Literature: The Age of Unreason

Sir Isaac Newton was known both for his contributions to science and his belief in alchemy. While in the real world, alchemy has been proven to be bunk, what would things be like if it were the other way around...?

The Age of Unreason is a series of four novels by J. Gregory Keyes:

  • Newton's Cannon (1998) note 
  • A Calculus of Angels (1999)
  • Empire of Unreason (2000)
  • The Shadow of God (2001)

The novels are set in an alternate-universe 18th century where Newton's discovery of Alchemy has created many practical applications, such as the alchemical flameless lantern; the aetherschreiber, a device for communication over distance via etheric vibrations; and, since England and France are bitter enemies, weapons of war, such as cannonballs that can be made to seek their targets from miles away and transmute their targets to glass before shattering them, pistols that can spray molten silver, and the eponymous weapon of the first book: a method to divert an asteroid to smash a city.

Uses a high number of real-world figures as characters, including the aforementioned Newton; a fourteen-year-old Benjamin Franklin and his elder brother James and his friend John Collins; Edmond Halley, Voltaire, mathematicians Colin Maclaurin and James Stirling, and King Louis XIV of France.