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The Difference Engine Paperback – Jul 26 2011


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Spectra; 20 Anv edition (July 26 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0440423627
  • ISBN-13: 978-0440423621
  • Product Dimensions: 20.9 x 14.2 x 2.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 408 g
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (83 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #56,405 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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2.8 out of 5 stars
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Roderick T. Long on 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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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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By jsdunk on Aug. 19 2002
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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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 dictionary.com 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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By C. Cole on Sept. 6 2001
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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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 By Garrett J. Menning on 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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