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The Difference Engine (Spectra special editions) Mass Market Paperback – January 1, 1992
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A collaborative novel from the premier cyberpunk authors, William Gibson and Bruce Sterling. Part detective story, part historical thriller, The Difference Engine takes us not forward but back, to an imagined 1885: the Industrial Revolution is in full and inexorable swing, powered by steam-driven, cybernetic engines. Charles Babbage perfects his Analytical Engine, and the computer age arrives a century ahead of its time.
“Breathtaking.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Smartly plotted, wonderfully crafted, and written with sly literary wit . . . spins marvelously and runs like a dream.”—Entertainment Weekly
“Splendid . . . highly imaginative.”—Chicago Tribune
“A ripping adventure yarn.”—Los Angeles Times
“[A] tour-de-force.”—The Philadelphia Inquirer
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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This book is often referenced as a major influence in the steampunk genre and “culture”. So I thought I’d better read it.
Wow… major disappointment. Characters introduced and fleshed out early in the book then disappear and are literally only seen once again in passing by another character. The book wanders all over, making use of frankly unbelievably complex mechanical devices.
It looks like the authors never decided where the book was going, but wrote it anyway. I really had to slog through to the end, and wish I had not wasted my time. It feels like sections from several separate unfinished books were put together and a poor ending tacked on.
I've read other books by these authors and been entertained, so I have no idea what happened with this book.
This book is pretty uneven, but I suppose that comes from two authors mailing floppy disks back and forth to each other.
The world that they build is pretty interesting, and it seems that that was the basis of more of the conversations between Gibson and Sterling (I have to confess, I’ve only read like three previous Gibson books, and none of Sterling’s full-length books. I think that though they are still working writers, there’s a very 80s sense of their being, maybe like the Bright Lights Big City guy or the American Psycho guy (Yes, I know their names.)).
There are several characters in this world where some tech is advanced and the US is divided between several nations – more like Europe now than the US is now. And there’s some stuff happening about luddites fighting back and breaking down the computerized government set in motion by Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace (and many of the Eminent Victorians make an appearance).
I don’t know who invented steampunk, but this one has the fun hallmarks of the genre – tech, Victorian London, fun anachronisms…. Is this the start? Here’s the real thing though. You need interesting characters doing interesting things to make a 500-page book readable. For me, there was a lot of stuttering, and the real interesting part of the narrative spanned pages 200-400 approximately. The narrative starts to break down at the end, and I was really close to abandoning the book in the last section, but I figured that there has been ok stuff going on until that point so maybe there is going to be some pay off. There was no payoff.
It turns out the authors were trying to convey that the book was unraveling because it was being written by the computer in the book. It wasn’t obvious to me. I regret the time I spent finishing it up, hoping in vain that there would be something worthwhile. There was nothing. It could have been edited to its core and been a quality instrument. As is, there is too much chaff.
A muddle of two authors, three protagonists, an alternate history of the world in which Wellington was killed and the steam-powered computer age came into being. So what if the tale is sometimes a bit overwritten, the final chapters a bit shabby and ends a bit loose. This book tells a thoroughly modern tale where data is king, in all His Majestic, Corruptible Glory. Yes, the reader has to stoke the boiler a bit to make sense of it all, but great books sometimes aren’t very good.
A tale of the 21st Century set in the 19th Century, written in the 20th. Can’t say fairer than that, guv.
Though successful in it's primary endeavor it lacks direction, there are three primary characters, the first of which fades from sight quickly, the second occupies roughly 2/3 of the total content of the book, the third persona takes the last third.
To be frank, the plot barely materializes, and is over before it develops, then the third character spends his entire segment wrapping up our story, to a very inconclusive ending.
They may have done better to tell the story as a series of journals rather than several first person narratives. Though they did interject a journal or some form of "historic" document as part of the story telling, it was brief.
Would only recommend to someone very interested in alternative history and less concerned with plot.
Most recent customer reviews
The ending wasn't what I expected either (not in the COOL! way)