Another big thick book from Neal Stephenson. If you like his style, this new book, first in a series of stories, will not disappoint. He deftly intertwines the stories of three main characters, richly delving into each character's history and exploits. If you've never read Stephenson, this is one of his historical fictions, bringing to life the time period of Sir Isaac Newton and the scientific community of the late 1600s to early 1700s. You'll get insights into the lives of some famous historical figures that you never imagined, including kings and noblemen, famous early astronomers and philosophers, beggars and villains. There are also references to characters that appear in other Stephenson novels.
Despite the length, I was sorry to see it end and look forward to reading more in this series.
Monumental doesn't even begin to describe it - it took me an entire week to finish it. A tale of the beginnings of science as told through the eyes of an historical witness. Perfectly told, replete with incredibly obscure amounts of facts, fiction and fantasy.
A fun book. Don't be scared by it's many pages--you couldn' trust a short book that lables itself as Barroque anyway. Half-Cocked Jack is quite the character, and you find yourself rooting for him in the most unlikely situations. This is a great book for anyone who likes involved plots and a lot of characters.
Rachel S. reviewed Quicksilver (Baroque Cycle, Bk 1) on
Helpful Score: 2
I've loved all of Stephenson's other stuff, but I couldn't finish this one. There are several main characters, and it takes a very long time for the connections between them to become obvious (I made it through almost 800 pages and some of them were still unconnected - I guess he was leaving something for the other two behemoths in this series). The action is not as fast-paced as Cryptonomicon. The story is about earlier generations of the same families as Cryptonomicon, and again Stephenson weaves historical people in, including Ben Franklin, Newton, Leibniz, and many members of the British royal society.
Sadly, this trilogy did NOT live up to my expectations (which were high).
"Snow Crash" and "The Diamond Age" are still two of my favorite books of all time, but, I just found out from a friend that Neal Stephenson apparently changed publishers directly before Cryptonomicon. I think he also ditched his editor.
Stephenson is an excellent writer, but this book is badly in need of an editor.
According to Stephenson, the "Baroque Cycle" is actually 8 novels. The publisher is of the opinion that it is three. "Quicksilver" contains the first 3 (around 900 pages worth). The first book is kinda about Isaac Newton, math, and the state of scientific research in the 17th century. The second is about a ne'er-do-well type who inadvertently rescues a British harem slave who turns out to be a financial genius. The third book kinda brings all these characters sort-of-but-not-really together in a load of massively complicated political stuff, with tons of both historical figures and fictional characters involved.
More than the story, the book really has to do with Things That Stephenson Thinks are Funny/Interesting/Clever, etc. And some of them ARE very interesting, funny, and etc... But one gets the feeling that the author is self-consciously winking at you far too often. Too much cleverness. All the characters "correspond" to those in Cryptonomicon, too (which I read long enough ago that it needed to be pointed out to me.) I guess these are supposed to be their ancestors? In addition, it's very, umm... earthy. Fixated on unpleasant physical details, shall we say. And, it didn't really succeed in making mathematical proofs seem exciting, to me.
Stephenson apparently has tried to claim that this is a "science fiction" book, becase it contains a few fictional and unlikely elements - and it has to do with science. But it really is not.
Well, I'm going to continue with the series, but I'll consider myself lucky if I even finish it this month. It's been a slog so far. A not totally unrewarding one, but still....
A rewarding read for patient people, or those interetested in Baroque-era advances in science, mathematics, politics and economics. Personally, I loved Cryptonomicon and Stephenson's other books up to this point, but couldn't keep an interest in this one.
Historical novel set in Europe, 3 books in one, very fast-paced. I really liked the story about the scientist, Daniel Waterhouse, and the early days of the Royal Society. The other two characters weren't as interesting but on the whole the book was entertaining.
If you are a Neal Stephenson fan, you will love this series - very deep plots and great characters, set it the late 17th / early 18th century, mainly in western Europe, but with adventures all over the world.
Jason P. reviewed Quicksilver (Baroque Cycle, Bk 1) on
I didn't enjoy this as much as some of Stephenson's other works. It felt like a bunch of loosely connected historical-fiction vignettes designed to pander to the geeks he has attracted as his audience.
I will admit openly that I read this book because a friend of mine wanted me to. The same friend who pushed Harry Potter on me. Now, she loved the series and I am sure meant well and mean for me to like it as well. Unfortunately I just couldnt get into this book. I did try, I tried hard but by the end of the book I found myself letting out a breath and saying thank goodness!
Now why didnt I like the book is the next question I will be asked. Honestly I am not fully sure. The writing was good, the plot was well thought out. The characters were likeable. All of these things together should have made for a great book, and yet I just didnt enjoy it. So when I sit back and think about it I think I boils down to me. I think that the dislike of the book is purely me and that it just wasnt my kind of book. However I would recommend it to someone else with that warning.
So there is my odd and muddled review on this book. I have such conflicting feelings about the puritan Daniel. I Hope my loyal review readers wont think I have fallen off my rocker!
Stephenson is too good a writer for anything he produces being junk and this isn't. But for a writer of such exuberance, wit and charm to write such a slogging, ponderous book such as this was very disappointing to me. In the pages where Jack Shaftoe shows up there are glimmmers of Neal's talents, but much of the rest struck me as his looking for validation by the scholarly crowd out there.