The Adjustment Bureau

NY Congressman with Weineresque impulse control issues (Matt Damon) accidentally discovers that human behavior is being influenced by beings (not quite angels, but certainly not human) who flit around NY using multidimensional secret tunnels. Damon has accidentally had too much interaction with a young dancer (Emily Blunt) and needs to be “adjusted.” He resists.

This movie, based on a Phillip K. Dick novel, is not nearly as dystopian as its authorship would suggest. The characters are engaging and the movie has some interesting things to say about the nature of free will, love and the human spirit. And it was fun to watch the characters jumping around the secret tunnels and popping up all over the city, using real NYC landscapes for a change. All in all, a pleasant surprise.

If you liked this movie, you might also try Wings of Desire (the original Wim Wenders version, with Bruno Ganz and the very late Peter Falk, not the awful Nicholas Cage remake City of Angels).

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Galileo’s Dream (Book)

by Kim Stanley Robinson.

This is really an extended essay about the life and work of Galileo, masquerading as sci fi (there’s a time travel “framing story,” but it serves only to add a modern observer’s viewpoint). Robinson frequently writes about the interaction of scientists and policymakers, so the subject of Galileo, the world’s first scientist, is a natural for him.  It’s the first treatment I’ve seen that correctly depicts the controversy surrounding Galileo as primarily a political, not a religious, one and, as such, one that has interesting resonances with our own day. It’s not all poltics, though — interspersed are excerpts from Galileo’s work (some of which seems amazingly modern) and fascinating interludes about daily life in Galileo’s day — eating and drinking, transportation and communication, and even the horrifying state of medical care.

This book is pretty long (over 500 pages), but it’s an easy read. It is available in paperback or in Kindle format.