Book: In the Country of the Blind

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Book:

In the Country of the Blind

Author: Michael Flynn
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Publisher: Tor Books

Set primarily in the present, with tantalizing flashbacks to the 1800s, In the Country of the Blind concerns a small group of American idealists who manage to actually build the Analytical Engine designed by Charles Babbage and use it to develop mathematical models that could chart the likely course of the future. When their calculations predicted a united Germany armed with unimaginably powerful bombs by 1939, the Charles Babbage Society kept it from ever happening. Soon they were working to alter history’s course to their own liking in other ways. By the 1990s the Society has become the secret master of the world. But no secret can be kept forever, at least not without drastic measures. When her plans for some historic real estate lead developer and ex-reporter Sarah Beaumont to stumble across the Society’s existence, it is just the first step into a baffling and deadly maze of conspiracies.

Reviews

Amazon.com

In the Country of the Blind is a tense, complex, exciting conspiracy thriller, highly recommended to all fans of suspense fiction, secret history, alternate history, and science fiction.

In the 19th century, the British scientist Charles Babbage designed an “analytical engine,” a working computer that was never built—or so the world believes. Sarah Beaumont, an ex-reporter and real estate developer, is investigating a Victorian-era Denver property when she finds an ancient analytical engine. Sarah investigates her astonishing discovery and finds herself pursued by a secret society that has used Babbage computers to develop a new science, cliology, which allows its practitioners to predict history—and to control history for its own purposes. And it will stop at nothing to preserve its secret mastery of human destiny.

Michael Flynn is one of best and most interesting of the modern hard-SF writers, combining rigorous extrapolation with skilled prose and strong characterization. In the Country of the Blind is his first novel, but it was somewhat overlooked when it appeared in 1990, perhaps because it debuted as a paperback original. Now Tor has reissued the book in hardcover, the format it deserves. This edition has been slightly revised, and it includes, as an afterword, Flynn’s essay “An Introduction to Cliology,” which plausibly explains the intriguing science the author has created in this novel.

Readers of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series are probably wondering how Flynn’s cliology relates to Asimov’s psychohistory. Flynn is clearly aware of Asimov’s science of history, but takes cliology far in its own fascinating directions. Foundation fans should check out In the Country of the Blind. —Cynthia Ward

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