Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Book: Newton's Cannon by J. Gregory Keyes

And then there's Newton's Cannon. Rarely do I read a book without skipping parts - usually only paragraphs - here and there, or glancing at the last few pages to see how it turns out. Newton's Cannon is the first book in a long time that captured my interest enough so that I just didn't want to do that. Rather than tearing right through, I put it down in places just so I could savor the last third.

Premise: Sir Issac Newton discovers alchemy - or rather, the applications of it. Alchemy is kind of a mixture of magic and quantum mechanics - in the context of the book, it's all scientific, but there are certain aspects of it that aren't really covered by our modern scientific understanding. Newton's discovery touches off an age of invention that brings the world into a kind of steampunk age, with pistols that shoot lightning, machines that communicate over enormous distances, and more. England and France have squared off against each other, both trying to find an advantage, and France might just have that advantage, with the unwitting help of one young Ben Franklin. Oh, and Blackbeard the pirate makes an appearance.

Newton's Cannon is the first of a series of four books collectively called The Age of Unreason. Keyes' work is one of those rare treats where the execution of a cool premise is just as good as, if not better than, the premise itself. I've already purchased the second book in the series, A Calculus of Angels, and frankly I can't wait to read it, too.

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