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In Quicksilver, the first volume of the "Baroque Cycle," Neal Stephenson launches his most ambitious work to date. The novel, divided into three books, opens in 1713 with the ageless Enoch Root seeking Daniel Waterhouse on the campus of what passes for MIT in eighteenth-century Massachusetts. Daniel, Enoch's message conveys, is key to resolving an explosive scientific battle of preeminence between Isaac Newton and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz over the development of calculus. As Daniel returns to London aboard the Minerva, readers are catapulted back half a century to recall his years at Cambridge with young Isaac. Daniel is a perfect historical witness. Privy to Robert Hooke's early drawings of microscope images and with associates among the English nobility, religious radicals, and the Royal Society, he also befriends Samuel Pepys, risks a cup of coffee, and enjoys a lecture on Belgian waffles and cleavage-all before the year 1700.
In the second book, Stephenson introduces Jack Shaftoe and Eliza. "Half-Cocked" Jack (also know as the "King of the Vagabonds") recovers the English Eliza from a Turkish harem. Fleeing the siege of Vienna, the two journey across Europe driven by Eliza's lust for fame, fortune, and nobility. Gradually, their circle intertwines with that of Daniel in the third book of the novel.
The book courses with Stephenson's scholarship but is rarely bogged down in its historical detail. Stephenson is especially impressive in his ability to represent dialogue over the evolving worldview of seventeenth-century scientists and enliven the most abstruse explanation of theory. Though replete with science, the novel is as much about the complex struggles for political ascendancy and the workings of financial markets. Further, the novel's literary ambitions match its physical size. Stephenson narrates through epistolary chapters, fragments of plays and poems, journal entries, maps, drawings, genealogic tables, and copious contemporary epigrams. But, caught in this richness, the prose is occasionally neglected and wants editing. Further, anticipating a cycle, the book does not provide a satisfying conclusion to its 900 pages. These are minor quibbles, though. Stephenson has matched ambition to execution, and his faithful, durable readers will be both entertained and richly rewarded with a practicum in Baroque science, cypher, culture, and politics. --Patrick O'Kelley --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Stephenson's very long historical novel, the first volume of a projected trilogy, finds Enoch Root, the Wandering Jew/alchemist from 1999's Cryptonomicon, arriving in 1713 Boston to collect Daniel Waterhouse and take him back to Europe. Waterhouse, an experimenter in early computational systems and an old pal of Isaac Newton, is needed to mediate the fight for precedence between Newton and scientist and philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, both of whom independently invented the calculus. Their escalating feud threatens to revert science to pre-empirical times. Root believes Waterhouse, as a close friend to both mathematicians, has the ability to calm the neurotic Newton's nerves and make peace with Leibniz. As Waterhouse sails back to Europe (and eludes capture by the pirate Blackbeard), he reminisces about Newton and the birth of England's scientific revolution during the 1600s. While the Waterhouse story line lets readers see luminaries like Robert Hooke and Isaac Newton at work, a concurrent plot line follows vagabond Jack Shaftoe (an ancestor of a Cryptonomicon character, as is Waterhouse), on his journey across 17th-century continental Europe. Jack meets Eliza, a young English woman who has escaped from a Turkish harem, where she spent her teenage years. The resourceful Eliza eventually rises and achieves revenge against the slave merchant who sold her to the Turks. Stephenson, once best known for his techno-geek SF novel Snow Crash, skillfully reimagines empiricists Newton, Hooke and Leibniz, and creatively retells the birth of the scientific revolution. He has a strong feel for history and a knack for bringing settings to life. Expect high interest in this title, as much for its size and ambition, which make it a publishing event, as for its sales potential-which is high.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
The author has mastered the art of writing a 300 page novel in 960 pages.Published 6 months ago by M. Joyce
The first installment takes a while to take off, but then you're in for a very long ride filled with wonders, laughter, amazement and great characters. At the end of the c. Read morePublished on Sept. 12 2012 by Eric Lavigne
It's unfortunate to see numerous 1/2/3-star ratings for what is, by all accounts, Mr. Stephenson's magnum opus (or at least the first part of a trilogy which comprises said magnum... Read morePublished on Aug. 29 2011 by OpenMind
This was the first Neal Stephenson book I ever read, and I adored it! I gobbled up "The Confusion" and "The System of the World" immediately, and only after finishing The Baroque... Read morePublished on Sept. 25 2008 by Paige Turner
This paperback volume is only the first 1/3 of the hard cover version of "Quicksilver".
This is mentioned in very fine print on one of the title pages, but is... Read more
I would love to give you a general idea of the story, but I'm afraid that the 900+ pages which comprise this "slender" volume make it impossible to put it in a nutshell. Read morePublished on March 30 2005 by Patrick St-Denis, editor of Pat's Fantasy Hotlist
I had great expectations for this book, having read all of Neal Stephenson's previous books, but was disappointed by this. Read morePublished on Dec 31 2004 by Chris Wheeldon
well, I've read quicksilver and have found it to be, um, interesting. I fell in another love trance (i've read crytonomicon, obviously! Read morePublished on Sept. 28 2004 by todd tregez
I won't take much of your time. Stephenson has become a falling star. I believe he is regurgitating each and every fact he read at the library, thinking that to personalize them... Read morePublished on July 19 2004 by Nicholas Berry