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SusannaG

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

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
Lady Cop Makes Trouble
Amy Stewart
The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt's New World
Andrea Wulf
Progress: 2 %
The Hundred Years War, Volume 1: Trial by Battle
Jonathan Sumption
Progress: 166/586 pages
King Solomon's Mines
H. Rider Haggard
Progress: 4 %
Queen's Gambit: A Novel
Elizabeth Fremantle
Progress: 22 %
1913: The Eve of War
Paul Ham
Progress: 20 %
The William Shakespeare Detective Agency: The Dark Lady (The William Shakespeare Detective Agency Book 2)
Colin Falconer
Progress: 15 %

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?