“It doesn’t matter that Pluto has since been demoted to the status of a dwarf planet or that the outcome of the story is a foregone conclusion. Michael Byers has written an engaging story of discovery–a gentle but intriguing adventure set in the late 1920s and told from the perspective of the elderly Clyde Tombaugh (the real-life discoverer of Pluto) in a long narrative flashback where he reveals the story of the planet’s discovery.
Byers has created several story lines, including an amateur heavyweight in Boston who falls haplessly in love with a sweet but volatile woman who is convinced she has a horn growing out the back of her head; the heir to a chemical fortune who decides his life’s calling is to hunt dinosaur bones in the desert; and Alan Barber, a Harvard graduate of astronomy who capriciously names a newly discovered comet after a woman he hopes to marry.
But the storyline that draws the reader into the book is Tombaugh himself. A farm boy from Kansas with a passion for the stars, he grinds the glass pieces for his home-built telescopes in the family barn and dreams of someday going to college to study astronomy. In a desperate effort to get out
of Kansas, Tombaugh sends a letter of inquiry to the folks at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona and lands himself a job doing the most tedious of scientific work.
In alternating chapters, Byers draws each of his eccentric characters to Arizona where the story of Planet X’s discovery unfolds with its own drama. I loved the detailed descriptions of discovery and setback in the search for the new planet and the unearthing of fossilized dinosaur bones. It’s an interesting juxtaposition that in the late 1920s dinosaur bones and planets were both the focus of scientific inquiry. But, it’s Clyde’s story that truly makes this book work. I loved the richly drawn characters and the way Byers pulled his multiple storylines together. Definitely put this book on your reading list.” —Wendee, Queen Anne Books, Seattle. Buy Percival's Planet from Queen Anne Books.