Thursday, December 2, 2010

Percival's Planet | Michael Byers

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. The hunt for Planet X in the 1920's and 30's in Flagstaff, Arizona was not something I knew much about. Having read Bill Bryson's "A Short History of Nearly Everything" I became intrigued with some of the personalities involved so I read this book. It is a fictionalised account but has all the main characters from real life who were involved with the exhausting search for a planet they thought made mathematical sense but couldn't quite see.
What I really loved about both books is the crazy characters who make up the scientific community involved. Hard to believe they were real. Byers is very good at characterisation and in his book he depicts the search from a few different perspectives. People start in various walks of life in different cities of the USA and end up in Flagstaff.
Clyde Tombaugh is a farm boy from Kansas who aspires to bigger things and starts making telescope lenses in the barn. He knows he can get off the farm and a chance letter he writes to Lowell Observatory hits the mark and he is employed in the search for Planet X. Felix DuPre a wealthy man with not much to do and too much money decides to head out west to find dinosaurs. He ends up living close to the Observatory and becomes embroiled in the lives of the hunters.
Mary and Hollis Hempstead are brother and sister who through encounters and misadventures also end up at Lowell Observatory. Mary is slowly going insane and Hollis is trying to reinvent himself as an artist. And they all have a part to play in the search, and discovery of Pluto.
Not only is it an interesting story, it is beautifully told. Highly recommended.

Percival's Planet
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