From best-selling author Neal Stephenson and critically acclaimed historical and contemporary commercial novelist Nicole Galland comes a captivating and complex near-future thriller combining history, science, magic, mystery, intrigue, and adventure that questions the very foundations of the modern world.
When Melisande Stokes, an expert in linguistics and languages, accidently meets military intelligence operator Tristan Lyons in a hallway at Harvard University, it is the beginning of a chain of events that will alter their lives and human history itself. The young man from a shadowy government entity approaches Mel, a low-level faculty member, with an incredible offer. The only condition: She must sign a nondisclosure agreement in return for the rather large sum of money.
Tristan needs Mel to translate some very old documents, which, if authentic, are earth-shattering. They prove that magic actually existed and was practiced for centuries. But the arrival of the scientific revolution and the Age of Enlightenment weakened its power and endangered its practitioners. Magic stopped working altogether in 1851, at the time of the Great Exhibition at London's Crystal Palace - the world's fair celebrating the rise of industrial technology and commerce. Something about the modern world "jams" the "frequencies" used by magic, and it's up to Tristan to find out why.
And so the Department of Diachronic Operations - D.O.D.O. - gets cracking on its real mission: to develop a device that can bring magic back and send Diachronic Operatives back in time to keep it alive...and meddle with a little history at the same time. But while Tristan and his expanding operation master the science and build the technology, they overlook the mercurial - and treacherous - nature of the human heart.
Written with the genius, complexity, and innovation that characterize all of Neal Stephenson's work and steeped with the down-to-earth warmth and humor of Nicole Galland's storytelling style, this exciting and vividly realized work of science fiction will make you believe in the impossible and take you to places - and times - beyond imagining.
Full cast of narrators includes Robert Fass, James Foster, Tavia Gilbert, Arthur Morey, David Stifel, Charlie Thurston, and Kate Udall.
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Exceptional voice cast, unconventional format
This was not my favorite, but it was fun and it held my attention.
The book is written entirely in the form of documentation produced by various characters. The first act of the book is entirely composed of a single document written by one character, so the book feels like a familiar first-person perspective story. Later, the book shifts to documents written by other characters, and that familiarity breaks down. Much of the later sections contain chat logs and IM transcripts.
The two main characters are Melisande Stokes, who specializes in ancient languages, and Tristan Lyons - a military man who loves science. I found this paralleled the dual authors Nicole Galland, who I understand specializes in historical fiction, and Neal Stephenson, who takes joy in writing about science, technology, ancient warfare, and specifically money (as a technology). I suspect the writing duties fell mainly on Nicole Galland, but I would start to hear Neal Stephenson's voice in the ruminations of Tristan, and later any character who needed to explain technology or swordsmanship. Also, I am pretty sure Neal Stephenson wrote the epic poem towards the end that features the viking sacking of an unconventional target.
Like most books, I read this partially on my Kindle and partially as an audio book on Audible - my preferred way to consume a book, as I can read comfortably in a chair after work, and then continue over audio while driving. The audio presentation featured a full cast, which is wonderful, though often one character was speaking through another characters document, so different performers would read the same character depending on the document being read - which was kind of... unsettling. Also, the chat logs necessitated a name and timestamp on every reply, which crippled the rhythm when the replies were brief.
Any fan of either of these authors is probably going to enjoy this book. Also, it would appeal to fans of time travel and those who enjoy blurring the lines between fantasy and science fiction.
- Amazon Customer
Stephenson teams up for time travel
- kwdayboise (Kim Day)