Edge of the Sky

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Read 12/12/2015-13/12/2015

Rating: 3 stars

Read for The Reader’s Room Winter Scavenger Hunt Challenge

Reading The Edge of the Sky felt awkward and contrived at times, poetic at others. It also had an overarching sense of self-satisfaction. At first I found my brain was distracted trying to reverse translate the author’s metaphors back into language that I understood more instinctively, but gradually I settled into the rhythm of this new way of describing things. I liked the explanation of how the universe expanded and how the light travelling to us from the early moments of the universe can be interpreted by scientists. I’m still no clearer on space-time, though, and I wasn’t fully engaged with the dark matter metaphors. I think I might be the wrong audience for this book, but I don’t know who the intended audience is. 8 year olds? Aliens with a limited grasp of one example of many human languages?

The premise of The Edge of the Sky is that complex ideas can be explained using the 1000 most used words in English. The first problem is that ‘thousand’ isn’t one of the 1000 most used words. So the author has to say ten hundred. Ten hundred isn’t a standard phrase, though, and it jarred. The other thing that jarred was the inclusion in the list of ‘ten hundred’ most used words terms like gonna and gotten. Gonna is a contraction of going to, which are both on the list, gotten is the same as got, which is also already on the list. Perhaps I’m nitpicking.

I struggled with some of the more laboured metaphors. The book is about the universe, but universe isn’t on the list of words, so it becomes All-There-Is. Earth isn’t on the list, so we humans live on Home Planet. Moon isn’t on the list. That becomes Sun’s Sister. People like Nobel, Einstein and Hubble are allowed to keep their names, so why not planets? And countries. China becomes ‘the land of Mr Mao’. Why? The author wants to talk about the Big Bang theory, but bang and theory aren’t on the list, so it ends up rendered as Big Flash. If you tried to look Big Flash up on the internet (internet isn’t on the list, though, so you’d better use the ‘world wide computer’), you’d get a lot of results for a climbing festival. Aeroplane (or airplane) isn’t on the list, so every time someone wants to travel anywhere by aeroplane, they have to go in a flying car. Which raises another point. Flying isn’t on the list. Fly is, though. So it’s possible to make a word not on the list out of one that is on the list? That seemed a bit too convenient.

Overall, I liked the idea behind the book and I enjoyed a lot of how the tale was told, but it didn’t always work for me.

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