Honoring Galileo

Galileo was a man of science, so I don’t know if he would feel honored by a page devoted to science fiction, but I did warn early on that this site would occassionally stray into other realms, including speculative fiction.  So I’ll proceed in the hope that if I am not actually honoring his memory, as the title of this page suggests, I am at least not dishonoring him.

Okay, I’ll be honest.  There’s no real link between wine and science fiction, save for Galileo’s description of wine that gives rise to the name of the blog, and perhaps the connection that arises from families like the Asimovs, which spawned Isaac, the great SF writer and his nephew Eric, the superb wine critic for the New York Times.  And of course there is my own love for science fiction, which rivals and on some days exceeds my passion for wine.  An evening spent with a good glass of wine in one hand and a great work of SF in the other would be almost perfect, especially if the Vineyard Goddess was sharing the wine with me.

My taste in SF runs the gamut, from hard Science Fiction, which is rigorously scientific, to cyberpunk, space opera and other sub-genres that are somewhat less faithful to the laws of physics.  I’ll probably add some commentary on SF to this page from time to time, but I’ll begin simply with an annotated listing of authors I enjoy.  And I’ll start with my favorite, the great SF writer Dan Simmons.

Flashback is his most recent novel.  I ordered it last night, and I’m anxiously awaiting its arrival from Amazon.  Online reviews seem mixed, but his fiction ranges from the merely good to the great, so I’m not worried.

My favorite Dan Simmons books fall into two cycles, the Hyperion Cantos and the two-book Illium/Olympos saga.  The Cantos consists of four books: Hyperion, The Fall of Hyperion, Endymion, and The Rise of Endymion.  The first book in the cantos, Hyperion, is a far-future version of The Canterbury Tales, complete with pilgrims who regale each other during breaks in their journey with stories that defined their lives.  Of course, there is also an intergalactic war going on in the background, and episodes of love and lust as weird as they are powerful.  The Fall of Hyperion completes the pilgrimage, and the two Endymion books complete the saga.  As you can tell, there are important influences from the poet Keats.

Illium and Olympos tell the story of the Trojan War, partly (and bizarrely) from the Greek poet’s point of view, which is conveyed in this far future universe through the voice of Thomas Hockenberry, a 20th century scholar resurrected by a superior race of beings that masquarades as Greek Gods solely for the purpose of commenting on the accuracy of the battle which is being reenacted on Mars.  The books also feature a human race that has all but given up trying, and a pair of semi-organic AIs who discuss Proust and Shakespeare as they travel through space.

Simmons is a remarkable writer whose books range over a variety of genres and sub-genres, from Vampires stories and mysteries to a novel (Drood: A novel) that provides the backstory to Charles Dickens unfinished book, The Mystery of Edwin Drood.   And while I loved the Illium/Olympos cycle, I would say that if you decide to read only one Simmons novel, try Hyperion.  The book covers a lot ground in an intelligent and riveting way, and will surely inspire you to read the next book in the Cantos.