As a book of historical fiction this book works admirably. Unfortunately the Jovian Story Line almost ruins it. This part is mixed with the historical passages with brief visits to the distant moons of Jupiter - Galileo travelling through both time and space to discover the colonized moons.
To begin with, these passages felt as though they were implanted into the novel in a inept fashion and we readers, suffering the same confusion as the Galileo of this novel must have suffered. The passages set in the future were roughly sketched, the world-building not living up to the meticulously researched historical sections.
Robinson is a writer who is fascinated by science. Not just the knowledge it yields, but also with the entire process of observing, hypothesizing and testing. The many hours of hard work that is involved as well as the scarce moments of new insight. Many of his characters are scientists and their work as well as their impact on society is a frequent theme in his work.
The historical part of this novel was an absolute delight to read. Especially the machinations that lead to Galileo's conviction and the banning of his book by the Vatican are very interesting.
The Jovian story line was the one which I had most troubles with. It's interesting in it its own way but it cannot balance to absolutely brilliant historical part of the novel.
This novel shows the continual fascination with science that gave us science fiction in the first place. That's one of the reasons why I read SF.
5 stars to Galileo's characterization and 1 star to the Jovian story line.
Galileo lives on through this novel.