THE SHADOWS OF GOD: Book Four of the Age of Unreason

J. Gregory Keyes, Author . Del Rey $15 (320p) ISBN 978-0-345-43904-8

In the fourth and final volume in his Age of Unreason series (Newton's Cannon, etc.), Keyes brings his multi-threaded yarn to a thrilling conclusion. Based on the premise that Sir Isaac Newton devised a theory of alchemy that led to the industrial use of demons, the book builds to a climactic confrontation to see who will reshape the universe. Chief among Newton's apprentices are wizard/scientist Benjamin Franklin, South Carolina's ambassador to the court of New Paris (Mobile), and Adrienne de Montchevreuil, sorceress and heir to a secret tradition. Against them is Adrienne's son, Nicolas (aka the Sun Boy), with his army of Russians, Mongols and Coweta natives that sweeps over the Great Plains. Such imaginative devices as demon-levitated airships and aetherschreibers (wireless sets) lend interest to the author's alternate 18th-century world, as do revelations behind certain historical events, like the identity of who helped Louis XIV drop a comet on London. Keyes entertains both with details of everyday life and with the conversations of people who may not have met but should have. He produces a fine pastiche of the formal writing of Voltaire (who appears as Franklin's friend and rival), marred only by a more modern "crash cut" narrative, which occasionally jumps mid-scene or reverses chronology, diffusing the suspense. Still, with the unfolding of secrets and past deeds, Keyes brings a welcome level of character uncertainty to the deterministic Newtonian novel. (July 3)

Reviewed on: 05/14/2001
Release date: 07/01/2001
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