Set just after the Civil War, with many shadows from that still looming, we are with the first graduating class of MIT, working against rival Harvard to solve the mystery of terrorist technological attacks on Boston. The attacks, and the "Technologists" attempts to engineer solutions, give this the steampunk feel. Pearl is a good writer, so this does not read like pulp.
As with many of these historically-based novels, it's fun to research who and what is based in reality, and what is pure fiction. Pearl's epilogue tells some of that story.
Reader was quite good.
Still full of Stephenson's wry style, and some shorter asides describing how geeks think (OK, no Cap'n Crunch scene, get over it). Story is an unlikely globetrotting adventure loosely centered around a game world (think Second Life crossed with World of Warcraft). Geek protagonists get involved with Russian Mafia, Chinese Hackers, Muslim Terrorists, and a variety of other characters and save the world. What could be simpler?
Reader is quite good.
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