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4.0 von 5 Sternen I wonder why so many people didn't like it...
Well, what can I say...
I've just finished reading this book... At this precise moment, I am feeling a kind of grief, which I usually feel when some book, that I really enjoyed, ends. I am missing not only the characters, but mainly the world itself.
And, to my disappointment, there are no sufficient interesting opinions about this story, in this site...
Veröffentlicht am 24. Juni 2000 von rsenna

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3.0 von 5 Sternen Creative but problematic
The one thing that struck me the most about this book is that you have to know quite a bit in order to fully appreciate it.
You have to understand something of Victorian culture and technology; you have to understand the significant historic figures of the time; you have to understand the players in the industrial revolution and of the scientific community...
Am 1. Mai 2000 veröffentlicht


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4.0 von 5 Sternen I wonder why so many people didn't like it..., 24. Juni 2000
Rezension bezieht sich auf: The Difference Engine (Spectra special editions) (Taschenbuch)
Well, what can I say...
I've just finished reading this book... At this precise moment, I am feeling a kind of grief, which I usually feel when some book, that I really enjoyed, ends. I am missing not only the characters, but mainly the world itself.
And, to my disappointment, there are no sufficient interesting opinions about this story, in this site...
Most of the people here seems to complain about excessive details and the lack of a plot... I almost understand the reasons for the first (but I don't agree at all, and I am NOT an expert of 19th century).. However, "lack of a plot" sounds almost offensive... To me, it's always the little details that make a good story, plus the capacity to "tie" these events in a clever and interesting manner... I just can't explain it, but I really believe that the word "plot" is just not good enough (there is no plot in "Crime & Punishment", for instance, but it is still one of the best books i've ever read).
And the end was not unsatisfatory at all. In fact, I confess that I kind of guessed what was all about in the first 300 pages, so the conclusion was not THAT surprising (there are many clues along the book, though - the word "iteration" being an obvious one). But it only prooves that it wasn't an "anti-climax"; since the begining, the book was destinated to end like that.
So, I give you this hint: if you are a typical sci-fi lover, like "straight" stories, with plain characters, not too much (non scientific) details and a good definition of who-they-are and where-they-need-to-go; just DON'T read this book... You probably already prefer Asimov to Gibson, so why keep trying...
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3.0 von 5 Sternen Creative but problematic, 1. Mai 2000
Von Ein Kunde
Rezension bezieht sich auf: The Difference Engine (Spectra special editions) (Taschenbuch)
The one thing that struck me the most about this book is that you have to know quite a bit in order to fully appreciate it.
You have to understand something of Victorian culture and technology; you have to understand the significant historic figures of the time; you have to understand the players in the industrial revolution and of the scientific community.
There are no explanations in this book - it is mostly assumed that you have this type of knowledge. If you do not have this knowledge, the meaning and depth of some events will be lost on you (which defeats part of the seeming purpose of the book) - and you will be even more confused as you are immersed in a fictional culture that is, to a point, supposed to already be a bit disorienting.
What this book does well is work as an anthropological treatise. It describes in great detail - one might say EXHAUSTING detail - the routine, day-to-day moments of life in a theoretical culture that could have been.
I was originally drawn to this book because the premise was intriguing: what if the computer revolution had intersected the historic time-line 100 years earlier than it did? As I have stated, this novel presents a plausible and intriguing vision of such an intersection.
Unfortunately, that's almost all it does. There is a purpose to it all - what could be described, in a more low sense, as a hook or "gotcha" at the end of it - but the 400 some odd pages leading up to it weren't an adequate justification for it, in my opinion.
While the ending wasn't intended as "a hook," the episodic, sometimes wandering nature of the main story-line weakened the conclusion's impact. Ultimately, it came across as being far too much labor to go through to arrive at, essentially, the ending of The Wizard of Oz.
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3.0 von 5 Sternen Creative but problematic, 1. Mai 2000
Von Ein Kunde
Rezension bezieht sich auf: The Difference Engine (Spectra special editions) (Taschenbuch)
The one thing that struck me the most about this book is that you have to know quite a bit in order to fully appreciate it.
You have to understand something of Victorian culture and technology; you have to understand the significant historic figures of the time; you have to understand the players in the industrial revolution and of the scientific community.
There are no explanations in this book - it is mostly assumed that you have this type of knowledge. If you do not have this knowledge, the meaning and depth of some events will be lost on you (which defeats part of the seeming purpose of the book) - and you will be even more confused as you are immersed in a fictional culture that is, to a point, supposed to already be a bit disorienting.
What this book does well is work as an anthropological treatise. It describes in great detail - one might say EXHAUSTING detail - the routine, day-to-day moments of life in a theoretical culture that could have been.
I was originally drawn to this book because the premise was intriguing: what if the computer revolution had intersected the historic time-line 100 years earlier than it did? As I have stated, this novel presents a plausible and intriguing vision of such an intersection.
Unfortunately, that's almost all it does. There is a purpose to it all - what could be described, in a more low sense, as a hook or "gotcha" at the end of it - but the 400 some odd pages leading up to it weren't an adequate justification for it, in my opinion.
While the ending wasn't intended as "a hook," the episodic, sometimes wandering nature of the main story-line weakened the conclusion's impact. Ultimately, it came across as being far too much labor to go through to arrive at, essentially, the ending of The Wizard of Oz.
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4.0 von 5 Sternen Worth the time, 15. Februar 2000
Rezension bezieht sich auf: The Difference Engine (Spectra special editions) (Taschenbuch)
As several previous reviewers have commented extensively on the plot(or lack thereof), I will not go into detail on that. As a serious fan of both Gibson and to a lesser extent Stirling, when I heard about the colloboration on this novel I had very high hopes. Initially I was very dissappointed, the novel really seemed to drag, and the plot seemed to disappear in overwhelming detail, then I reached the far too brief section ending the first iteration and was just blown away by the sudden feeling that all of this actually had meaning. The less narrative sections at the ends of each iteration gave me enough encouragement to finish the novel, particularly the rather enjoyable one at the end after the nominal storyline is concluded. After I finished it I found myself suffieciently fascinated by the world and to a lesser extent the characters that I immediately reread the book and came away feeling satisfied that it had been worth the effort.
This is not a masterpiece when viewed purely as a novel but its real value lies in an exceptionally precise and detailed evocation of a Victorian Era that could have been, and the subtle parallels to our own situation. In the effects of the computer revolution on the Victorian Era we see reflections in a dark mirror of the effects on our own era, specific applicability is not certain but I liked the way that the perspectives from later times scattered throughout the book, particularly in the final section give hints of ways that our own society might go.
In a final note some of the historical variations, Keats as a Hacker, Byron as the Prime Minister and others too numerous to mention are quite entertaining and sometimes enlightening, I particularly liked the way that it is strongly suggested that ones career is more a matter of chance than commonly thought.
If you are willing to spend the time this novel is well worth reading, but be warned that it is often slow moving. It is emphatically not a page burner and is best appreciated with time to ponder its subtleties.
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4.0 von 5 Sternen Gibson and Sterling produce an excellent book., 19. Februar 1999
Von Ein Kunde
Rezension bezieht sich auf: The Difference Engine (Spectra special editions) (Taschenbuch)
After reading the opinions of other readers here, I wondered if we had all read the same book. I suspect that those who find this book a disappointment came to it hoping to read a work more in line with previous books by either of these two well-respected science fiction authors. Finding something different, they left unsatisfied. If one approaches this book with an open mind, I think they will be pleasantly suprised. The two authors paint a convincing, detailed alternative history that weaves several narratives into a cohesive whole that falters only slightly at the end. The characters are for the most part three-dimensional, and fit well within the world Gibson and Sterling have created. The atmosphere is dark and brooding, and the benifits and costs of an England dominated by steam-driven computers are well represented. The poltical climate and "world of the difference engine" are both plausible and entertaining. The only place in which the authors falter is in their attempt to move the narrative beyond entertainment into the philosophical and metaphysical. Then ending is somewhat reminiscent of the finale of Nueromancer, and is written in the sterotypical clipped Gibson style, which contrasts sharply with the rest of the novel. Had Gibson and Sterling left their work in the more mundane realm of (alternative) historical adventure, they would have had an unqualified success. Depsite that shortcoming, I recommend this book wholeheartedly. It is unlike any other work by these two authors, and thus you should expect something different. It is a rousing adventure set in a plausible alternative world, similar in tone and style to Frost's excellent "List of 7," only slightly hindered by some metaphysical trappings.
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3.0 von 5 Sternen Would have made a better movie, 2. Juli 1998
Rezension bezieht sich auf: The Difference Engine (Spectra special editions) (Taschenbuch)
I went to see _Alphaville_ the other night at the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge. From chatting with people I concluded that the audience was composed both of Godard fans and sci-fi fans. Most of the latter left looking confused and sleepy, which I thought interesting because that movie does everything Gibson and Sterling have claimed to do, and it did it all better in the 60's. Rather than use terminology and special effects that would be obsolete in three years, Godard and his actors created a world almost completely from language.
This book attempts much the same thing - little explanation for the way things work, just acceptance and a vague feeling of horror at the strangeness of a world that _almost_ looks as it should.
All these other reviews of TDE are very funny, crying out for plot, oh plot, where is it? Back to _Alphaville_, we were sitting in the theatre, watching Eddie Constantine and Anna Karina walking down the hotel corridor. Godard cut the sound because there was no mood to convey with music, and nobody was talking. After about ten seconds of this a fellow in front of me shouted 'sound!' and the sound came back in.
Not to say that this is as a book what a Godard film is to movies. But TDE is the one thing close to significant that either Gibson or Sterling have ever published, and when the story doesn't seem to make sense the readers shout out 'plot!' and toss it across the room. Too bad, because the negative reviews I've read seem to come from a place of total ignorance, while the positive reviews here seem equally ignorant of what's been going on for the past forty years, both in high art and pop culture. The readers sit around shouting 'plot! plot!' and when one appears that pleases them, they say 'now this is good,' meanwhile not realizing everything they've missed.
I think that this is the main weakness of this book and others like it. Instead of learning from other writers, Gibson and Sterling have taken what their fans want and rebelled against it, neither pleasing their! fans nor making an impression on other readers, who have seen this stuff all before.
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3.0 von 5 Sternen Despite the richness of detail, the novel drags., 5. Dezember 1997
Von Ein Kunde
Rezension bezieht sich auf: The Difference Engine (Spectra special editions) (Taschenbuch)
An enviable array of critical raves lines the first few pages of The Difference Engine, including this one from director Ridley Scott: "A visionary steam-powered heavy metal fantasy! Gibson and Sterling create a high Victorian virtual reality of extraordinary richness and detail."
In this novel Gibson teams up with Bruce Sterling, a brilliant sci-fi writer himself, to provide an amazing picture of Victorian England. Both writers are notable for their attention to detail, and their combined effort teems with thousands of minutiae from the period, not to mention large themes based on the Victorian preoccupation with such things as science, technology, exploration, and steam.
The novel belongs to a particular genre of science fiction called alternate history, where the writer answers the question, if such-and-such had happened (or never happened), what would the world be like now? The Difference Engine tries to imagine what the world would be like if the computer had been invented 100 years earlier. It is set in England in 1855. Sci-fi pundits have dubbed the novel "steampunk" because those who control the steam-driven computers control society.
The structure of the novel falls into three discreet, self-contained units all concerned with a case full of rare and valuable computer cards. In the first part, Sybil Gerard, a fallen woman, inherits the cards from her boyfriend, who was murdered for them. In the long middle section Edward "Leviathan" Mallory, a scientist famous for his discovery of the Brontosaurus, takes charge of them next. And in the conclusion Lawrence Oliphant, a gentleman detective with advanced syphillis, finally solves the mystery of their whereabouts.
Alternate history writers love to recast famous figures in altered roles. The writers have done just that with, for example, three of England's greatest romantic poets. Lord Byron has become prime minister, and Disraeli (the prime minister of the history books) a hack writer. Shelly is some sort of anarchist rebel and Keats has become a kinotropist, a specialist in a sort of gas-illuminated light show of computer designed images. Keats, also, seems to be the only one who knows what the cards signify.
Just to show how far the villains will go to get the computer cards and the power the cards represent, they devise a way to break down all of London's eco system as the city grinds to a halt and falls prey to looters, many of whom join the villains' rebellion: "The gloom of the day was truly extraordinary. It was scarcely noon, but the dome of St. Paul's was shrouded in filthy mist. Great rolling wads of oily fog hid the spires and the giant bannered adverts of Ludgate Hill. Fleet Street was a high-piled clattering chaos, all whip-cracking, steam-snorting, shouting. The women on the pavements crouched under soot-stained parasols and walked half-bent, and men and women alike clutched kerchiefs to their eyes and noses. Men and boys lugged family carpetbags and rubber-handled traveling-cases, their cheery straw boaters already speckled with detritus. A crowded excursion train chugged past on the spidery elevated track of the London, Chatham & Dover, its cloud of cindered exhaust hanging in the sullen air like a banner of filth."
Despite the raves from critics and all the wonderful detail, the novel sometimes dragged for me. As a lover of Victorian England (my graduate specialization), I perhaps should have liked it more, but I found the villain and some of the main characters, including Mallory, uninteresting. I wasn't convinced that things were much different in Gibson's and Sterlings's reality even with the addition of the computer, a noisy, mechanical, affair. The characters might as well have been fighting over an Egyptian mummy for all the difference the computer made. And the long center section with the inevitable Gibson pitched battle (I'm betting my money that Gibson wrote the middle part and Sterling wrote the bookends) didn't thrill me.
Lawrence Oliphant's genteel manners and shrewd detective work make him a fascinating character. The novel might have been more satisfying if he'd been the hero all the way through instead of just the last 100 pages. The experimental conclusion with various bits and pieces from personal journals, letters, advertisements, recordings, and popular songs attempts to tie everything up. But one never has the sense that the cards nor the computers were as important as the writers want us to believe. Did the cards really contain just a mathematical gambling system, as everyone seemed to think, or were they something more ominous and earthshaking? Keats comments that they were far more important than anyone would ever know but doesn't say why. They simply are never satisfactorily explained.
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4.0 von 5 Sternen Not perfect, but a DAMN good book., 11. Mai 1999
Von Ein Kunde
Rezension bezieht sich auf: The Difference Engine (Spectra special editions) (Taschenbuch)
Read it twice, loved it once, GOT it the 2nd time.
My favorite little bit of the book -- and I think the fact that this IS my favorite bit will demonstrate what kind of person will like this book -- is when John Keats shows up as a clacker. GOD, that was brillant! First, you have to get who Keats was (not nearly enough people know him as one of the most brilliant poets ever), know his desire for literary immortality, about his early death... but you also have to understand the mutable nature of people's professions, of people who were "before their time"... in the world of TDE, Byron, Shelley and Keats never become the "Big 3" of the 19th century, but a Prime Minister, a dissident, and a graphic designer, respectively. People who dismiss this book without knowledge of the artists of the 19th century are missing a big point. Here we finf Sterling's "computers change humanity" points... Prime Minister in our world (Disreili) writes crappy books, while the greatest of the Romantic poets become hackers....
Secondly, I agree that you need to have an actual knowledge base in early computing to get it all... that Ada Byron's program was a strange loop NEEDS to be understood, because that leads towards...
... wait for it...
THE PLOT! Yes, there IS TOO a plot! Gibson/Sterling's quotation that it should/might take 50 years to understand the ending is because it won't be for at least 50 years that OUR computers achive what the Difference Engines did in the alternate 1990's of TDE -- to wit, true artificial intelligence, which has only its beginnings in the computation serieses of our own century.
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2.0 von 5 Sternen Good in concept, poor in execution, 26. April 2000
Rezension bezieht sich auf: The Difference Engine (Spectra special editions) (Taschenbuch)
Having just read this book over a period of a few days, I have to say that this was probably one of the most frustrating books I have ever read (I forced myself to read it through to the end).
From reading the amazon.com reviews of this book.. there seems to be two schools of thought about this book.. one that criticizes the book for its lack of plot and direction, and another that heaps praise upon it for its technical accuracy and cunning placement of notable historical figures.
I know it is never nice to be put in the "I just don't get it" camp.. but that appears to be the one I am in.. the narritive annoyingly jumped around from plot thread to plot thread, throwing in excerpts of unrelated drivel which confused me greatly. The story never went anywhere, and the resolution (if it could be called that) was certainly unsatisfactory for me.
Sure the setting was comprehenisvely researched and lovingly constructed, and I suppose could be classified as a good 'concept' book, but it fails as a book to tells an engaging story.
Don't get me wrong here, the few plot threads that were explored were well written.. it is just that the characters were pretty much dumped at differing points throughout the book.. and were never satisfactorily tied back into the story at any time. It felt like time wasted.
This book waffles.. Maybe it will improve with a second reading.. but I doubt if I have the stomach to tolerate it.
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2.0 von 5 Sternen Too much energy expended for little or no return., 30. Juli 1998
Rezension bezieht sich auf: The Difference Engine (Spectra special editions) (Taschenbuch)
The authors labored mightily and brought forth a mouse of a story. I thought several times that the book was going to take off, but instead it fizzled again and again.
Sometimes it is possible to read a titanic yarn that dies with a whimper and to say when you have finished, "That was worth my time because I was so engrossed in the character (or the ideas or the wonderful language)." But this book was a waste of the authors' prodigious talents and a waste of my precious free time.
I came away from this book with nothing more than when I started. I would like to compare it with Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon, surely the sui generis for titanic, rambling, possibly pointless stories. In the case of Gravity's Rainbow, I was deeply engaged with the principal character, Tyrone Slothrop, and I was bedazzled by the linguistic fireworks, and I loved the incredible range of ideas. But the end of the book was pretty much a fizzle. Actually, Gravity's Rainbow sho! uld never end, it should just loop around to the beginning and you should have to start over again. By the time you reach the end you can't remember the beginning, and the hyperbolic Pynchon masterwork could be your last and best and only book.
There are better Gibson books. Try them. And try Pynchon if you like dense, mysterious and beautiful language.
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The Difference Engine (Spectra special editions)
The Difference Engine (Spectra special editions) von William Gibson (Taschenbuch - 1. Januar 1992)
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