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Friday, 5 February 2016


Sometimes books just let you down. Or I suppose I should say that it is the authors who somehow just can't maintain their high standard every time - how horrid of them!

I just managed to get to the end of "The Difference Engine" but it was a close run thing. I nearly gave up with only about thirty pages left to read, which would have been a record for me I think. This was a novel which started well and went downhill; steeply downhill as it got towards the end. I had been drawn to it, having read "Neuromancer", by the author's name, and also by its reputation as a 'cyberpunk' novel - sounded fascinating. Additionally it was labelled as an 'SF Masterwork'. The fact that it was a collaboration with someone else (Bruce Sterling) should have rung alarm bells - in my experience when a well-known author collaborates it seems to be a case that he has run out of ideas and is lending his name to someone else whose book it is in fact. But maybe I am wrong.

Image result for difference engine gibsonAnyway, I liked the premise of this book - an alternative history of Victorian England - and the introductory female character seemed interesting, but she soon disappeared to be replaced by a series of two dimensional characters who failed to gain my enthusiasm. It seemed to me that the authors had researched the Victorian period in a fairly superficial way and had thrown into their melting pot every personality and situation they could think of, then mixed it all up and finally worked a story in. Obviously I didn't expect it to be convincing in the sense that a contemporary novel would be, but fewer ingredients and more attention to development would have been good. As for the sex scenes!! I seem to recall from "Neuromancer" that Gibson alluded successfully to sex without actually getting into gory detail, and succeeded admirably by doing so. I can only assume that it was the work of the collaborator that gave us these rather crass interludes.

So, for me an opportunity missed and a great disappointment. Not that I have given up on Gibson, but I shall avoid any further collaborations.

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