NESFA Members' Reviews

coverThe Shadows of God

by J. Gregory Keyes

Del Rey, 2001, 312 pp, $15.00



The Empire of Unreason

by J. Gregory Keyes

Del Rey, 2000, 358 pp, $15.00

A book review by Mark L. Olson

This pair of books finishes Keyes' Age of Unreason series (the first two books are Newton's Cannon and A Calculus of Angels). In Keyes' universe, Sir Isaac Newton experiments in alchemy - a fruitless waste of his old age in our world - yields control of alchemical techniques which create an entire technology different (and more powerful than) our own.

In the first book, Louis XIV's scientists use alchemical means to pull an asteroid down on London, but the impact is far greater than they expected and all Europe is severely affected.

One of the more unexpected discoveries of the new alchemical sciences is the existence of intelligent alchemical beings who can interact with our world only through human alchemical apparatus. Some appear evil and some good and it becomes clear that humanities new wars are to some extent following - perhaps being caused by - these beings' own struggles.

In the end, Peter the Great of Russia has conquered most of Europe, but Benjamin Franklin (a youth - this is the 1720s), and Newton's last apprentice, escapes back to America to continue the fight with a very mixed assortment of supporters.

As is their wont in fantasies (or maybe this is SF) things go from bad to worse and it becomes clearer that the alchemical entities want nothing less than the destruction of Mankind.

Franklin and his allies fight back and ultimately win in a most unexpected way.

This is quite a good series and I'm especially impressed by how well Keyes kept under control the complex pseudo-technology and believability of the alchemical creatures -- he did a good job of keeping his Mysteries mysterious while also explaining them.


See my review of the other books in the series: Newton's Cannon, A Calculus of Angels, and Empire of Unreason and Shadows of God

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