Book Reviews 2005 (15-16)

Two more book reviews this time out.
Galileo’s Daughter, by Dava Sobel (non fiction)
Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett (Discworld)

Galileo’s Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love by Dava Sobel.
Many people know bits and pieces of the story of Gailieo Gailiei. Be it dropping cannon balls over the crooked Tower of Pisa, or perhaps perfecting the telescope enough to see moons of Jupiter and mountains on the Moon, or perhaps the horrible story of his ordeal at the hands of the Inquisition, Gailieo is a seminal figure in history.
Gailieo’s Daughter is a biography of the great man, with a twist–it uses the letters sent from his eldest daughter, who became a nun, as an essential part of Gailieo’s story. This is not a gimmick, the letters reveal a complex and rich relationship between the man, and his clearly brilliant daughter. In another time and place, Suor Maria Celeste would possibly, instead of being a nun, would have had a larger role in the public sphere.
The biography itself is lovingly detailed, touching on the many figures of 17th century Italy that impacted Gailieo’s life. I knew much of the story, but I learned quite a bit more about his life, his times, the relationship with his children, and the genesis of his works.
Highly Recommended

Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett
The latest Discworld novel on my reading pile, Guards! Guards! introduces the Night Watch, an appendix of an organization that really has no useful functions in a city where crime is regulated by the Thieves’ Guild, and murder by the Assassin’s Guild. In fact, the Guard does nothing much at all.
That is, to say, not until someone decides to upset the applecart, and summon a Dragon into the city. The colorful members of the Guards, from Captain Vimes to the 6 and a half foot dwarf (adopted!) Constable Carrot find themselves trying to save their beloved city from disaster.
It’s funny as hell, Pratchett combines narrative as well as humor in a way not seen in the early books I’ve read, save for Mort. (Events in Mort get a one-line mention, and the Librarian appears, but the book can stand by itself).
If you don’t want to read the earlier Pratchett novels, you *can* start here, and to an extent you might be better off doing so, since the book works better as a novel than some of the earlier books in Discworld. The Night Watch books are one of the more popular subseries in the 30+ novels of Discworld, and its clear to see why. I look forward to when my “Read all Discworld” project brings me up to another Night Watch book.
Highly Recommended