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Difference Engine(MP3)(Unabr.) [Audiobook, MP3 Audio, Unabridged] [MP3 CD]

William Gibson/Bruce Sterling
2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (83 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Nov. 6 2010
The Difference Engine is an alternate history novel by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling. It is a prime example of the steampunk sub-genre; It posits a Victorian Britain in which great technological and social change has occurred after entrepreneurial inventor Charles Babbage succeeded in his ambition to build a mechanical computer called Engines. The fierce summer heat and pollution have driven the ruling class out of London and the resulting anarchy allows technology-hating Luddites to challenge the intellectual elite. A set of perforated punch cards come into the hands of the daughter of an executed Luddite leader who sets out to keep them safe and discover what secrets they contain.

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From Amazon

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

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. A sometimes listless pace and limp conclusions that defy the plot's complexity flaw an otherwise visionary, handsomely written, unsentimental tale that convincingly revises the 19th-century Western world. 75,000 first printing; $75,000 ad/promo.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Meat, not gruel June 20 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I'm puzzled by the complaint (made by several reviewers below) that the plot threads are never tied up (yes they are, in the final third of the novel) and that we never find out what the mysterious punch cards do (we most certainly do -- see pp. 387, 421, and 429, where we're told EXACTLY what their function is).
This is admittedly a novel that has to be read carefully; one can't just slurp it down like jello without doing any work. It's a serious novel, thank goodness -- not "light entertainment."
I'm also puzzled that nobody seems to have noticed what a highly *political* novel this is. This book is much more about political and cultural ideology than it is about alternative-history technology.
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3.0 out of 5 stars writing and structure Jan. 9 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
the writing was god in sections; however, the structure of this collaboration did not hold together well. I would be interested in reading either Gibson's or Sterling's works by themselves
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1.0 out of 5 stars Absolute crap! Aug. 19 2002
By jsdunk
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I have to agree with virtually everyone else who reviewed this book. It is horrible. The book reads like Sterling and Gibson came up with a concept, divided up the chapters and never checked in again. The early characters disappear and sort of reappear at the end. I kept reading, hoping that it would all come together at the end, but it didn't. In fact, the last section left me completely mystified.
I took this with me on a business trip to the middle east and read it on my return flight. I was hoping for an engrossing read that would make the remaining trip enjoyable. Instead, I experienced the longest flight of my life as I slogged through this mess.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Lots of blah with no payoff Dec 31 2001
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I'm not trying to make myself sound like an idiot, but this book was just too full of 19th century jargon for me to be able to comfortably read it. I seriously had to keep up and ready while reading. I read it cover to cover and never did feel like I got much out of it, except perhaps a rather bland story. I've never read anything else by Sterling, but I've read other Gibson works. While Gibson does always tend to use unfamiliar terms, some of which Id swear he makes up, this book takes the cake. I would read 5 boring pages of rather useless information and wonder where in the world they were going with it! It was a frustrating experience to read this book and I'm just glad I'm done with it. I'm giving it 2 stars because of all of the painful, and presumably accurate detail they conveyed throughout the book. If your really into all things 19th century or steam-punk, then Id recommend it.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Not what I wanted Sept. 6 2001
By C. Cole
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Well, I'll try to be fair, but it is hard. My reaction after reading the last page was "Well, I'll never get that time back". I can possibly see why some might find this book entertaining, if they were VERY familiar with 19th century history. The detail is very good, and the premise is interesting. However, I have not read many books I have been more disapointed in. It drags, meanders, teases, and finally... leaves you completely flat. IMHO don't waste your time.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Too many cooks spoil the soup Aug. 23 2001
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I'm guessing the creation of the book went something like this:
Gibson: Hey Bruce, want to write a book about steam powered computing?
Sterling: Yeah, that sounds really interesting. Let's do lots of research and make it sound very authentic.
A few months pass....
Gibson: Well, I've actually written the entire book now. How did your research go?
Sterling: That's funny, I wrote the entire book too. Why don't we throw dice. If it's an even number, we'll put one of your chapters in, if it's an odd number we'll put one of mine in.
Gibson: Sounds good.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A complex alternate history March 2 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
The Difference Engine reflects the creative synergy of two great cyberpunk pioneers, Gibson and Sterling. It is a difficult and complex novel, based on the premise that Charles Babbage's eponymous mechanical computer is actually developed for practical use using steam power in the Victorian Age, ushering in the Information Revolution a century early. The authors manage to convincingly evoke a Victorian otherworld that is both hauntingly familiar and yet dramatically different from our own past. England is ruled by technocrats and scientists (known as savants) who battle Luddite terrorists; the United States are far from united, rent between the Republic of Texas, the Confederate South, and the Marxist Manhattan Commune. Gibson and Sterling utilize this fascinating background to great advantage, using a colorful cast of characters (including famous historic figures like Sam Houston and Lord Byron in roles a little different from those in our own history books) to explore such weighty themes as evolution and natural selection; technology, surveillance and social control; AI; and the science of chaos and complexity.
I'm sure I did not fully grasp all the implications or understand all the intricate plotlines in this rare treasure; it will definitely repay rereading. But I'm sure that thoughtful fans of Gibson and Sterling--especially those with some knowledge of 19th century England--will enjoy this book as much as I did. It may well be regarded as an SF masterpiece with time. On the other hand, readers who require straightforward, linear plotting and who find ambiguity irritating will certainly do best to skip this novel.
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Most recent customer reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Boring
I am a fan of William Gibson, I read a lot of good book written by him and find that he is a very interesting author. Read more
Published on Feb. 4 2005 by Claude Mally
2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but distorts history
The idea of the invention of Steampowered computers in the nineteenth century is interesting but the author makes several unetanable claims of what would happen in the new... Read more
Published on May 24 2004 by Sean Mulligan
3.0 out of 5 stars Not bad, but many missed opportunities
This isn't a bad novel, and I don't think it "drags" as some would have it--there is enough motive force behind the novel (action, plot development) to keep you there,... Read more
Published on Dec 2 2003 by Eric Hines
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable Complex Reading
In contrast to most of the negative reviews, I thought the suprise ending was powerful and not entirely unexpected. Read more
Published on June 30 2003 by JFBeilman
3.0 out of 5 stars nice plan, but huh?
i really like reading gibson. usually, it's kind of like running a marathon: it's harder than hell to get to the end, but ultimately rewarding. Read more
Published on March 30 2003 by M. Browning
4.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic!
This book takes a little while to get started (about 30 pages--not too long), but once it does, wow. What a world! Read more
Published on March 27 2003 by L. Hall
1.0 out of 5 stars Huh?
Okay, right now I'm on a cyberpunk kick and I picked this book up at the library because the premise sounded interesting: what if the computer ("Engine" in the book... Read more
Published on Feb. 5 2003 by wysewomon
3.0 out of 5 stars I wanted to love it.
It was such a great premise for a book-- what if the Babbage had realized his analytical engine and successfully created computer much earlier in our history? Read more
Published on Jan. 10 2003 by frumiousb
3.0 out of 5 stars A conflict of writing styles
It had the *makings* of a great novel... two of the greatest modern SF writers, applying the tools of today to a previous century. But. But. Read more
Published on Nov. 27 2002 by a superintelligent shade of the color blue
5.0 out of 5 stars Gave me chills
I don't want to give away too much of the plot, but I think I have to reveal a little to counter the bad reviews. Read more
Published on Sept. 12 2002 by Adrian Bell
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