Greg's Reviews > Heresy

Heresy by S.J. Parris
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Nov 20, 2010

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bookshelves: mystery, cleaning-house, girls-girls-girls
Read from November 20 to 28, 2010

I couldn't read this book without always comparing it with John Crowley's Aegypt tetralogy. The works aren't similar at all except they both prominently feature Giordano Bruno. Crowley made Bruno into a full character and spent a good deal of time looking into the things that Bruno believed and studied. Parris just kind of throws them out there and the more interesting facets of the Nolan's studies are kind of lost and only get used to give a feeling of historicity and color to the story.

I'm being unfair though. Parris's Bruno isn't flat as much as too much of a regular dude. Instead of being the renegade monk that would burn for heresy and who could memorize entire books through a prodigious memory system he devised this Bruno is more of a lackadaisical freethinker who kind of would like everyone to just get along. He's made into too much of a good guy. A nice man. Something I don't think he necessarily was, especially when confronted with dogmatic enemies. Not that I have any reason to think of him as not a nice man in his dealings with people but from the one (yeah, I don't know shit, but that doesn't stop me from saying shit) dialog I've read by Bruno his mode of attack is more like Christopher Hitchens, instead of the nice and plodding, here are the facts, aren't you going to pay attention to my facts style of say a Noam Chomsky.

I don't really know what I'm talking about though. I enjoyed quite a bit of this book. I'm not normally interested in reading historical mysteries but this one had enough of my little interests in it to keep me interested. Although I was more interested in the dealings of the schismatic Christians and the heresies being superficially discussed than the murder mystery. Actually, when I thought of the mystery part of the book I felt kind of cheated. I'm not much of a mystery reader (so I say in my umpteenth review for a mystery novel, when will I accept that I do on occasion read mysteries?), or I do read them sometimes but the ones I read are usually more in the 'crime' vein; but what I meant to say somewhere in this sentence is that the mystery part seemed really boiler plate. Like the mystery story could be told over and over and over again but just stick a different setting on to it. Like the murders could be happening in Jena while dialectician Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel is watching history come to a close with Napolean's march through Europe and the Owl of Minerva is hooting it's fool head off and murders are happening to fellow scholars, but in between debating about the rationality of the Master/Slave dialectic he solves a series of murders against stanch British empiricists and Bonapartists. Plug in all the new terms and you'd have a historical mystery. And then another historical mystery could be solved by Jean-Paul Sartre when members of the French Resistance start winding up dead he investigates through the underground of the Gestapo, collaborators and freedom fighters to get to the bottom of these mysterious deaths. And so on, but I really don't know what I'm even saying, except maybe that the mystery part felt a little stale?

But maybe historical mysteries are written for people to enjoy the little color details while a plot moves forward because of murder. And my problem is that not many historical mysteries are written starring historical people or time periods that I have much interest in. Now a Jew in a concentration camp forced to solve the mysterious death of SS officers, now that I'd probably read and then write yet another review about the holocaust and our historical retrogression to barbarity or whatever I ramble on about in those reviews.

I liked this book though. I wavered at times between wanting to give it between two and four stars. Some of the dialog is very stilted and doesn't feel like something men versed in the minutia of competing apologetics and heresies would say but it was an entertaining enough book to read.
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Reading Progress

11/20/2010 page 75
17.0% 1 comment
05/07/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-50 of 52) (52 new)


Greg I'm not sure what the Goldstein book is, or maybe I'm just blanking on it right now.


message 2: by [deleted user] (new)

I wavered at times between wanting to give it between two and four stars.

Remember, before goodreads, when you read without star ratings in your head?


Greg Montambeau wrote: "I wavered at times between wanting to give it between two and four stars.

Remember, before goodreads, when you read without star ratings in your head?"


I know! Now I'm thinking of star ratings the entire time I'm reading a book, and sometimes I'm giving hypothetical star ratings to books when I'm picking the next one to read. I'll think, this looks like it might be a four, but I've been giving so many four star ratings lately, I should pick something I think I might enjoy a little less.


message 4: by Jasmine (new)

Jasmine but I've been giving so many four star ratings lately, I should pick something I think I might enjoy a little less.

that's sad.


Greg It's been awhile since I've done it, but sometimes I even pick something to read that I know I will hate just so I can write a particularly scathing review. But, I'm more likely to pick a book from my room that I own and I'm only moderately interested in than one of the books that I'm almost certain I'll really enjoy.


Greg That book looks interesting. I think Bruno was in another book I read before Aegypt but I can't remember what it was.


Greg I do like pop history books about books. I think that Frances Yates The Art of Memory has quite a bit about Bruno's memory system in it, but I've never read it.


message 8: by [deleted user] (new)

We have to break free from the star ratings!!! This is disturbing me. I want to read without star ratings.


Greg That is crazy talk. Don't let the goodreads.com overlords hear you saying things like that!


message 10: by Miriam (new)

Miriam he devised this Bruno is more of a lackadaisical freethinker who kind of would like everyone to just get along. He's made into too much of a good guy. A nice man. Something I don't think he necessarily was

That seems to often happen when authors use historical figures they admire as characters. They make them much too nice, and often too politically correct by modern standards. Like, not being sexist or racist or homophobic or having class snobbery. Having a great mind does not equate with holding 21st-century liberal values, nor with having a sparkling personality.


message 11: by Jasmine (new)

Jasmine i want to read a novel about the fibonacci sequence. these seems like a group of people who might know of one.


message 12: by karen (new)

karen this thread is missing something.

oh yeah, right:




message 13: by Jasmine (new)

Jasmine hefalumps and woozles!!


message 14: by Mariel (new)

Mariel For the bros:




message 15: by Jasmine (new)

Jasmine Elizabeth wrote: "Jasmine wrote: "i want to read a novel about the fibonacci sequence. these seems like a group of people who might know of one."

You want a novel about math?"


I have a special obsession with Fibonacci, which is a long story, but I will take general math if it is the best I can get.


message 16: by Greg (new) - rated it 3 stars

Greg I think Neal Stephenson mentions the fibonacci sequence a bit in Cryptonomicon. That's all I've got. I don't even have a cool mustache like the ones Mariel just shared.


message 17: by Mariel (new)

Mariel They left out Walrus. Walrus likes to steal oysters from dudes who sport a Jesus beard.


message 18: by Jasmine (new)

Jasmine could you grow a mustache?


message 19: by Greg (new) - rated it 3 stars

Greg Of course I could. I doubt I'd be motivated to maintain it, but if I could grow a beard a can grow a mustache.


message 20: by Mariel (new)

Mariel Not everyone can grow sideburns.


message 21: by Jasmine (last edited Nov 29, 2010 08:11PM) (new)

Jasmine i was just checking not everyone can. boys I mean.

my brother cannot grow and interesting mustache.

[image error]

that picture has nothing to do with mustaches I just want to embarrass him in public.


message 22: by Mariel (new)

Mariel Do you tell him it is elementary my dear Watson?


message 23: by Jasmine (new)

Jasmine it's a profile pic on facebook, someone else did, I just saw it for the first time. I mean he always looks like an idiot but that is the most intelligent of his idiocy I have seen.


message 24: by Mariel (new)

Mariel I can relate.

My twin's hair naturally grew into the Farrah once. My hair never did that. I figure that makes her more of a bubble brain than me.


message 25: by Jasmine (new)

Jasmine well he is the kind of guy that uses magic markers and crayons as plugs for his ears. my guess is he is actually just showing off his new pot apparatus and mistakenly looked geek chic.


message 26: by [deleted user] (new)

[image error]

This is bat country.


message 27: by [deleted user] (new)

Seems to me he could grow a fine mustache. In fact, I believe he already is.


message 28: by Jasmine (last edited Nov 29, 2010 09:43PM) (new)

Jasmine oh fuck I bet you're right richard, I bet he is actually suppose to be thompson, that makes way more sense.

also he can't it's weird and patchy when it is longer just like my dad's.

although his is red like yours which is fun.


message 29: by Mariel (new)

Mariel I nominate him for our next president. You aren't a man until you've had your pube pubes.


message 30: by Jasmine (new)

Jasmine he won't get elected his profile quote is allah akbar


message 31: by [deleted user] (new)

Hey, at least he's religious. We'll have a muslim president before we have an atheist.


message 32: by Mariel (new)

Mariel Say it's Admiral Ackbar and he is a shoo-in for the seaside states.


message 33: by Jasmine (last edited Nov 29, 2010 09:55PM) (new)

Jasmine he isn't muslim richard, he just believes Mohamed is the one true prophet. no one ever understands.

*slams door and blasts music*

clearly I'm a great little sister if you can't tell

Iam the only atheist in my family, they are very militantly theist


Msmurphybylaw I think Fibonacci numbers would be a great premise for sci-fi. They could be used as so many devices.

Jasmine! turn that music down!


message 35: by Jasmine (new)

Jasmine see it's not just me. there was an episode of so weird that had them as a premise... oh look my age is showing... sorry I'll put that away


Msmurphybylaw Total Fibonacci fan and I like fractals too.


message 37: by Jasmine (new)

Jasmine fractals are so awesome someone should write a book about fractals.


message 38: by [deleted user] (new)

Chaos by James Gleick is an excellent book about fractals and some math history, very approachable but also very mind-bending.


message 39: by Jasmine (new)

Jasmine yay


Msmurphybylaw oooh, Flatland has some lovely Fibonacci cover art.

Thanks Elizabeth.

Who could resist the wrinkle books.


message 41: by karen (new)

karen i would like recommendations for books that have no math whatsoever.


message 42: by Jasmine (new)

Jasmine here karen



message 43: by karen (new)

karen black magics?? that can't be good.


message 44: by Jasmine (new)

Jasmine I can bring you one if you want to check it out, I never finish all the puzzles


message 45: by karen (new)

karen if you gave me that, i would throw it.


Msmurphybylaw heresy!


message 47: by Greg (new) - rated it 3 stars

Greg Not with Karen you aren't.


message 48: by Eh?Eh! (new)

Eh?Eh! Math is the funnest! I'd still use M&Ms as visual aids and rewards.


message 49: by Jasmine (new)

Jasmine Elizabeth wrote: "Math is fun!

I'm not going to get anywhere with this conversation, am I?"


I'm on your side. I was being serious I really have multiple issues of that math puzzles magazine. When I get stressed out I square numbers in my head. it makes me feel better.


message 50: by Jasmine (new)

Jasmine I use m&ms as rewards when I need learn vocabulary


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