The book was kind of meh. The British aristocracy was deposed by the "intellectual class" (thanks to the development of the Analytical Engine), and the former aristocrats plot to take their position back. In this version of history, the British Empire is stronger than the original one; it ended up allied (kinda) with the French Empire, and so America is more of a mess, with colonies, and small republics here and there. But none of that really makes a difference because everything happens in London/Paris. I did not really "feel" anything different because of that early development.

The characters chase one another trying to acquire the book's MacGuffin, a set of punched cards (apparently written by Ada Lovelace) containing what might be either:

  • The perfect mathematical/statistical model for placing bets (the Modus).
  • A computer virus, possibly the first of its kind.
  • An example program demonstrating/exemplifying the Incompleteness Theorem, discovered in the 19th century thanks to the early development of computing.

This happens in three sort-of-related stories, each with its own main character, each dealing in some way with the mess created by the punched cards, or the people trying to acquire them for $WHATEVER_REASON.

However, the book made me curious about some things. So.

Things I learned thanks to the book (or, more exactly, wikipedia pages I read because of it):

Finally, what is it with William Gibson? Does he have to have a computer becoming sentient in every one of his books? Meh.