Jim's Reviews > The Difference Engine

The Difference Engine by William Gibson
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Feb 16, 14

bookshelves: sci-fi-geek, steampunque, read-on-my-phone
Read from January 26 to February 06, 2011

Sometimes it *really* pays to re-read a book.

I wasn't very impressed when I first read this book. My favorite character at the time vanished with about forty pages left, and I didn't find the end compelling.

I can't remember when I first read the book, but it was years ago. Now that I'm older and have both read more and experienced more, I feel I got a lot more out of the book. I actually found Laurence Oliphant's struggle with his beliefs more compelling than Edward Mallory's accidental heroics. (Although, I have to admit, the moment when a paleontologist became an action hero was quite memorable.) I also didn't understand the significance of the curious MacGuffin "The Modus". Had I realized it before, I probably would have been more impressed.

When I first read the book, I found the ending confusing and unsatisfying. Now, the fact that the end is (minor spoiler) open-ended and leaves a lot open to interpretation just means that you'll spend more time thinking about the book after it's over.

All in all, this is definitely a classic of steampunk, and it definitely deserved its Hugo award nomination. This book has an amazingly detailed alternate-history London with cameos from a number of historical characters, an underground society of "clackers" (steampunk punch-card hackers!), and an eye-opening look at what might have happened if the Information Age started under Queen Victoria.
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message 1: by Ben (new) - rated it 2 stars

Ben Babcock Correction: this novel did not win the Hugo award.

I am the younger, less-impressed version of you for my first reading, it appears. Maybe I will get more out of it on a second reading. I really liked the ending vision as well, but I only think the book didn't deserve to tack it on without any elaboration. I don't mind when books leave me with open-ended conclusions that require careful consideration, but they have to earn that.


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