Kim Stanley Robinson's alternate time-travel life of Galileo, GALILEO'S DREAM

Here's the Guardian's Alison Flood's detailed look at Kim Stanley Robinson's latest novel, Galileo's Dream, a fictionalized biography of Galileo that features time-travel.
What he came up with was three different temporal dimensions - the first moving very fast, at the speed of light, the second very slow and "vibrating slowly back and forth, as if the universe itself were a single string or bubble", the third - antichronos - in reverse. We experience them as one, creating a three-way interference pattern, which accounts for sensations such as foresight, déjà vu, nostalgia and precognition. The compound nature of time, Robinson writes, "creates our perception of both transience and permanence, of being and becoming". He's shown the novel to people who are "much more serious about the time travel stuff" and they're "having a blast". "They immediately map my three strands of time onto their system. They think I've partially discovered the real thing," he says gleefully...

So Galileo makes his telescope. He sees the Seven Sisters constellation, surrounded by "thickets of lesser stars, granulated almost to white dust in places ... No one else in the history of the world had ever seen these stars, until this very night, this very moment". He discovers Jupiter's four moons. He studies acceleration and motion. He observes sunspots. He frequently, frequently rings "like a struck bell" as his genius strikes: "Here it was, the truth of the situation - the cosmos revealed in a single stroke as being one way rather than another. The Earth was spinning under his feet, also rolling around the sun ... Again he rang like a bell. His flesh buzzed like struck bronze, his hair stood on end. How things worked; it had to be; and he rang." He stamps on the ground after he is tried by the Inquisition for supporting Copernicanism: "'It still moves!' he said. 'Eppur si muove!'"

Kim Stanley Robinson: science fiction's realist (Thanks, Robert!)


  1. I’m not so sure I’d want a positive Daily Mail review on my book…

    Honestly though, it sounds pretty good so far. I loved his Mars Trilogy, so if it’s even half as great as that, I’ll be happy.

  2. Robinson is good enough that I consider buying his books on spec, which is rare for me.

    “Rice and Salt” reconfigured my brain, which is also a rare occurrence for my well-aged mind.

  3. Too bad Kim Stanley Robinson doesn’t realize that this is a radical-presentist screed about the failure of the Bush administration to prevent 9/11.

  4. This sounds a lot like “Einstein’s Dreams” by Alan Lightman, which explores fictional dreams that Einstein had while coming up with the theory of relativity. It’s a really fascinating book; all of the dreams have different variations on how time works and how people interact with it.

  5. Has anyone else noticed that on page 74, Robinson wrote, “we shot him up with antibiotics”. Antibiosis was not even thought of until 1877 and this plot was set in 1607. I’m not very impressed with Robinson’s historical accuracy.

  6. @Barryzbox (#6) – actually, if you read the entire passage carefully, you’ll realize that the narrator is one of the Galileans, not a Venetian. The sentence you commented on reads “…so we shot him up with antibiotics and glued shut a slashed vein in the groin that was sure to kill him.” In the next paragraph, in the second sentence it reads, “…we could only apply antibiotics when the great doctor slept.” And the paragraph finishes with, “We slipped back into our roles.”
    Try again – I’m sure you’ll enjoy it!

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