As every great best science fiction book, "Celestial Matters" is not just science fiction for the sake of itself. Scientific fiction - or, quite literally in this case, fictional science - is a means to point out some otherwise poorly considered themes of our ordinary world, a strategy to devise mental experiments which, thanks to their anomalous appearence, draw the readers' attention on specific topics.
The main focus of "Celestial Matters", thus, is not "What if Aristotelian Physics was true?" (which is, of course, quite an amazing starting point nonetheless), but "Is it true that there's only one correct viewpoint to explain facts?" or, even more ambitiously: "Can two mutually exclusive worldviews be both valid at the same time?".
Garfinkle's detailed analysis of (fictional) Aristotelian and Taoist science, technology and cosmology, and concurrently of Athenian, Spartan and Han (aka "Middler") ethos, would spark the shadow of doubt even in the mind of the most inflexible flagbearers of objectivity and pensée unique. The importance of history is another key theme which Garfinkle hides between the lines: the protagonist lives in a world where the study of history is deeply neglected by hard-science-dominated academia, and it's only by his contrariant interest for the discipline and his personal connection with the muse Kleo that he manages to salvage and otherwise doomed space mission.
A brilliant and amusing book which would serve perfectly as a light but worthy literary companion for college physics courses.