Book Review: Newton’s Cannon by Greg Keyes (Three Stars)

Book Review: Newton’s Cannon (Age of Unreason, #1) by Greg Keyes

Three Stars

“A reasonable man … can always find a reason to justify what he wants to do.”

Think: The Three Musketeers meets The Da Vinci Code.

“Living amid corruption was no excuse for becoming corrupted.”

A fun alternate timeline story set in the early eighteenth century, but little like the time we learned in school. Keyes takes us into a world where ancient theories of matter and energy are true, resulting in “modern” contrivances which run on etheric power, looking like magic to us but governed by rules and formulae to them.

“Actually doing something almost always produced unexpected results.”

The protagonists, unknown to each other, dwell in colonial American, Georgian London, and Paris during the late (and extended) rule of the Sun King. One is drawn from the historical Benjamin Franklin starting with his tenth year. The other a female polymath drawn into the intrigues (personal and scientific) of Versailles. Other historical personages weave in and out of the plot.

“What they fight and kill over is power, Ben. Religion is just the clothes they dress it in whilst they do it. If they were all atheists, there’d still be war.”

Keyes gives the reader just enough history and dialectic to establish verisimilitude without masking his story under jargon and detail. The characters think, feel and act as we might suppose real people of that era might.

“I thought a philosopher’s vocation is to explain all phenomena, rather than selecting only those most amenable to scientific explanation.”

Competent. Neither great literature nor great science fiction. Popcorn for the brain.

“For such a bright lad, the obvious has a way of eluding you.”