Newton's Cannon (The Age of Unreason, Book 1)

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9780345433787: Newton's Cannon (The Age of Unreason, Book 1)

A dazzling quest whose outcome will raise humanity to unparalleled heights of glory--or ring down a curtain of endless night . . .

1681: When Sir Isaac Newton turns his restless mind to the ancient art of alchemy, he unleashes Philosopher's Mercury, a primal source of matter and a key to manipulating the four elements of Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. Now, as France and England battle for its control, Louis XIV calls for a new weapon--a mysterious device known only as Newton's Cannon.

Half a world away, a young apprentice named Benjamin Franklin stumbles across a dangerous secret. Pursued by a deadly enemy--half scientist, half sorcerer--Ben makes his fugitive way to England. Only Newton himself can help him now. But who will help Sir Isaac? For he was not the first to unleash the Philosopher's Mercury. Others were there before him. Creatures as scornful of science as they are of mankind. And burning to be rid of both . . .

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Review:

Newton's Cannon is an alternate history set primarily in the court of Louis XIV. This might sound familiar to readers of Vonda McIntyre's Nebula-winning The Moon and the Sun. Keyes, like McIntyre, blends alchemy, history, and fantasy in his novel.

Keyes's characters are expertly drawn: Louis XIV, the aging King of France who seeks a return to international preeminence, young Ben Franklin of Boston, a printer's apprentice who yearns to master alchemy, and Adrienne de Montchevreuil, a lovely, impoverished noblewoman who secretly pursues mathematics, but attracts Louis's lustful attention. The many secondary characters are also believable personalities, and the plot is original and suspenseful. Keyes's writing is precise and witty. "It was, Adrienne reflected, impossible not to be impressed by the Grand Canal. More like a cruciform inland sea with banks of polished marble, it summed up many things about Versailles. It was monumental in proportion, insanely expensive, impossible to overlook, and entirely frivolous."

Though the ending of Newton's Cannon leaves much unresolved--setting up book two of The Age of Unreason, A Calculus of Angels--it's fine entertainment all by itself. --Nona Vero

From the Publisher:

People will surprise you. After J. Gregory Keyes wrote THE WATERBORN and THE BLACKGOD, I sort of expected he'd do another, similar, myth-based fantasy. He surprised me when he chose a this-world setting, resurrected Isaac Newton, and let him win his chief fame in alchemy. He surprised--and delighted--me with a believable Ben Franklin and a wonderfully researched world that almost felt like historical fantasy. And then he shocked me (and I'm embarassed to admit it, because I'd seen the outline, and I knew it would happen, but there are some things you can't actually prepare yourself for) when he blew up London!
        But what really surprised me were the other people who liked it--because it's not at all the usual thing for fantasy. The initial readers were enthusiastic. The freelance copyeditor liked it enough to plead for a signed copy--and that's never happened to me before. But most astonishing of all was that my sf-preferring boss even liked it! Who'd have thought?

--Veronica Chapman, Senior Editor

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