found this a convincing argument but it made for an interesting ride. Galileo is transported to the Jovian moons a number of times. As with the Mars trilogy, mankind's colonialization of outer space is a tremendous achievement but brings with it many problems.Robinson must have done a lot of research into the life of Galileo. He was a fascinating person and probably was, as he is called several times, the first scientist. He was also rude, crude, lecherous, violent and, probably, manic-depressive. I was reminded, again, that it's a very short step from brilliance to madness.
rivkat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Irascible scientist Galileo navigates Italian politics badly; people from the future with their own agendas intervene in his life, some trying to keep him on track to be burned and others willing to help him try to stop it. Robinson¿s characteristic landscape descriptions are present, here focusing on Jupiter and its moons where future humanity lives, and his thick description of the tangled relationship between science, personality, and politics¿like the tangled currents of time, in a way. I didn¿t feel the magic here, though, and the book basically left me cold.
buehler on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Pretty awful book as a scifi novel. Nice read as a biography of Galileo Galileo.KSR obviously did his homework researching Galileo's life and the struggle between science and religion, but it just doesn't work as a novel. All characters (other than GG) are flat and boring. Same for all the scifi'esque episodes that are set in some distant future.
JGolomb on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm a huge fan of Kim Stanley Robinson's "The Years of Rice and Salt" which is a terrific blend of pseudo science fictional philosophy and religion, and fun and entertaining alternative history. It's deep and touching and provides a strong sense of activity (if not specifically action and adventure).The concept behind "Galileo's Dream" drew me to the book the instant I read the description: Galileo is taken from Earth to the moons of Jupiter (which he discovered) in an attempt to modify the past to make for a better future. Unfortunately, while it's a fun concept, Robinson provides an uneven implementation.The vast majority of the book follows Galileo over the course of 30 or 40 years through his major astronomical discoveries and inventions. His is, by far, the strongest character throughout the book that includes a mix of humans from the future, Galileo's daughters, and numerous other good and bad guys from 17th century Italy.The first several times that Galileo is spirited away by "The Stranger" the table is set for a interesting view of human life in the future, living on a moons of Jupiter. I was settling in for a nice space/time travel ride but became disappointed and the increasingly shorter visits to space and the future, and the increasing focus on philosophies of time travel, it's impact on the past, and vagueness on the battles between science and religion.These elements are interesting and good scifi fodder, however I found them to be bluntly addressed and not well balanced with the minute details of Galileo's daily travails and triumphs.If you're interested in a solid period piece, with strong historical research and a decent story, then I'd recommend this book. But read with appropriately measured expectations.
callmecayce on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm a huge KSR fan, thanks to my parents. I was so excited when I saw he had a new novel out. this book was extremely dense, but in a good way. The novel is about Galileo (yes, the man) and how he ends up traveling through time (seriously) in order to help a group of future humans. It's both touching and overwhelming. It took me longer than usual to read it because there's a lot going on and, of course Galileo doesn't understand what's going on through most of the book (though he tries and it's fantastic).
VisibleGhost on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm not really a fan of Alternate History and I'm not a lover of the time travel trope. However, KSR is one of those authors that fits me like a hand in a glove and I just ease into his writing and stories. This book also uses the historical fiction genre along with the aforementioned two. Galileo is portrayed as a lovable, cantankerous, ass. He'll wake up in a bad mood and holler at the servants, " Somebody get in here! I need to hit someone." Most of the household not only tolerate him but like him. He gets excited when he discovers something new then dances around house singing and yelling involving the household in his celebration. He's careless in showing off his intelligence and isn't careful when it comes to insulting others that disagree with him. He likes his food and wine and the party circuit. His attitude leads to the making of friends but also the making of enemies. Travelers from the future find him in his time and whisk him off to Jupiter to intervene in the ongoing squabbles of humanity. Different parties are using him for opposing interests. Being curious, he wants to learn their math and science that is hundreds of years beyond his own. After these trips he is returned to his own times with a sort of mind wipe to forget said trips. All this had the potential to get schlocky and campy but KSR is a pretty serious writer that tends to avoid those treatments. Instead he lets Galileo ponder things with his own set of intellectual tools. For the most part it works. The blend of alternate history, time travel, philosophy of science, and historical fiction might not work for everyone but in this case it worked for me.
jmeisen on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I very much enjoyed this fascinating book, but I think it might have worked better as a straight historical novel, or perhaps just with the time travelers occasionally visiting Galileo. The science fiction sections are much weaker ¿ not nearly as good as I'd expect from Robinson ¿ but fortunately they make up much less than half the book.I loved the detailed texture of the historical sections, as well as learning about Galileo. Who knew he was such an a--hole? But I suppose that's not uncommon in geniuses. I could have done without the 31st-century portions, except for occasional memorable moments such as when Galileo sees a large group of Carnival revelers wearing Galileo masks.
BillHall on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Sort of based on Galileo's development of a scientific understanding of nature and his conflicts with popes and the Roman Inquisition. Explores philosophical issues in an interesting way. Robinson is a good and powerful writer, but the story is unnecessarily confused by Galileo's interactions with Martians on Earth and his visits to Mars. To me, what was an interesting and strong historical novel dealing with the origins of science is distracted and confused with the fantastic - that certainly does not progress the story!Yes, Robinson is a SciFi writer but the basic story is all about science and philosophy of science and the introduction of the fantastic debases the strength of the story..
sturlington on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Recently, I was sort of following a debate going on in the science fiction community about the lack of optimism in sci fi these days. Honestly, I hadn't noticed that science fiction had been growing more pessimistic, since I tend toward downer books anyway. There is not much hope in your average dystopian or post-apocalyptic story. But it does make a certain amount of sense that science fiction as a whole would be growing more gloomy. Back in the Golden Age of sci fi, when we were just starting to contemplate space exploration and making fantastic technological innovations, the writing reflected the general mood: one of optimism and looking forward to a rosy future, where everyone gets their own jet pack or flying car. But as our cultural outlook grew more pessimistic, when we realized the havoc we were wreaking on our environment and the dark side of technology, of course the books got more pessimistic as well.But I have to admit that Kim Stanley Robinson's novel Galileo's Dream made me feel downright dejected. It pits science in a battle against religion, and science does not win. The projected future for humanity is very bleak indeed.Galileo's Dream is an intriguing blend of historical fiction and science fiction. It tells the story of Galileo's life from when he developed the telescope -- an idea that was suggested to him by a mysterious stranger -- to his death. When Galileo uses his new telescope to discover Jupiter's four largest moons, the stranger returns and transports him through time and space to one of those moons, 1,000 years in the future. (That's the science fiction part, in case you hadn't guessed.)While Galileo's life story is interesting, and Robinson pays close attention to the historical details, the scenes on Jupiter's moons made for the most exciting reading. Robinson describes the moons with human settlements -- icy Europa, sulfurous Io, rocky Ganymede -- with loving precision, and the images of Jupiter hanging above them are awe-inspiring. There is also more action in the future scenes, as Galileo is dragged along by two factions fighting over how to deal with the discovery of an alien sentience in the ocean underneath Europa's ice shell, and I wish we had spent more time there.It is not at first clear why Galileo was brought forward into the future, but it seems that the stranger -- whose name is also Ganymede -- is trying to manipulate Galileo's fate, in an endeavor to alter the course of human history. As the "first scientist," Galileo is a pivotal figure in the development of science and the efforts of religion to suppress scientific discoveries. He was accused of heresy for supporting the Copernican view that the Earth orbits the Sun and brought before the Inquisition. Apparently, Ganymede is trying to ensure that Galileo is burned at the stake for heresy, which will in some way help the cause of science. Human history has been so traumatic that the colonists on Jupiter's moons are suffering a permanent post-traumatic stress disorder as a result. No details are given; we don't even know if the Earth is still habitable in the future. But Galileo's unjust execution would result in more people accepting science and turning away from religion. For me, this story line and the reasoning behind it was somewhat muddled and hard to follow, which is the main fault I can find with this book.Regardless, it's clear that even with the right outcome, things won't get better for humanity, just less bad. Humanity is so destructive, so doomed, that the horrors we visit upon ourselves can't be avoided entirely. They can just be mitigated. This view felt overwhelmingly pessimistic to me, although I can understand where Robinson is coming from. As an advocate for scientific approaches to mitigating climate change, Robinson must feel let down by the public's refusal to accept the evidence of global warming. Even in the early 21st century, science doesn't get much respect. Galileo, ironically, is the most optimistic cha
dragonb on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed the Mars trilogy more, but this book was very interesting. Have to go back and see how much of it is "History" and how much is imagination. Either way, it entertained. I really enjoyed the science, the conflict with the church. At first the "Science Fiction" part was very strange, but it grew on me.
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