Celestial Matters

Richard Garfinkle, Author
Richard Garfinkle, Author Tor Books $23.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-312-85934-3
Paperback - 352 pages - 978-0-312-86348-7
Ebook - 352 pages - 978-1-4668-3897-0
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The Ptolemaic universe, which posits Earth at its center, lives on in Garfinkle's imaginative first novel. Here, the Sun is only a few hundred thousand miles from Earth and the entire universe has breathable air. Other ancient Greek beliefs are also true: spontaneous generation, for example, is used to raise crops and livestock, and all terrestrial matter is composed of the Four Elements. As the novel opens, the Greeks fear they are losing a centuries-old war with China. Narrator Aias, a distinguished scientist, has conceived a daring plan to build a ship that can reach the Sun; he plans to steal its fire to use as a weapon against the Chinese. Aias's adventure is fraught with dangers, including assassination attempts by Taoist scientists, assaults by commandos who fly interplanetary kites and, of course, the potentially deadly properties of the Ptolemaic universe itself. Garfinkle's command of ancient Greek and Chinese science is firm, but his discussions of it can be too detailed. His dialogue can be ponderous, too, and his characterizations thin. With its rigorous and thorough extrapolation of Greek, particularly Spartan, culture into a believable universe, however, his debut should heartily engage fans of alternative-world SF. (Apr.)
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