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In the Country of the Blind

3.58 of 5 stars 3.58  ·  rating details  ·  219 ratings  ·  34 reviews
In the nineteenth century, a small group of American idealists managed to actually build Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine and use it to develop Cliology, mathematical models that could chart the likely course of the future. Soon they were working to alter history’s course as they thought best. By our own time, the Society has become the secret master of the world. But n ...more
Paperback, 560 pages
Published March 14th 2003 by Tor Science Fiction (first published 1990)
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I greatly enjoyed Michael Flynn's In the Country of the Blind. This is a thoughtful thriller in the "secret society" vein, specifically the societies which have used the scientific study of history to predict and occasionally alter the flow of history. So it's the book that The DaVinci Code wanted to be.

[Aside: would people please stop calling him "da Vinci"? That merely means "of Venice" and is in fact not a surname - his name is Leonardo. "Da Vinci" is only useful if you're trying to differen
I have really enjoyed some of Michael Flynn's later work, but this one sure didn't live up to the standards that his more experienced writing sets.

The idea is great- that history can be quantified and predicted, and even changed, through scientific analysis. I'm all about the social sciences being the subject of a hard science fiction novel. I was all ready to read about past history and present-day manipulation of history and alternate history.

But didn't get that. Instead, I got one of the mo
Funny that Charles Babbage has come up in two books I read recently. This and The Witches of Chiswick (Robert Rankin). Very different books, but both deal with alternate historyies along the lines of "what if" Babbage's computer (which when built to plan a decade or so back really worked) had become popularized in Victorian England. Rankin's book is a bit on the light side (think Christopher Moore with a British flair). Still, this was a good read. Will pass along soon or wild release it.
The first time I've had to keep a piece of paper tucked in the book (that I eventually filled both sides of) to look up character names. I never had to do that even with Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables or Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment, but in Flynn’s novel characters are briefly introduced, remain absent many pages, and then reappear in a different context with no hints to the reader as to where or even whether the character has previously appeared. Definitely not a book to listen to in the car ...more
Jennifer Petkus
Comparing one book to another is a lazy way to review a book, but forgive me because there’s something about Michael Flynn’s writing that conjures up other writers. When I reviewed The Wreck of the River of Stars I found an umistakable touch of Jane Austen. And In the Country of the Blind, I can’t help but be reminded of Isaac Asimov, Philip K.Dick, Umberto Eco and Eric Frank Russell, to name just a few.

But don’t for a second think that I find In the Country of the Blind derivative. It’s great s
Feb 13, 2013 Mortalform rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Mortalform by: Lincoln
...How do you trace the fault tree of something that never occurred? Have you ever tried to prove something from the absence of negative evidence? p 37

“Justified? Who’s justice? Is a cornered rat justified when it bite? If an organization perceives a threat, it tries to protect itself. It’s a natural law of living systems. It doesn’t matter one whit if the system is a rat, the Mafia, or the Boy Scouts.” p 70

“...We Publicize and reward the behavior we want. We don’t coerce it. But people aren’
Brian Maicke
More of an actiony thriller than science fiction, In the Country of the Blind details the story of a society that built a Babbage Engine and used it to calculate the course of human history. Think Foundation series but condensed to a single novel and set in a contemporary setting. There are a number of twists to keep the plot moving and quite a bit of action makes for a pretty fast read.

I had fun reading this one, but for my money would have preferred a bit more of the cliology (mathematical ana
David Monroe
this is the first book, and unfortunately I found his mechanics somewhat stiff, his prose uneven, and a plethora of cardboard characters. I found these to be distractions from a clever plot, and really excellent world-building. I'll definitely check out another of his books with a hope that he improves.
Apparently this was Flynn's first book, constructed by expanding and updating a previously published novella. So I have to cut him some slack. The premises are interesting, the main characters are interesting, but it doesn't seem to come to a satisfactory conclusion.
Jacob Jackson
One of the best book written on prehistory. Absolutely amazing storyline, and the research at the end is phenomenal.
Rolf Eberhardt
The idea is fun, but there are too many deus ex machine parts in the book to make it an appealing read.
Don Rea
This is one of those works with an extremely promising premise that never quite gets lived up to. Flynn spends so much thought and energy working out the realistic implications of his premise - a secret society that is heir to a mathematical science of predictive history - that he sort of forgets to tell a story. Which is a real shame since some of his characters are fascinating, and a couple of scenes hinging on their interactions are so well told that one can't shake the feeling that a really ...more
Elizabeth Hunter
This is an interesting exploration of the potential science of "cliology," the science of history. Flynn creates some fun characters, but spends too much time arguing about the ethics of meddling with the course of events and not enough developing them. The proliferation of secret societies is an interesting idea, but creates a great confusion of characters and goals. I think this would have been better either as a shorter, more focused book, or a series with scope to explore all the different g ...more
Giving three stars, not so much for stellar writing, because for the most part, it isn't, but for some interesting thoughts about history and cliology. The sort of predictive cliology that forms the foundation (heh) for the novel may well never be possible, but we can spot and sometimes successfully project larger trends.

I'd read this some years ago, it's interesting to note that the only things that stuck with me were the opening scene and a general sense of the conclusion. Didn't even recall a
John Carter McKnight
Secret societies using Babbage Engines to predict and manipulate history are accidentally exposed, launching a war of spy-vs-spy, with a few intrepid folks caught in the middle. Sort of a cross between Asimov's Foundation series and a spy novel, with a long academic supplement at the end on the use of statistical methods for predicting historical trends.

A must read for the STS crowd. A weak conclusion, and the heroine's definitely in Mary Sue territory, but Flynn pulls off this blend of adventur
Ken Eveleigh
An interesting take on the subject of psychohistory; more than one secret group tries to direct the course of history by using the mathematics of "cliology" to understand the trends in the population and then identify the nodes where a simple deletion of one person or thing is likely to change the direction that the society is taking, ostensibly to improve the society but also to make money with the advance knowledge. Too many fingers in the pie causes lots of problems.
Michael Flynn‘s first novel, in which he presupposes that the difference engine proposed by Charles Babbage in the early 1800′s (a sort of mechanical computer) was actually built, and used by a secretive society to calculate the future, then influence the history of the world. It is a half-decent thriller that unfortunately gets bogged down towards the middle in an overcomplicated web of conspiracies.
Apr 24, 2007 Greg rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: scifi
Fans of Jared Diamond will like this book. The basic premise is that Charles Babbage acutally built a working computer and was part of a secret society that used statistics to predict the future. The society then worked behind the scenes to attempt to avert it. The appendix references a bunch of books and papers on the subject of predicting social movements.
What if you found out that a secret cabal was dictating the path of history? Now, what if the secret cabal found out they weren't the only one?

Flynn's characterizations have definitely improved - this is an earlier work where he wasn't quite so skilled. While the character development is often done with a heavy hand, the plot is very engaging.
Andrew Campbell
Disappointed. Really like this writer's blog, find the premise intriguing. Couldn't make it through more than about 50 pages... prose is unbearable. Characters as mouthpieces, endless exposition... kind of book that has a lengthy appendix, complete with charts and equations, to explain the ideas behind it all.
This is a work of historical fiction, based on the premise that in the time of Babbage, some "Babbage engines" (mechanical computers) were built and used to predict and control the course of history by a secret and ruthless cabal. Or was there more than one? It is an interesting and action-packed story.
I was disapointed in this one. The plot seemed interesting--kind of like Minority Report. But, it was kind of "cheesy" couldn't get into the characters and returned it to the library after only reading about 1/2 (just couldn't finish).
Snail in Danger (Sid) Nicolaides
Dates approximate; a re-read. It's an interesting exploration of a premise that SF has seen before, and there are some interesting characters. But it also seemed like there is a bit of a Chekhov's Army problem - so many secret societies.
A book about a secret society controlling history due to the development of a science that can predict the future. Sounds like Foundation, huh? Well, sort of. It's more conspiracy theory thriller than anything else.
Ok. The essay included as an appendix, "An Introduction to Cliology," was a fascinating read on historical trends and the possibility of historical predictions. More interesting than the novel, actually!
babbage engine, cliology and psychohistory. Think Asimov's concepts taken to a different angle. But makes me think a little of Da Vinci code with the various factions warring.
A good start, high potential, but the story takes some deus-ex-machina turns and becomes a bit too simple. i was hoping form more complexity.
Andre Chiasson
Interesting story but needed some serious editing. Similar concept to Asimov's Foundation series on a much smaller scale.
Michael O'Connell
Started out with a great take on a common conspiracy theory… a real page turner but got lost in complicated theories.
A gripping, fun take on a massive conspiracy to hijack the history of the world.
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

Michael Francis Flynn (born 1947) is an American statistician and science fiction author. Nearly all of Flynn's work falls under the category of hard science fiction, although his treatment of it can be unusual since he has applied the rigor of hard science fiction to "softe
More about Michael Flynn...
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“They're trying to breed a nation of techno-peasants. Educated just enough to keep things going, but not enough to ask tough questions. They encourage any meme that downplays thoughtful analysis or encourages docility or self indulgence or uniformity. In what other society do people use "smart" and "wise" as insults? We tell people "don't get smart." Those who try, those who really like to learn, we call "nerds." Look at television or the press or the trivia that passes for political debate. When a candidate DOES try to talk about the issues, the newspapers talk about his sex life. Look at Saturday morning cartoon shows. Peasants, whether they're tilling fields or stuffing circuit boards, are easier to manipulate. Don't question; just believe. Turn off your computer and Trust the Force.

Or turn your computer on and treat it like the Oracle of Delphi.

That's right. They've made education superficial and specialized. Science classes for art majors? Forget it! And how many business or engineering students get a really good grounding in the humanities? When did universities become little more than white collar vocational schools?”
“She looked in the mirror and her hopes fell. “Our friend is behind us again and he’s coming up fast. Closing the distance.”

Then he knows we’re on to him.”

Christ! He’s got a gun, Red! He’s stuck his arm out the window.”

Don’t worry,” Red told her. “Shooting a pistol left-handed from a moving car at another moving car at sixty miles an hour at this distance? Hell, he’d be lucky to hit that mountain.”

There was a sharp crack and the rear window disintegrated into flashing shards. Something buzzed in the air between them and smashed into the tapedeck. Fee howled and ducked into his console.

Unless,” Red continued thoughtfully, “that’s Orvid Crayle behind us. He’s very good.”
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