245 Following

SusannaG - Confessions of a Crazy Cat Lady

Just another GR refugee.  Other than that, I had a stroke in 2004, and read almost anything I can get my hands on, though I have a particular weakness for history, mystery, and historical fiction.

Currently reading

Ice Ghosts: The Epic Hunt for the Lost Franklin Expedition
Paul Watson
Progress: 6 %
I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life
Ed Yong
Progress: 40 %
Wizard's First Rule
Terry Goodkind
Progress: 49 %
Thomas Cromwell: The Untold Story of Henry VIII's Most Faithful Servant
Tracy Borman
Progress: 14 %
Storm in a Teacup: The Physics of Everyday Life
Helen Czerski
Progress: 20 %
The Hanover Square Affair
Ashley Gardner
Progress: 10 %
Medieval Tastes: Food, Cooking, and the Table (Arts and Traditions of the Table: Perspectives on Culinary History)
Beth Archer Brombert, Massimo Montanari
Progress: 10 %
Scars of Independence: America's Violent Birth
Holger Hoock
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
Yuval Noah Harari Dr
Progress: 9 %
Elizabeth: The Forgotten Years
John Guy
Progress: 20/512 pages

The Difference Engine

The Difference Engine - William Gibson

What an odd little book this is!   It's steampunk from before there was steampunk, as far as I can tell.


It is set mostly in London in 1855 - but a London in which Great Britain went through a class war in the 1830s, and the "Rad Lords" (the Industrial Radical Party) won.  Lord Byron is now Prime Minister.  The hereditary aristocracy (but not the monarchy) has been abolished, and titles are awarded for merit.  Babbage, Brunel, and Darwin, for example are all "Lords."  Byron's daughter, Lady Byron, is "The Queen of Engines" (and is a shadowy presence in this book).


The computer age has come early - Babbage's difference engine (a mechanical computer) was made, and worked.  All advanced countries have great engines - the largest in Britain belongs to Scotland Yard, while the French are proud of their Napoleon engine.


The story, in five segments and an afterthought (and then a note from our authors, telling you who the narrator is, among other interesting things - very much worth a read), covers the whole year, from fomenting revolt in the Republic of Texas to the invention of "line-streaming" steam automobiles, from fomenting industrial agitation to thwarting the police state.


I think my favorite bit was Benjamin Disraeli complaining about the "modern paperless office" of the 1850s.


This was a strange and basically enjoyable novel - but if the authors have to explain their trick in the afterword, how effective was it, really?