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06 October 2013 @ 02:08 pm
New Stars for Old  
Full disclosure. Marc Read and I are old friends. Our children, when not in rooms at opposite ends of the house, refusing to speak to each other, are good friends, so, you know...

New Stars for Old is a series of vignettes fictionalising the lives of famous astronomers. The vignettes range over a number of forms including letters and diaries, as well as subject matter, sometimes focusing on a single moment from an astronomer's life, while at other times they take in the grand sweep of events. Similarly sometimes the astronomer is at the heart of the story and at others the focus is on someone, real or fictional who was drawn into their orbit. At the end of each chapter Marc provides a short section outlining the history behind the story.

Marc writes well, the vignettes are easy to read and none outstay their welcome. However, I was beginning to chafe a bit about half way through. In spite of the different takes on the basic premise it was all a bit samey, but the book picked up a lot as it moved into the late medieval and early modern periods. I suspect this has a lot to do with the amount of historical evidence Marc had access too. Suddenly the characters seemed a lot more individual and interesting and the stories had more to say, I was particularly taken by Kepler and Bellarmine, but Tycho Brahe is also vividly drawn over several chapters. When the book finally stopped at Newton, I was disappointed it wasn't going to carry on into the Englightenment.

New Stars for Old is good book, definitely worth getting if you have an interest in the history of science or astronomy. It's at its best when fictionalising people and events for which a reasonable historical record exists, but its pacey and well-written enough that even the patchier sections pass by easily.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/106026.html.
Kargicqkargicq on October 9th, 2013 07:05 am (UTC)
Thank you for the write-up, and I'm glad you enjoyed it! It's always lovely to receive feedback.
louisedennis: bookslouisedennis on October 9th, 2013 08:38 am (UTC)
Somewhat scary as well, I imagine...