On the whole I like plot - and although this book had a good one it was more suited to a long short story than a book this size (544 pages). And I have to admit after the first two thirds I was counting them. The flights of fantasy were fairly good, I like a bit of weirdness, but again there was too much. Science and history of science I love and seemed to me to be the heart of the book but here I feel I have read the book too late. Written in 1998 both the science and history feel outdated in 2011. The benefit of reading the New Scientist is that you get the same sort of interesting information in the same sort of small chunks, but you can treat them as chunks, skip bits if you feel like it, and the chunks are pretty up to date. So I am not keeping this book or recommending it but it was his first novel and I still like the author on the strength of 'The Book of Ash'. However I think I'll skip '52 Ways to Magic America' which was his second and maybe get the later short stories from the library although if they are only in french I'll have some work to do.