A tale inspired by the true story of Pluto's discoverer finds a wealthy heir seeking dinosaurs in the 1920s West while a beautiful girl gradually succumbs to mental illness and a Kansas farm boy painstakingly grinds his own telescope lens. By the PEN/Hemingway Award finalist of The Coast of Good Intentions. - (Baker & Taylor)
A tale inspired by the true story of Pluto's discoverer follows the interlinked stories of a wealthy heir seeking dinosaurs in the 1920s West, a beautiful girl gradually succumbing to mental illness, and Kansas farm boy Clyde Tombaugh. - (Baker & Taylor)
A novel of ambition and obsession centered on the race to discover Pluto in 1930, pitting an untrained Kansas farm boy against the greatest minds of Harvard at the run-down Lowell Observatory in Arizona
In 1928, the boy who will discover Pluto, Clyde Tombaugh, is on the family farm, grinding a lens for his own telescope under the immense Kansas sky. In Flagstaff, Arizona, the staff of Lowell Observatory is about to resume the late Percival Lowell's interrupted search for Planet X. Meanwhile, the immensely rich heir to a chemical fortune has decided to go west to hunt for dinosaurs and in Cambridge, Massachussetts, the most beautiful girl in America is going slowly insane while her ex-heavyweight champion boyfriend stands by helplessly, desperate to do anything to keep her. Inspired by the true story of Tombaugh and set in the last gin-soaked months of the flapper era, Percival's Planet tells the story of the intertwining lives of half a dozen dreamers, schemers, and madmen. Following Tombaugh's unlikely path from son of a farmer to discoverer of a planet, the novel touches on insanity, mathematics, music, astrophysics, boxing, dinosaur hunting, shipwrecks—and what happens when the greatest romance of your life is also the source of your life's greatest sorrow. - (McMillan Palgrave)
*Starred Review* To many astronomers of the early twentieth century, Percival Lowell was more crackpot than serious scientist, but his meticulous notes and his Arizona observatory made it possible for Kansas-bred Clyde Tombaugh to discover Pluto in 1930. This latest novel by the author of Long for This World (2003) traces the painstaking search for what, in the years before Pluto's discovery, Lowell's astronomical heirs called Planet X. In fascinating, if occasionally overwhelming, scientific detail, Byers describes primitive lens-making, long-hand mathematical calculations, painstaking photographic sessions, and 12-hour days measuring celestial movement with a "comparator." However, it's the gravitational force between the characters, their weaknesses, and their resolve that renders this voyage of discovery fresh and astonishing. Brilliant observations about human nature—obsessiveness, laziness, duplicity, and violence, but also creativity, faithfulness, integrity, selflessness, and courage—are all illustrated by unique yet believable, likable characters. Two camps of scientists—paleontologists and astronomers—seek the secrets of the earth and sky while rushing, in their personal relationships, headlong toward disaster. Encompassing aspects of Jane Smiley's bleak outlook in Private Life (2010), the political machinations surrounding Galileo's theories in Kim Stanley Robinson's Galileo's Dream (2009), and the wry humor and naive joy of Miles in Jim Lynch's The Highest Tide (2005), this insightful, witty novel grabs the heart and tickles the mind. Copyright 2010 Booklist Reviews.