In the Country of the Blind
is a tense, complex, exciting conspiracy thriller, highly recommended to all fans of suspense fiction, secret history, alternate history, and science fiction.
In the 19th century, the British scientist Charles Babbage designed an "analytical engine," a working computer that was never built--or so the world believes. Sarah Beaumont, an ex-reporter and real estate developer, is investigating a Victorian-era Denver property when she finds an ancient analytical engine. Sarah investigates her astonishing discovery and finds herself pursued by a secret society that has used Babbage computers to develop a new science, cliology, which allows its practitioners to predict history--and to control history for its own purposes. And it will stop at nothing to preserve its secret mastery of human destiny.
Michael Flynn is one of best and most interesting of the modern hard-SF writers, combining rigorous extrapolation with skilled prose and strong characterization. In the Country of the Blind is his first novel, but it was somewhat overlooked when it appeared in 1990, perhaps because it debuted as a paperback original. Now Tor has reissued the book in hardcover, the format it deserves. This edition has been slightly revised, and it includes, as an afterword, Flynn's essay "An Introduction to Cliology," which plausibly explains the intriguing science the author has created in this novel.
Readers of Isaac Asimov's Foundation series are probably wondering how Flynn's cliology relates to Asimov's psychohistory. Flynn is clearly aware of Asimov's science of history, but takes cliology far in its own fascinating directions. Foundation fans should check out In the Country of the Blind. --Cynthia Ward
From Publishers Weekly
First published in part as a serial and in part as a paperback original (1990), this novel of big ideas, now revised and updated by Flynn (Firestar; Lodestar; Rogue Star; etc.), explores the consequences of manipulating history. When Sarah Beaumont moves into an old Denver house, she learns that a previous owner, Brady Quinn, was killed in 1892 during a gunfight between two cowboys, seemingly an innocent bystander. Sarah's research into the mysterious Quinn leads her to a building where she finds some strange, abandoned machines, which turn out to be Babbage Analytical Engines (i.e., 19th-century computers). Soon Sarah is on the trail of the Babbage Society, founded before the Civil War, whose members use the science of Cliology to tamper with history. Some of them have formed a splinter group and created Ideons (later called memes) to control an unsuspecting public. With several friends, Sarah continues her research, only to find that they have all become targets of a relentless enemy. Intrigues and double-crosses abound, as various competing factions justify and adjust their practice of Cliology. Plot and character development, as one might expect, matter only insofar as they further the philosophical argument. In a thought-provoking, chart-filled appendix, first published in Analog, Flynn discusses the mathematics and biology of history. Fans of classical SF are in for a treat. Agent, Eleanor Wood.
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