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Quicksilver: Volume One of the Baroque Cycle [Paperback]

Neal Stephenson
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (202 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 9 2004 The Baroque Cycle (Book 1)

Quicksilver is the story of Daniel Waterhouse, fearless thinker and conflicted Puritan, pursuing knowledge in the company of the greatest minds of Baroque-era Europe, in a chaotic world where reason wars with the bloody ambitions of the mighty, and where catastrophe, natural or otherwise, can alter the political landscape overnight.

It is a chronicle of the breathtaking exploits of "Half-Cocked Jack" Shaftoe -- London street urchin turned swashbuckling adventurer and legendary King of the Vagabonds -- risking life and limb for fortune and love while slowly maddening from the pox.

And it is the tale of Eliza, rescued by Jack from a Turkish harem to become spy, confidante, and pawn of royals in order to reinvent Europe through the newborn power of finance.

A gloriously rich, entertaining, and endlessly inventive novel that brings a remarkable age and its momentous events to vivid life, Quicksilver is an extraordinary achievement from one of the most original and important literary talents of our time.

And it's just the beginning ...

Frequently Bought Together

Quicksilver: Volume One of the Baroque Cycle + The Confusion: Volume Two of The Baroque Cycle + The System Of The World: Volume Three of the Baroque Cycle
Price For All Three: CDN$ 47.64

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From Amazon

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.

From Publishers Weekly

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.

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ENOCH ROUNDS THE CORNER JUST as the executioner raises the noose above the woman's head. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 600 Pages are OK, 300 Pages are Good June 28 2004
~I loved Cryptonomicon, and felt like Neal Stephenson was a bloody genius. Rather than a sequel, he has embarked on an epic prequel. After reading Quicksilver, the first of a trilogy set in late 17th Century Europe, I still think he's bloody brilliant, but felt that I should develop a measuring system for whether folks will like this book. Give yourself the indicated number of points if you agree with the following statements. At the end, total your points, and I'll provide a scale as to~~ whether you will like/love/dislike/hate this book.
You love European history: +3 points
You love lots of details in what you read: +3 points
You're into Newton/Leibniz and things scientific: +2 points
You think Neal Stephenson is bloody smart: +2 points
You loved Cryptonomicon for its detail: +1 point
You loved Cryptonomicon for its style: +1 point
You loved Cryptonomicon for its wit: -1 point
You get bored by endless detail: -2 point
You like a strong plot in the novels you read:~~ -1 point
You like a plot, however strong, at least clearly stated: -1 point
You are turned off by graphic descriptions: -1 point
You like a lot science in your science-based novel: -1 point
You like an easy read that flows well: -2 point
Score: >=10 You'll love this book!. 6-9 You'll like the book but find some of it tedious. 1-5 You'll like minor parts, but wonder if it was worth it. -1 to -5 You'll dislike this book. <-5 You'll hate this book.
I usually read trilogies after all the~~ books are published. But I made an exception here because I love Stephenson and because I am also coincidentally reading Isaac Newton's PRINCIPIA (translation by Cohen).
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars why I was royally disappointed with _Quicksilver_ April 2 2004
The ironically named _Quicksilver_ is the most disappointingly leaden
book it has been my displeasure to read in recent years.
After _Cryptonomicon_ my expectations were high. Early on in
_Quicksilver_ I realized that there was no way this book could be as
good as the earlier one, so I adjusted my hopes downward
accordingly...and even then, I was disappointed.
The flaws are numerous.
The one thing that everyone knows about the book is that it contains a
frantic pile of trivia. I was actually looking forward to this aspect
of the book, given that I enjoy random learning opportunities as much
as the next geek, and given that this is one part of _Cryptonomicon_
that I was enthused about. _QS_ disappoints in this regard. To my
mind there are two main bins that trivia are sorted in to: (1) those
random items that are capable of clicking in an interesting way into
the knowledge structure I already have; and (2) utterly random
tidbits. NS delivered a few of the former, and a few truck-loads of
the latter. In so far as the trivia was interesting, I already knew
it (Germanic witch trials, etymology of the word "dollar", the broad
outlines and purposes of the various 16th century political
structures), and in so far as the trivia was not something I already
knew, I found it dreadfully boring (hail-storms of random names of
royalty, many of them playing minimal roles in the plot, etc.).
Ah. I used the word "plot", so I've segued onto the next region of
disappointment. _QS_ does not have a plot, in the conventional sense.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Can't wait for the second book Oct. 21 2005
I should probably preface this review by saying that I am a Neal Stephenson fan. I have read and enjoyed all of other books prior to reading this one, so it should come as no surprise that I enjoyed this novel as well.
It did however take me about 50 or 70 pages to get in to the novel. At first I found the plot to be very slow moving, with lots of confusing names and not a lot happening. Dull and boring are two words that come to mind. But if you can get past the first 70 pages, the novel slowly starts to develop a story line that by the time the book is finished has left you eagerly looking forward to the next book.
I do not want to give away too much of the novel and spoil it for any of the readers out there. But I will say this. Don't be discouraged by the size of the novel (900+ pages). Do stick it out, and read the whole novel, as you will be rewarded for it. And finally, if any of the history that took place in England in the 1600s is of interest to you, then this book should definitely make it on to your reading list.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars What happened to the author of 'Snow Crash'?! April 11 2004
It seems people who have read 'Quicksilver' have either loved it or hated it. I'm sorry to say, I belong to the second group.
Neal Stephenson originally became one of my favorite all-time authors for 'Snow Crash', for I felt his prose was quick, sharp, precise and very enjoyable. I remained a fan throughout 'Cryptonomicon', because although he was no longer quick, his drawn-out discussions on Things Geek remained fascinating.
I was looking forward to 'Quicksilver', but I'm afraid this book has seriously damaged the affection I had for Mr. Stephenson's work. Quicksilver is no longer witty, nor particularly fascinating. It sounds a lot like somebody who's spent a long time doing historical research setting out to prove the depth of his knowledge... which I guess is exactly what it is.
Stephenson spends the better part of this novel throwing out random historical facts of no importance whatsoever in the hopes of sounding as historically knowledgeable as, say, Umberto Eco. It seems in the middle of his research, Stephenson actually forgot about such things as 'plot', because all we're left with is a very, very, very long mess of discussions of things related to historical events and trying to cleverly tie in with historical characters such as Newton or Franklin.
To cap it off, this book is only one of three in a series (if you exclude Cryptonomicon as 'Volume 0'.) My god, how can one write so many pages on such a lack of plot? I cannot imagine plodding through another such book, let alone two 1000 pages bricks.
If you're thinking of picking this book up because you enjoyed 'Cryptonomicon', try and read a few pages in the library before shelling out the dough. Perhaps you will like it, but I certainly know I did not. I miss the days when Stephenson remembered how to get to the point and pack his novels with action and revelance, instead of being so infatuated with the names Waterhouse, Shaftoe and Root that he felt necessary to write 4000 pages about them.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Pure Pleasure, but not for everyone
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 more
Published on Sept. 12 2012 by Eric Lavigne
5.0 out of 5 stars Courageous, ambitious, and definitely NOT boring
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 more
Published on Aug. 29 2011 by OpenMind
4.0 out of 5 stars Dizzying Brilliance
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 more
Published on Sept. 25 2008 by Paige Turner
5.0 out of 5 stars A note to buyers
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
Published on April 7 2006
4.0 out of 5 stars Great read!!!
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 more
Published on March 30 2005 by Patrick St-Denis
2.0 out of 5 stars Detailed but turgid
I had great expectations for this book, having read all of Neal Stephenson's previous books, but was disappointed by this. Read more
Published on Dec 31 2004 by Chris Wheeldon
4.0 out of 5 stars hmmm, are you with me?
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 more
Published on Sept. 28 2004 by todd tregez
2.0 out of 5 stars dull, dull, dull
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 more
Published on July 19 2004 by Nicholas Berry
4.0 out of 5 stars Wow this book could kill brain cells
I just finished Quicksilver about 30 mins ago. At times it was quite confusing in places where things might happen one way but it turns out to be another. Read more
Published on July 18 2004 by Toby Bolinger
3.0 out of 5 stars Tough, tough read but worth it in the end
Neal Stephenson rates as one of my favorite all time authors (I've read all his books) but this one lets me down a bit. Read more
Published on July 14 2004 by Thomas J. Muehleman
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