The Difference Engine (GOLLANCZ S.F.) Paperback – 8 May 2003
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'A visionary steam-powered heavy metal fantasy. Gibson and Sterling create a high-Victorian virtual reality of extraordinary richness and detail' Ridley Scott, creator of ALIEN
The computer age has arrived a century ahead of time with Charles Babbage's perfection of his Analytical Engine. The Industrial Revolution, supercharged by the development of steam-driven cybernetic Engines, is in full and drastic swing. Great Britain, with her calculating-cannons, steam dreamnoughts, machine-guns and information technology, prepares to better the world's lot ...See all Product description
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"The Difference Engine" makes much use of a number of story telling devices - there's a McGuffin (the box), a Chekov's Gun, a Femme-Fatale and a Man-of Action, and a twist at the end. The plot, however, is tenuous to say the least and is reliant on the McGuffin for driving the story along (well, that's what McGuffin's are for, isn't it?). I very nearly gave up on it early on because it seemed to me to be going nowhere. My persistence paid off, however, and it developed (slowly, I admit) to an unputdownable page turner.
It is certainly an enjoyable read but I must admit to having felt a little let down by the very end. What had I learned? Where had the story taken me? Where was the narrative linking the start, middle and end of the story? It is the lack of a strong plot that lets the book down and the strength of the story telling that lifts it.
I certainly recommend it but at the same time suggest that you may need to work hard to maintain interest in the early scenes. (Much) better than average but not exactly top notch...
It is vastly longer than it needs to be, the plot is not the tightest, I do rather wonder if the joint authors just wrote alternate chapters. However if you want to luxuriate in this cod-Victorian style of adventure, then it is well thought out, intelligent stuff.