The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling is the first book I read as part of the Science Fiction challenge and it was a great way to start this challenge. I love steampunk and I love alternate histories and so The Difference Engine was hugely enjoyable for me.
At first I was a bit confused when the main character (or so I thought) of the story suddenly changed. If you expect a book to have one continuous story, then this book is not for you. It's more a series of interwoven short stories that all come together in the end to create a very different version of history.
Ada Lovelace has fascinated me ever since I saw the movie Conceiving Ada and she's a pivotal character here. I'm also fascinated by difference and analytical engines and the thought of a world that relies on them is intriguing to me. I do wonder how history would have developed if the analytical engine in particular would have been fully functional - it may have been slow, but it would have been very advanced.
Don't expect a straight story from this book, don't even expect all the mysteries to be solved. There are red herrings aplenty here, characters just drop out of the story and in the end you won't know everything. Imagine yourself as a historian instead, piecing together the events from eyewitness accounts, documents and old photos you found and in the process discovering a world long dead. If you think you would enjoy that, then I recommend the Difference Engine to you.
On a last note, I really need to read Benjamin Disraeli's "Sybil" now.