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A Calculus of Angels (The Age of Unreason, Book 2) by J. Gregory Keyes

Author: J. Gregory Keyes
Book title: A Calculus of Angels (The Age of Unreason, Book 2)
ISBN10: 0345406087
ISBN13: 978-0345406088
Publisher: Del Rey; Reissue edition (February 29, 2000)
Language: English
Size PDF: 1218 kb
Size FB2: 1291 kb
Size ePUB: 1464 kb
Rating: 4.3 ✯
Votes: 762
Subcategory: Fantasy

A Calculus of Angels (The Age of Unreason, Book 2) by J. Gregory Keyes

1722: A second Dark Age looms. An asteroid has devastated the Earth, called down by dire creatures who plot against the world of men. The brilliant-- some say mad--Isaac Newton has taken refuge in ancient Prague. There, with his young apprentice Ben Franklin, he plumbs the secrets of the aetheric beings who have so nearly destroyed humanity.But their safety is tenuous. Peter the Great marches his unstoppable forces across Europe. And half a world away, Cotton Mather and Blackbeard the pirate assemble a party of colonial luminaries to cross the Atlantic and discover what has befallen the Old World. With them sails Red Shoes, a Choctaw shaman whose mysterious connections to the invisible world warn him that they are all moving toward a confrontation as violent as it is decisive . . .
Reviews (7)
The starting premise for this book was already nicely set-up at the end of the first one, so it begins at an interesting level. Europe is suffering the aftermath of an alchemically-guided comet hitting England, and a new age of darkness seems to have been ushered.

The feeling of the story changes in this sequel and for the rest of the series. It is no longer as scientific and mathematical in its dialogue and descriptions as the villains reveal more and more of their true nature. The new characters of the Tsar Peter, Lenka and Red Shoes are interesting in their own way, though Red Shoes took a while to set in, especially since he becomes as important as Adrienne and Benjamin Franklin.

You can see how the world suffers and how people react to it by the way the writer describes it all, meaning that you will get fully immersed in the story. There is a healthy serving of action and suspense and it ends with a bang. However, the writer's style will continue to let you hanging at the end of each chapter, right at the beginning or middle of the action. For some readers, that was too bothersome. I just adapted to it.

In conclusion, I heartily recommend continuing this story. It is like nothing else I've ever read.
I'm truly enjoying this series of books from Greg Keyes. After reading through and enjoying the 'Briar King' series I thought I would give this series a try. The story line, characters and its fresh ideas for an alternative history fantasy drew me right in. The story is excellent and I am thoroughly enjoying it. The first book, "Newton's Cannon" was an excellent read and the kindle version of it hardly had any formatting issues.

However, does the publisher or whomever converts books into Kindle format understand that hiring a proof reader is an essential? There are so many typos in this books it became a distraction! Usually I can look over the occasional formatting error or typo in text but when nearly every "I" or lower-case "l" is printed as the number "1" makes be believe that they didn't do any proofing of this version at all.

I'm starting out on the next book in the series, "Empire of Unreason" and unfortunately the horrible formatting job done to "A Calculus of Angels" continues in 'Empire'. If you are interested in this book - go buy the hardcopy and leave the Kindle version behind (and this is *very* hard for me to write as I absolutely love my Kindle).
This review is specifically for the Kindle edition. The story and writing merit 3 or 3 1/2 stars, but I'm putting in 1 star to protest the horribly sloppy Kindle transcription. This transfer is absolutely riddled with typos, with at least 2 or 3 per page, constantly distracting from enjoyment of the book as you try to parse words mushed together without spaces, letter "I" replaced with "1" and with "/", the word "you" turned to "vou", "gou", "yot" and a dozen other permutations. For me, the Kindle will cease to be a viable reading format if this level of sloppiness becomes common in transfers.
Love any read by Keyes. Would recommend. A good series Bought this for my son and he says its worth reading
A refreshing look at combining the historical and fantastical, and does quite a good job at muddying plausible and inplausible sciences of the 18th century till even the reader easily gets pulled into what may, or may not be grounded in actual real world science. Characters are mostly believable and easy to identify with, and the author pulls bits of reputed character traits for historical characters while taking an absolute and fun literary license with the rest. All in all, a good and fun book, well thought out, and moves though at a brisk pace while maintaining enough depth to satisfy even a jaded, more adult fantasy/science fiction reader.
A Calculus of Angels, the second book in the Age of Unreason series by J. Gregory Keyes, does exactly what a second book is supposed to do. It builds on the first book, giving us more insight into the greater problem that the series addresses, as well as moving all the characters forward. The alternate history that Keyes has built is fascinating stuff, much richer than the "what if World War II turned out differently" that many authors use. A Calculus of Angels is a wonderful mixture of sorcery, alchemy, and science. Keyes also adds a few more characters to the mix, making for a much deeper story.

We are a few years removed from when the great comet hit London and wiped out much of western Europe. Those in the Americas, not having heard anything from Europe in quite a while, are ready to join forces (French, English, and Native) to send an expedition to find out what is happening. Meanwhile, Peter the Great, Tsar of Russia, is on the march to conquer what is left of Europe. Sir Isaac Newton and his young apprentice, Ben Franklin, are in Prague, attempting to figure out what is really going on. Adrienne, former lover of King Louis of France, is on the run from the remnants of the French nobility, all vying for what's left of the French throne. What spirits are using the world to fight their own war against humanity? Are these spirits religious in nature, servants of God? Or are they trying to fight everything that humanity holds dear? Who controls who? And will Peter be able to conquer everything in his path with the mysterious flying ships that he wields? All will come together in one city, one fatal encounter that could decide everything. And what does Adrienne's child have to do with all of this?

A Calculus of Angels is a much better book than Newton's Cannon, mainly for its broader scope. The first book was pretty narrow, concentrating mainly on Adrienne and Ben Franklin. This one covers a lot more ground. Ben and Adrienne are still prominent, and they get a lot of development, as Ben chafes under Newton's refusal to tell him what Newton is researching and Adrienne learns her place in this spiritual war that is going on. But Keyes gives us more storylines to follow as well. There is the expedition from the Americas to discover what is going on. This party gives us a wonderful character in the Choctaw shaman, Red Shoes. It also gives us Cotton Mather, Blackbeard (former pirate and now governor of a small colony) and the French governor of Louisiana, Bienville. It is through them that we see most of the devastation that covers Europe, especially Great Britain.

While Mather is a bit of a stereotypical religious figure, he does have his moments where he is surprising. The others aren't quite as well-drawn, though they serve their purposes well in supporting Red Shoes and getting him where he needs to be. Especially good is the scene where some of the ship's crew take Red Shoes for a night on the town, and he sees the deadness in the girl that is given to him, even as the others finish their night of debauchery. This highlights the other world that only he can see, and gives us a great bit of his character.

Probably the best scenes in the book, however, involve young Ben as he tries to make his way in Prague. Newton is being very uncooperative and Ben is trying to do his best to fit in. He is an intelligent young man himself, and he's invented many toys for the King to play with, but he knows that Newton's holding something back. The interplay between the two is wonderful, especially in their final scene together as Newton realizes just how much he's hurt Ben. Once Ben and the others leave Prague, it's not quite as interesting, and the scenes in Venice drag a little bit. Still, he's the most important character in the book, and he carries it well.

The only thing that really mars the book, and it's a small thing, is how everybody ends up in the same place at the same time. Considering the number of storylines that are going on, this stretches the coincidence just a little too much. Once they are all there, it makes for a riveting conclusion as Ben tries his best to outwit his opponents and survive himself. The ending is a bit predictable, but it leads into an epilogue that really makes you want to read the next book to see where the story goes from here.

One aspect of Newton's Cannon that I hated was the way Keyes began chapters in the middle of action and had the characters reflect back on what happened to catch the reader up. Keyes still does this occasionally, but it's not quite as noticeable this time. This really adds to the strength of the book, as the prose flows a lot better. The prose is rougher than it is in Keyes' Kingdoms of Thorn & Bone series, but it's earlier in his career, so a bit more acceptable. Keyes has taken an interesting premise and spun half of a very interesting tale. I'm looking forward to the next one.

David Roy

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