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In the Country of the Blind Mass Market Paperback – March 14, 2003

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Science Fiction; 1st edition (March 14, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 076534498X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765344984
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.1 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,717,154 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

There were too many characters in the book.
C. Glover
You could drive human progress in any direction you want, either for benevolent reasons or otherwise, but in any case, amass a lot of money and power along the way.
Emil L. Posey
One is purely modern: the book already seems dated in far too many ways.
Sitting in Seattle

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Michael K. Smith TOP 500 REVIEWER on November 28, 2000
Format: Paperback
One of the usually less successful types of science fiction story (in my opinion) is the "secret history" story, in which the plot turns on events that most of us don't know about -- things we aren't *supposed* to know about, secret things that allow some individual or group to (usually) rule the world. Generally, the key events or relationships that give the secret group its power are a little too pat, a little too coincidental, and the stories usually are not believable. Asimov's Foundation trilogy was an exception, up to a point, and so was Wilson & Shea's Illuminati triology. And now, so is this novel.
The early 19th century was a time of amateur gentleman scholars who thought that if you could only gather enough information, enough data, about people and society at large, you could work out policies that would improve everyone's lot in life. According to Flynn, a small group of those do-gooders in New England (1) managed to develop a mathematical approach to social engineering, (2) got Babbage's engine to work, and (3) began to do something about the state of the world. And they've been at it ever since. Only, they're really not very good at it.
Flynn has a real knack for the language and he seems to know his history. The "fulcra" he selects, the points where a small change might tip the course of events in quite a different direction, are quite reasonable, and he'll tell you exactly why. The characters are believable and three-dimensional and often sympathetic, even the bad guys. And coincidence is kept to a minimum. There's lots of juicy quotes in this one, too. This book was recommended to me by a friend several years ago, but I've only just gotten around to reading it -- and now I have to go see what else Flynn has written!
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By C. Glover on November 13, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Yeah, yeah, it was a good read, but I had several problems with this book. Not with the science, but with the fiction. There were too many characters in the book. It did read like a serial, every chapter a substory that was ultimately linked by a common character. I had to keep marginal notes to remember who was who and how they fit in. I also had a real problem with our hero. Ms. Beaumont was just too heroic. Was there anything she did not know, or could not do? As a mature Black woman I am attracted to books with characters like me, but jeez, this woman could do everything and do it well. If this is a story about a regular citizen caught up in a situation of life and death, she is just too calm and collected. I also had problems with our male hero. Mr. Malone seemed to be more concerned, more questioning, more nervous about what was going on and he was the experienced professional. The characters were too sketchy, too good or too bad. Too sterotypical, like Mr. Collingwood from the fop to the cool leader, to be credible. I think the most interesting part went to Mr. French, the thread that tied all the motives together. Ah, if only we had followed his story from beginning to end. Speaking of the ending, the book just seemed to stop. Oh well, I guess I was tired of reading it by then anyway.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Jaundiced Eye on February 11, 2000
Format: Paperback
Michael Flynn's "In the Country of the Blind" is set primarily in the present (ca. 1990, so some of its computer 'net lingo is remarkably dated after only ten years), with intriguing and illuminating flashbacks to the 1800's. The flashbacks are about a small group of idealists deciding to utilize the theories of Charles Babbage, build Babbage Analytical Engines and use mathematical models to chart the likely course of future events, and -- ultimately -- to modify the undesirable outcome they foresaw: a United Germany armed with unimaginably powerful bombs in 1939. To forestall this eventuality, the "Charles Babbage Society" began taking an active part in history by engineering key historic events, such as the permanent "deletion" of Abraham Lincoln from their equations. . . . Flash forward to the 20th Century when the novel's heroine innocently stumbles upon century-old records of the group -- and evidence that they are still active -- very, very, VERY active she learns as she suddenly finds herself hunted by assassins and everyone she knows begins disappearing or dying as the heirs of the Society strive to preserve the Secret that for more than a century they have engineered wars and assasinations and negative social trends for what seems to be their own advantage. This is a very intellectually stimulating book (as well as a fair thriller) and a good steampunk adventure, but the ending is acutely disappointing. Without spoiling the ending, suffice it to say that it is abrupt and MANY sub-plots (literally!) are left unresolved.Read more ›
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Patrick Burnett on November 11, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I purchased Michael Flynn's "In the Country of the Blind" on the say so of a few positive reviews right here on Amazon. I'm not sure why it even came up on my Amazon radar screen; the book suggestions here often seem as randomly generated as a roll of the dice. Perhaps it was because I profess to enjoy Tim Powers, whose oeuvre consists of similar history-bending themes. Maybe it was because I happened to stumble across a Harry Turtledove book or two. Who knows?

For that matter, who cares? When a book is this good, maybe I should just thank divine providence for sending it my way. Or, um, maybe the Babbage Society.

When Sarah Beaumont accidentally stumbles across some old machinery and a list of obscure historical dead ends, she thinks little of it. But when people around her begin dying or disappearing, she comes to the conclusion that her finds have greater importance. She learns through her researches that she has inadvertently set a secret society bent on predicting and controlling the future in motion to silence her.

From this interesting premise springs an intriguing book that works on a number of levels, each weaving in and out of the others into a tight tapestry. While some fans of this book promote it as an example of "secret history" (books that take an existing bit of history and make up a fictional reason for its occurrence), "In the Country of the Blind" barely deals with this subject. Instead, the bulk is more like a spy novel a la John LeCarre, with a framework of historical meddling by the Babbage Society. It is a bizarre love story. It is a novel of awakening. And, importantly, it is a novel of ideas. If you could change the future, would you? What if it required the death of an innocent in order to save thousands?
Read more ›
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