A 900 page edifice erected atop and around the life and nigh incredible achievements of the 17th century architect, astronomer and mathematician who served under five monarchs and the Commonwealth. In the beginning -- when Weiss deals with Wren's childhood, as the son and nephew of highly placed clerics, as bewildered schoolmate (at four) of Prince Charles at Windsor, as hard-working student at Westminster -- the author's patient, loving detail promises the reader of commercial historicals a comfortable stretch of winter reading. However, there is no strong emotional focus, except possibly Wren's determination to rebuild St. Paul's (a 33 year obsession) and as Weiss picks his way through the politics, religion, science, arts and notables of Wren's 90 years on earth, there is simply no keystone to hold the whole mess together. Also there are implausible moments -- the monarchs and Cromwell all tip their hands to Wren at one time or another and just about anybody who was anybody files by -- from Pepys to Milton (""Cromwell like(d) the way he writes""), Van Dyke to Newton (who makes his ""great ocean of truth"" observation in casual conversation to guess who), to Nell Gwynn who compliments Wren on his theater design: ""Charles, this theater is a great improvement. Spacious, comfortable, light. The town talks of nothing else."" As for the architecture, the little learning here is not enough (was ""Gothic"" referred to as such in the 17th century?): In referring to St. Paul's, the author has King William remark: ""Don't bring it up again Mary. If you've mentioned St. Paul's once, you've mentioned it a dozen times."" Sound fellow, William. . . . Huge, bland and more or less blank.