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Posted August 17, 2009
Exploring the Voynich Mystery in Fiction
"The Book of God and Physics" is a fictional mystery based on a very genuine mystery, the Voynich Manuscript, a book written in a code that to date even the best cryptologists in the world have been unable to crack, and filled with curious drawings. Named after the Polish book dealer who unearthed it in modern times (quite a character in his own right), and currently residing in a U.S. university library, the Voynich Manuscript has apparently existed since at least the Renaissance though some suspect a hoax. Its real or purported history involves such colorful characters as the Emperor Rudolf II of Bohemia, the Elizabethan English astronomer, magician and spy John Dee, his roguish associate Edward Kelley, and the medieval English scientist Roger Bacon. In attempting to solve the mystery of the Manuscript, the three principal characters -- a Spanish Jesuit teacher, a Mexican beauty with fundamentalist connections, and an athestic British astronomer -- find themselves on what is by no means a straightforward quest, led on excursions into the life and death of the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe at Rudolf II's court in Prague, golems, H.P. Lovecraft, and religious assaults on evolutionary theory in the United States, as well as the Vatican and Spanish royal archives and an underground labyrinth. Though the characters are somewhat representative of points of view, with the Jesuit being the most believable and sympathetic of the three, the plot is cleverly handled. The frequent diversions from the main story line, some of which connect up again while others are merely interesting false leads or sidelights, may trouble readers who prefer more conventionally plotted thrillers, but do successfully convey the atmosphere of the strange world from which the Manuscript emerged, with one foot in the alchemy and astrology of the Middle Ages and the other in modern science. That the novel has been translated does not impair its readability, but the sense of a non-American point of view is present throughout and adds to the feeling of "otherness" that is embodied in the Manuscript itself. For anyone who has heard of the Voynich Manuscript before, or is intrigued by its story, this novel is well worth reading and may encourage further exploration of the odd history behind this undecipherable document.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 21, 2009
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