The Difference Engine
William Gibson and Bruce Sterling
Spectra, Jul 26 2011, $16.00
In 1855 as the Industrial Revolution continues to pollute the big cities of England, Charles Babbage creates the steam driven analytical engine. The Luddites learn of this incredible advancement and vow to destroy this new use of technology that heralds the beginning of the Information Revolution. Mick Radley obtains key perforated cards, but when he is murdered the cards pass to his girlfriend Sybil Gerard who deals with General Houston and the Texian.
Prime Minister Lord Byron’s daughter Ada obtains the cards, but soon scientist Edward Mallory possesses the cards, but needs the Babbage analytical engine to read them. The Luddites attack him and his name. Eventually detective Lawrence Oliphant, who is dying from syphilis, investigates the mystery of the cards.
The 20th Anniversary Edition of this complicated alternate history thriller shows the novel holds up well against the test of time as the London of William Gibson and Bruce Sterling remains an intriguing locale. Although the overall fast-paced plot decelerates at times especially in the middle of the Third Iteration and the finish not up to the complex story line, The Difference Engine is an engaging mystery set in a steampunk Victorian environment. With a Modus adding insight, sub-genre fans will enjoy this reprint.