The Queen's Conjurer by Benjamin Woolley. Biography of Dr John Dee: scholar, mystic and occasional advisor to Elizabeth I. Thoughtful, well-written and well-researched: gives an interesting insight into the period. Unfortunately, Dee himself seems to be a lot less interesting than his reputation suggests, though he's not as disappointing as the thuggish Dick Turpin.
Dee turns out to have had a few consultations with Elizabeth, but seems to have been a very minor figure with little influence: she seems to have regarded him as a curiosity. Intellectually Dee doesn't seem to have had that much impact: though he did help bring Continental knowledge of navigation and cartography to backward England Dee was a firm believer in astrology and alchemy, which wasn't that unusual for the period: Newton and others were similarly interested, and there wasn't a firm distinction between these things and science drawn at the time.
What was more unusual was that Dee was obsessed with communicating with spiritual beings, which he believed to be angels. He did this through various "scryers" who seem to have been the equivalent of modern mediums, who essentially seem to have conned him by telling him what he wanted to hear.
In particular, Dee seems to have fallen under the spell of one such scryer, Edward Kelley. While Kelley is more obscure than Dee today, at the time Kelley eventually became far more famous than Dee, abandoning Dee when he found more powerful patronage elsewhere. Creepily, Kelley even seems to have convinced Dee to let Kelley sleep with his wife, since the angels were telling him so.
Overall, a good book. But unfortunately the reality of Dee's life doesn't quite live up to rumour and legend.
What I'm Reading 2
Queen of Candesce by Karl Schroeder. Second book in the Virga science fiction series, set in a giant air-filled zero gravity environment with a technologically backward culture.
Schroeder more boldly relies on a single protagonist here instead of switching between viewpoints: Venera Fanning, the plotting aristocrat from the first volume. Here she encounters a huge and ancient spinning habitat from the earliest days of Virga, subdivided into feuding microrealms which bring her skills for plotting and intrigue to the fore.
I really liked the first volume and this is as good or better. Great world building combined with fast paced adventure and compelling if slightly schematic characters. The series is well worth reading if you like science fiction or adventure, but best to start at the beginning.
Socioeconomics. Moderate minimum wages do more good than harm.
Random. 1987 TV hack
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