Steampunk Revelry with Greg Keyes!

Newton's Cannon by Greg KeyesWelcome to our Steampunk Revelry! Dance through the streets of London and have a glass of sherry. Today we celebrate Greg Keyes’ highly praised novel, Newton’s Cannon!

This is the first book in the Age of Unreason trilogy, a wondrously dark and richly imagined alternate history, where magic is a science and the greatest minds must conspire to prevent an end to all things.

Read on for an excerpt of Newton’s Cannon. You can enter the Rafflecopter at the bottom of the post for a chance to win an ebook copy of Newton’s Canon.

SUMMARY

In an alternate history in which science and magic coexist, a young Benjamin Franklin joins forces with Sir Isaac Newton in a desperate attempt to stop France’s demonic King Louis XIV from obliterating England.

The year is 1681 and the great alchemist Sir Isaac Newton has discovered a remarkable substance that can manipulate the four essential elements of the universe: earth, water, air, and fire.

Meanwhile, the ancient King Louis XIV, his life alchemically and indefinitely prolonged, employs treacherous means to obtain this prize that will grant him dominion over the entire continent….

EXCERPT

Humphrey wiped the sweat from his forehead and paused briefly in his working of the bellows. He glanced nervously at Isaac, who was staring into the red maw of the furnace with all of the intensity of a lover—or a madman.

“Isaac, should you not rest?” Humphrey pleaded. “How many days have you been at this?”

Isaac did not even deign to glance at him. He stepped instead to the worktable and emptied the contents of a mortar into a beaker. Then, he attacked his notebook with pen, scribbling furiously. “I do not know. What day is it?”

Humphrey stared at his friend, whose stained shirt clung to his emaciated frame like parchment. “And how long since you have eaten?” he persisted.

“Work the furnace, Humphrey,” Newton growled. Humphrey had seen him like this before, going days without eating or sleeping, utterly consumed by thoughts that even other scholars could only vaguely guess at. If Isaac were merely deluded, Humphrey would not stand here pumping the bellows like a slave, but Newton was not insane. He was that rarest of creatures. He was a genius. Holding the coveted Lucasian professorship at Cambridge at the age of thirty-nine, Newton was virtually without peer.

“Now,” Isaac muttered, gripping up the iron tongs from his bench. He flung open the furnace. A blast of greater heat rushed out into the room, so that the last of the cool breeze wafting through the open windows was banished. Newton squinted against the heat, but his hand was sure as he reached in with the tongs and withdrew the effulgent crucible.

With a more considered motion, Isaac tilted the stoneware cylinder over a thick beaker. Humphrey winced, expecting a molten fluid to pour spattering from the spout, but instead a small silvery sphere tumbled out. He had a glimpse of it before an acrid cloud of steam erupted from the beaker. As Humphrey coughed into his handkerchief, Isaac calmly reached over and closed the furnace.

As the heat diminished, the room was momentarily still. With the shuttering of the furnace, everything suddenly seemed quite ordinary. For the past ten hours, Humphrey had felt engulfed by an alchemical nightmare.

“Now,” Isaac muttered, “we shall see. We shall see if Jupiter rides his eagle.”

Humphrey was not well versed in the arcane hermetic language of alchemy. He knew, though, that jupiter was a metal of some sort, said to be useful in producing philosopher’s mercury—the original, truest metal of all, the source of all other metal.

Newton peered into the flask. “And the menstruum carries it up,” he said, quite matter-of-factly. Humphrey watched Isaac dash off a few notes.

“May I see?” he asked.

Newton nodded impatiently, biting the end of his quill.

Humphrey ventured to gaze into the flask. A sphere of some metal rested in what remained of the yellowish fluid. He recognized the smell now—the sharpness could only be ammonia. But what was that swirling, those flashes? The latter suddenly increased dramatically.

“Isaac,” he began, when suddenly the flaring redoubled, tripled. He staggered back from the workbench. A tree trunk of lightning suddenly grew up from the beaker, passing through the air where his face had been. It grew, fluorescing between red and blue, and shuddering the room with thunder. Humphrey screamed and turned his back on the terrible flame. He could not see; brightness etched across his eyes like acid spilled on copper. He tripped, sprawled, fell over a table.

Strong arms pushed up beneath his and lifted, and he opened his eyes. The light was brighter still, the flaming sword of an archangel, and he squealed once more with terror before fainting.

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