I ll not say this is the most original novel ever written after all, the what if the alchemists were really onto something has been done before, in The Face in the Frost and elsewhere But to include Benjamin Franklin in their ranks that makes this stand out Also, to anyone who s read Franklin s autobiography and knows something of his history, this novel will be interesting, I think.
It s odd, but I never thought of Franklin and Isaac Newton being contemporaries and, as they are of different generations, strictly speaking they are not But what if Franklin had become a student of Newton unlikely, as he would have been 16 when Newton died It is a bit slow moving at first, as others have observed, but things do pick up The ending is a cliffhanger, but this is but volume one in a series, so that s hardly surprising.
I suppose I ll soon find out if slow to start, quick to finish is a trait of Keyes, as I have ordered a copy of A Calculus of Angels, the next in the series.
I have fond memories of this trilogy from my youth Or, likely, of parts of this trilogy, both because in my rebellious heyday I read things out of sequence like it was nobody s business because it wasn t and because my library is very fond of buying books 2 and 3 but not book 1 So I can t recall if I ever read Newton s Cannon, but it seemed like a good place to restart my journey through the Age of Unreason Finding it for 30 p at a library sale was just icing on the cake it even has that sweet transparent jacket cover for paperbacks that many UK libraries use But I digress.
As a mathematician, I am required to be fascinated by Isaac Newton You should be too, even if you aren t a mathematician The man was incredible In addition to his contributions to math, physics, and astronomy, he was also the head of the Royal Mint and of the Royal Society He was also, by all reports, a bit of a dick towards his friends and peers And don t you dare get in a priority dispute with him, because he will cut you, and then he ll write the anonymous review congratulating the report by a committee he heads up that finds in his favour.
It s an open secret, though, that Newton had some strange ideas He saw his contributions to astronomy and optics as interesting hobbies, but he was really keen on alchemy and mysticism In this series, Greg Keyes seizes upon this as the jumping off point for a creative alternate history what if our universe actually worked in the alchemical, classical sense of Greek and Renaissance descriptions Gravity is merely one of many affinities that matter displays rather than vacuum, we really do have luminiferous aether, and electric lights are instead devices that separate aether and lux In this world, philosopher alchemists create cannonballs that turn the walls they hit into glass and pairs of machines aetherscribers that communicate instantaneously with each other across the world.
Newton s Cannon follows two protagonists a young Benjamin Franklin and Adrienne de Mornay de Montchevreuil Yep, Benjamin Franklin Only after he gets himself in trouble with a nefarious warlock type dude, Benjamin flees Boston for London, hoping to apprentice himself to Isaac Newton, who at this late stage in his life has entered a rather deep episode of paranoia Meanwhile, in France, Adrienne hides her improper for a woman interests in science, acting as the supposedly bored secretary to an overzealous mathematician who hopes to drop a comet on London She catches the eye of an immortal Sun King, Louis XIV, who has plans to make her his wife Before Adrienne can refuse, she becomes involved in a conspiracy to kill the king.
Keyes mixes the historical animosity between English and French with the pressures and changes brought about by Newton s discoveries Louis lengthy reign has prompted rebellion, in addition to the war with England, resulting in a France strained to the limit Newton s discoveries have attracted the attention of strange, inhuman entities creatures we might call angels and demons whose intentions towards humanity are far from good Throughout the book, we get the sense that everyone except maybe Newton is messing with forces beyond their understanding.
Both storylines take a while to get going Ben spends a great deal of time trying to work at his brother s printing shop before plot conspires to ship him off to London Likewise, Adrienne spends a lot of time orbiting movers and shakers before becoming one herself It s hard for me to say which one interested me I suppose what kept me going was just curiosity regarding the bigger picture In that respect, Newton s Cannon remains coy Much changes, but very little is revealed about what is happening behind the scenes.
It s worth sticking out There s plenty of action scenes to keep one s interest going But the payoff is less than what I expected, considering the very cool world Keyes has created here.
A reasonable man can always find a reason to justify what he wants to do Think The Three Musketeers meets The Da Vinci Code Living amid corruption was no excuse for becoming corrupted A fun alternate timeline story set in the early eighteenth century, but little like the time we learned in school Keyes takes us into a world where ancient theories of matter and energy are true, resulting in modern contrivances which run on etheric power, looking like magic to us but governed by rules and formulae to them Actually doing something almost always produced unexpected results The protagonists, unknown to each other, dwell in colonial American, Georgian London, and Paris during the late and extended rule of the Sun King One is drawn from the historical Benjamin Franklin starting with his tenth year The other a female polymath drawn into the intrigues personal and scientific of Versailles Other historical personages weave in and out of the plot What they fight and kill over is power, Ben Religion is just the clothes they dress it in whilst they do it If they were all atheists, there d still be war Keyes gives the reader just enough history and dialectic to establish verisimilitude without masking his story under jargon and detail The characters think, feel and act as we might suppose real people of that era might I thought a philosopher s vocation is to explain all phenomena, rather than selecting only those most amenable to scientific explanation Competent Neither great literature nor great science fiction Popcorn for the brain For such a bright lad, the obvious has a way of eluding you.
First of the four part Age of Unreason series.
The book is set around 1720 and includes many of the similar characters Franklin, Louis IV, Newton, Fatio as Neal Stephenson s wonderful Baroque Cycle, but with the crucial difference that this series is based on the premise that Newton did manage to discover Philosopher s Mercury and the world was then transformed by alchemy particularly the world of warfare In the book the French develop the ability to harness a specific form of attraction than gravity to forced a comet to crash land on London in the event reaping for destruction than they expected The two main protagonists are Franklin and a young French girl Adrienne in Louis IV court who is also connected to some form of female society the Korai As the book progresses these rational mathematicians with Newton having given alchemy a rational basis are gradually forced to realise that there is another complex reality of Malakim demons angels.
Basically a well researched alternative history book but with two main faults The first is that the book is badly written short chapters alternate between the two main protagonists with each ending on a Buck Rodgers Da Vinci Code cliffhanger The second is that the departure from reality is too sudden and too complete to have any real subtlety so that the book is really a fantasy science fiction novel using historical names and places
I ve long been a fan of Keyes work, having first acquainted myself with his books during the interminable intervals between the newest installment of Robert Jordan and George R.
R Martin What s this An author who can actually complete a series of epic fantasy novels in a reasonable time Far from Jordan or Martin light, Keyes swiftly proved himself a master of creating exotic and absorbing landscapes and unique metaphysical concepts, and The Age of Unreason is one of his best An alternative history following the life of Ben Franklin and others of his time, Keyes paints a world where Isaac Newton s discovery of the Philosopher s Stone makes magic work, and the inventiveness of the time promptly harnesses that power in endlessly ingenuitive ways, even as the crowned heads of Europe and Russia and others, suddenly gifted with godlike power of magitek, wage their wars with weapons of death and destruction on a scale never before dreamed of.
All the while, dark forces from another plane of existence discern a way to empower themselves once again, enslaving or destroying humanity in the process.
An incredible adventure, a love letter to the period and all it s hopes, dreams, faults, achievements and philosophies, a rumination of the passage of one world and the birth of another.
Perhaps Keyes greatest accomplishment is his characterization of Ben Franklin as suitable a figure as any in history to have been a real Harry Potter or Sparrowhawk if empowered by magical forces, and he comes alive in every scene, with witticisms pithy and profound.
A gem to be treasured Pick up the books, read and wonder why you haven t seen these events played out on a screen.
I was skeptical about this book as I began reading it I wasn t sure that an alternate history that would diverge so radically and quickly from actual history would be able to hold my attention But this turned out to be a compelling story that sets up its own world and plot in a way that stands alone without needing the familiar names of history to prop it up I hope the series continues to be as strong as this first book.
I got about 3 4 of the way through this one and just ran out of patience with this book all the elements are here alternate history, magic in a semi modern era, American history but that was not enough for me The story just kind of fell flat and I was just bored after a while even after the big calamity I was just wondering why I was here and I was 3 4 of the way through, at 3 4 I should know whats up and I didn t so I had to step away or I was just gonna get angry A real interesting start to what promises to be a good series I wish I could have had a little patience with it but as hard as I tried to like this book near the end I just stopped caring about the characters as I felt like I was just along for the ride and good thing I bought book one so that I know who is in book two because that s where I should have started reading so that I know what the actual plot is maybe I did have fun with the main characters, watching stuff happen to them but if I could have a why it would have made all the difference.
Lo que nos cuenta Tras una breve introducci n que nos presenta diferentes situaciones de la vida de los tres personajes principales en la trama, Newton, Luis XIV y Benjamin Franklin, que no estrictamente los tres protagonistas de la historia, el libro nos lleva a la segunda d cada del siglo XVII en un mundo muy parecido al nuestro pero en el que la alquimia racional es la ciencia que est transformando el mundo y que puede marcar la diferencia en la guerra entre Francia e Inglaterra Primer libro de la serie La Era de la Sinraz n Quiere saber m s de este libro, sin spoilers Visite A Dazzling Quest Whose Outcome Will Raise Humanity To Unparalleled Heights Of Glory Or Ring Down A Curtain Of Endless Night When Sir Isaac Newton Turns His Restless Mind To The Ancient Art Of Alchemy, He Unleashes Philosopher S Mercury, A Primal Source Of Matter And A Key To Manipulating The Four Elements Of Earth, Air, Fire, And Water Now, As France And England Battle For Its Control, Louis XIV Calls For A New Weapon A Mysterious Device Known Only As Newton S CannonHalf A World Away, A Young Apprentice Named Benjamin Franklin Stumbles Across A Dangerous Secret Pursued By A Deadly Enemy Half Scientist, Half Sorcerer Ben Makes His Fugitive Way To England Only Newton Himself Can Help Him Now But Who Will Help Sir Isaac For He Was Not The First To Unleash The Philosopher S Mercury Others Were There Before Him Creatures As Scornful Of Science As They Are Of Mankind And Burning To Be Rid Of Both From The Paperback Edition