Tuesday, 16 August 2011

There's coincidence and there's ridiculous

I've just had a few days holiday, and deciding to equip myself with some suitable reading tried a new author (to me), S. J. Parris (a.k.a. Stephanie Merritt) and the novel Heresy. It has a lot going for it as far as I'm concerned. I love the period (Elizabethan), I enjoy a good mystery story and it even has someone from the history of science as a main character  - Giordano Bruno.

Bruno is a fascinating character who not only supported Copernicus in thinking the Earth travelled around the Sun, but also suggested that the stars were all suns, with other planets travelling around them - shattering even more Aristotle's universe of crystal spheres around the Earth.

Poor histories of science often make the comparison between Bruno, who was burned at the stake, and Galileo, who got away with house arrest, claiming that Bruno, like Galileo, was tried because of his scientific beliefs. I say poor histories because this is a pathetic over-simplification. Bruno was not burned for his science - it was his heretical religious views that condemned him. (I'm glad to say Parris does not fall for the simplistic view.)

However, good though this book is, I was inspired to write this post by a most hilarious statement on the copyright page. It says, bold as brass, The names, characters and incidents portrayed in [this book] are the work of the author's imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead... is entirely coincidental. What? Is the publisher having a laugh? Are they really saying that S. J. Parris dreamed up a character called Giordano Bruno with certain scientific theories and it's a pure coincidence that there was a real person of this name at the same time in history with the same theories? Do they truly believe that Queen Elizabeth of England, Sir Philip Sidney etc. all sprung from the author's imagination?

Come on guys, this is buffoonery. Of course it's not a coincidence. Sigh. Great book though. Take a look at Amazon.co.uk or at Amazon.com

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