Galileo's Dream by Kim Stanley Robinson (c2009)
Kim Stanley Robinson is best known for his award-winning The Mars Trilogy, which traces the colonization of Mars over many decades. His most recent novel, Galileo's Dream, isn't as different from that spaceship-filled future as it may first seem.
Galileo's Dream opens in the seventeenth century, when a stranger tells Galileo Galilei about an invention he has recently seen in northern Europe. It is a device which combines two lenses to make distant objects appear nearer. The story quickly puts the true science in science fiction, following Galileo through his experiments and discoveries with his improved telescope. Just when you're settling in for a story about a historical scientist, Galileo's stranger returns - this time to transport him to one of the moons of Jupiter which Galileo himself discovered, now colonized by humans in the midst of a political and scientific schism. Galileo is soon embroiled in conflicts even more deadly than his struggles against the Catholic Church and the Inquisition in his own time.
The story unfolds across distant worlds and times, exploring the importance of science in the history of the whole human race through the life and dreams of Galileo himself, who asks, "But why should science have to have a martyr?"
- submitted by Mary Lou @ Washington Park