Dan Schwent's Reviews > Celestial Matters

Celestial Matters by Richard Garfinkle
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's review
Jun 23, 2009

liked it
bookshelves: steampunk
Read in July, 2009

Commander Aias of the Celestial Ship Chandra's Tear is charged with heading up operation Sunthief, using a ship to steal a piece of the sun and drop it on the capital city of the Middle Kingdom, the enemy of the Delian League.

This is one of those books that's hard to classify. Can something be classified as hard sf if the science in question is that of the ancient Greeks and equally ancient Chinese? That's right. Celestial matters is part hard sf, part alternate history. The Delia League is a Greek Empire founded on the spurious science of the ancient Greeks, which works in this universe. Spontaneous Generation farms are used to create animals. Space is full of air. The humors govern the health of the body. The Delian League is at war with the Middle Kingdom, which is an equally large empire built upon Taoist science.

As you can tell, the world behind Celestial Matters is a very interesting one once you wrap your head around the science. That being said, while the story is good, the writing drags. It took me about seventy pages to be fully invested in the book. It's not a light read and the science takes a bit of getting used to.

Still, I recommend this to alternate history fans who are into the ridiculous and magical science of 2000 years ago.

I'm floating this because it reminds me of the book I'm currently reading, Quintessence
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Reading Progress

07/11/2009 page 1
07/12/2009 page 62
17.61% "It took me a little while but I'm getting into it"
07/13/2009 page 74
21.02% "can something be considered hard sf if the s in question is fictitious?"
07/15/2009 page 91
25.85% "i need more time to read"
07/17/2009 page 201
57.1% "I had a feeling that's who the traitor was"
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Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

I tried to read this years (10?) ago, and just couldn't get into it. It's still sitting on my shelf, and every once in a while I pick it up; there is something about it that fascinates me. I'm curious to see what you think about it, and I hope I get into it one day.

Michael That's a fair assessment. I felt as though once I did get into the book, I really enjoyed it. I had a good enough grip on "old science" to pick up on what was going on, too. Not to say that you didn't, of course!

message 3: by Dan (new) - rated it 3 stars

Dan Schwent Once I got into it, it was hard to put down. The end was good and I really liked the "who is the traitor?" element of the story.

message 4: by Amanda (new) - added it

Amanda i've had this on my wishlist for awhile, there's just something intriguing about it. Sorry to see it starts slow but glad to see u ultimately liked it as we often have the same taste in books

Brandon Thanks for the book recommendation at the end of your post, sounds interesting.

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