This is an "And" book. (William Gibson and Bruce Sterling.) I think publishers push this lousy idea. I feel Gibson could be a real force in contemporary English Literature- every once in a while he throws lighting bolts that take your breath away. Sterling I'm not familiar with- have to read him soon. This novel is a clever "What if...?" book. Logic systems do not have to be driven electrically to compute, and what if Brittania still ruled? It's a good read.
The book is good, but not the best writing that Gibson has done. The setting is pre-industrial London and is something of an alternate history book. The characters are well written and the plot travels well except for a somewhat jarring jump about 3/4 of the way through when the main protagonists are changed and the last chapter, which is a random smattering of "writings of the time". I felt I could tell which parts were written by each author and I preferred those I feel were Gibsons, who is one of my favorite authors.
I expected more. I like steam-punk and Gibson is generally a good author, but the sudden changes in perspective were a distraction. The novel suddenly jumped from first person perspective of a prostitute to the protagonist, and then ended in news clippings.
Great premise. I wish the stories and the characters were more fleshed out.
By the author of Neuromancer
I got a little tired of the book near the end, put it down and never went back to it.
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. In a surprising departure from the traditional view of cyberpunk's bleak future, Gibson ( Mona Lisa Overdrive ) and Sterling ( Islands in the Net ) render with elan and colorful detail a scientifically advanced London, circa 1855, where computers ("Engines") have been developed. Fierce summer heat and pollution have driven out the ruling class, and ensuing anarchy allows the subversive, technology-hating Luddites to surface and battle the intellectual elite. Much of the problem centers on a set of perforated cards, once in the possession of an executed Luddite leader's daughter, later in the hands of "Queen of Engines" Ada Byron (daughter of prime minister Lord Byron), finally given to Edward Mallory, a scientist. Mallory, who knows the cards are a gambling device that can be read with a specialized Engine, is soon threatened and libeled by the Luddites, and he and his associates confront the scoundrels in a violent showdown.
Actually I never really read it, which is why I'm posting it here. I remember it has a good reputation as a "steampunk" book.