[LMB] OT: Newton's Cannon review

Mervi Hamalainen Mervi.Hamalainen at uta.fi
Sat May 6 01:55:07 BST 2006

I'm reading Gregory Keyes' Age of Unreason series and I really, really  
like them. I posted a review on my livejournal and it was suggested  
that I should post it here too. I took down the gushing a lot:

J. Gregory Keyes: Newton's Cannon, Age of Unreason

The book starts with a short intro of how Sir Isaac Newton invented  
discovered magic through science in the 17th century. The rest of the  
story happens in the year 1720 when scientific or philosophical  
devices have become common. Among them are the aetherschreibers that  
work in pairs. When you write something with the other device its mate  
scribes it at the same time, no matter where the devices are on earth.  
There are also more military devices such as the feverfactum that can  
boil a man's blood.

In Boston a young Benjamin Franklin dreams of being a sailor while he  
invents scientific devices. Instead he becomes a newspaperman's  
apprentice. The other main character is Adrienne de Montchevreuil, a  
young woman who wants to be a philosopher and study science.  
Unfortunately, even in Louis XIV's court that is not possible for a  
woman and she has to hide her scientific aspirations. The Sun King  
himself is also intimately familiar with the supernatural side of the  
world. He appears as a minor POV character. One might even call him  
undead. Sort of.

There are also supernatural beings that can be persuaded to help  
humans through some philosophical devices. The beings are called  
malakus, malakim or djinn depending on who you ask. However, their  
nature is explained in the second book.

The end is actually shocking for those (like me) who have grown to  
expect that the status quo of the setting doesn't change.

I liked very much Keyes' world that mixes history, science, magic and  
fiction. Although we don't see the whole world, the glimpses that we  
are shown in Boston, London and Paris are well done.

Some people complain that the book is too choppy but I rather enjoyed  
it that we aren't shown endless descriptions of whatever the writer  
uses to rack up the word count. Every scene counts. However, Keyes  
himself has said on his website that he was unhappy with the rather  
drastic work that his editor had done with this book.


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