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The Difference Engine: A Novel by William…
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The Difference Engine: A Novel (edition 2011)

by William Gibson (Author)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5,179791,477 (3.29)164
1855: 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.  And three extraordinary characters race toward a rendezvous with history--and the future:   Sybil Gerard--a fallen woman, politician's tart, daughter of a Luddite agitator   Edward "Leviathan" Mallory--explorer and paleontologist   Laurence Oliphant--diplomat, mystic, and spy.   Their adventure begins with the discovery of a box of punched Engine cards of unknown origin and purpose.  Cards someone wants badly enough to kill for....   Part detective story, part historical thriller, The Difference Engine is the collaborative masterpiece by two of the most acclaimed science fiction authors writing today.  Provocative, compelling, intensely imagined, it is a startling extension of Gibson's and Sterling's unique visions--and the beginning of movement we know today as "steampunk!"… (more)
Member:chrestomathy
Title:The Difference Engine: A Novel
Authors:William Gibson (Author)
Info:Spectra (2011), Edition: Anniversary, 512 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:
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The Difference Engine by William Gibson

  1. 00
    The Light Ages by Ian R. MacLeod (CaptainPea)
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    Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier (Cecilturtle)
    Cecilturtle: also set in late XIXth century with challenged scientific views.
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» See also 164 mentions

English (75)  French (1)  Romanian (1)  Italian (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (79)
Showing 1-5 of 75 (next | show all)
This book is even better than I had realised as I started reading it - I feel the need to go back and re-read it to fully appreciate it.
The concept is an "alternative history" in which Babbage and his "difference engine" had successfully initiated a technology era in Victorian era England - leading to an alternate history of the period. Essentially it is a cross between sci-fi, fantasy and history.
There is much to enjoy if you know a little history of politics, science and literature of the era. Many familiar names, some in different roles - Disraeli is a full-time writer, Byron is PM. There are also many creative touches - for example, with plays on modern words where the card- and mechanical-based tech types are "clackers" instead of hackers, and so on.
I thoroughly enjoyed the book as a whole, and on the many different levels embedded in it. The characters are interesting and believable, the alternative history is thought provoking, and the science/technology is interesting.
There is one section where the plot development becomes quite florid, but I was happy to go along for the ride.
Great stuff! ( )
  mbmackay | Sep 18, 2020 |
A procession of unlikeable characters move through settings so minutely detailed that one suspects they are the entire point of the book. Momentous events are taking place just out of sight, but the reader is limited to a street-level perspective in which none of the characters understand any what's going on until around page 330, and so the reader never manages to give a damn. ( )
  RJ_Stevenson | Aug 19, 2020 |
if computer age started 100 yrs earlier where would we be now
  ritaer | Jul 28, 2020 |
My wife and I read 400 pages of this before we gave up on the last 30 pages. We kept hoping it would get better, that it would start making sense, but it never really did. Around page 300 there was a satisfactory ending that probably would have earned it 2 stars, but then it droned on for another 100 pages in a kind of REALLY FREAKING LONG epilogue (though it wasn't labeled as such). Then the last 30 pages looked like random tidbits, very experimental kind of setup and we just couldn't take it anymore.

The writing wasn't bad, the setting was interesting, but it seemed that each section just completely jumped away from the last just occasionally mentioning characters, almost like it was 3 different interconnected stories. We kept thinking it would get back to the earlier characters but it didn't.

Very disappointed that we wasted so much time on this. ( )
  ragwaine | Jul 19, 2020 |
Don't bother. ( )
2 vote | natcontrary | Jun 22, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 75 (next | show all)
In de vorige eeuw werd door Charles Babbage een mechanische computer ontworpen, die echter bij gebrek aan technologische kennis en de juiste materialen niet gebouwd kon worden. Deze roman speelt zich af in een Engeland waar dat wel kon, met als gevolg dat al rond 1850 de maatschappij diepgaand veranderd is door computertechnologie. Ook andere zaken zijn in die wereld anders dan de onze: zo is de dichter Byron premier van Engeland geworden en de Verenigde Staten zijn nooit verenigd. De plot betreft een politieke intrige, draaiend om een stel computerponskaarten die een blauwdruk vormen voor een nieuwe generatie computers: niet langer mechanisch maar elektrisch. De auteurs zijn coryfeeën van de 'cyberpunk': science fiction die gaat over de toekomstige ontwikkelingen van de informatica. Hier hebben ze een roman geschreven zoals een 19e-eeuws auteur van cyberpunk die had kunnen schrijven. In dit opzicht is het een tour-de-force. Bovendien is het spannend en goed geschreven. Enige kennis van het 19e-eeuwse Engeland maakt de lezing van het boek nog aardiger, want het bevat talloze toespelingen op kunst en politiek uit de 19e eeuw.
added by karnoefel | editNBD / Biblion
 

» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Gibson, Williamprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Sterling, Brucemain authorall editionsconfirmed
Brumm, WalterTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Miller, IanCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Randazzo, TonyCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schütz, NeleCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Composite image, optically encoded by escort-craft of the trans-Channel airship Lord Brunel: aerial view of surburban Cherbourg, October 14th, 1905.
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1855: 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.  And three extraordinary characters race toward a rendezvous with history--and the future:   Sybil Gerard--a fallen woman, politician's tart, daughter of a Luddite agitator   Edward "Leviathan" Mallory--explorer and paleontologist   Laurence Oliphant--diplomat, mystic, and spy.   Their adventure begins with the discovery of a box of punched Engine cards of unknown origin and purpose.  Cards someone wants badly enough to kill for....   Part detective story, part historical thriller, The Difference Engine is the collaborative masterpiece by two of the most acclaimed science fiction authors writing today.  Provocative, compelling, intensely imagined, it is a startling extension of Gibson's and Sterling's unique visions--and the beginning of movement we know today as "steampunk!"

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