Neal Stephenson's Quicksilver is here. A monumental literary feat that follows the author's critically acclaimed New York Times bestseller Cryptonomicon, it is history, adventure, science, truth, invention, sex, absurdity, piracy, madness, death, and alchemy. It sweeps across continents and decades with the power of a roaring tornado, upending kings, armies, religious beliefs, and all expectations.
It 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 Eliza, rescued by Jack from a Turkish harem to become spy, confidante, and pawn of royals in order to reinvent a contentious continent 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 -- a historical epic populated by the likes of Samuel Pepys, Isaac Newton, William of Orange, Benjamin Franklin, and King Louis XIV -- Quicksilver is an extraordinary achievement from one of the most original and important literary talents of our time.
And it's just the beginning ......Continua
A brilliant book, one of the best I have read. Stephenson tells the story of how many of the foundations of the modern world in terms of economics, politics, science etc... came in to being, whilst managing to maintain an entertaining and engrossing plot. The level of detail is astonishing. Possibly too nerdy for some, but I loved it....Continua
This is perhaps the most entertaining historical novel I have read. While it is fiction, Stephenson tells, among many other things, a most interesting story of how our early enlightened scientists dragged themselves and civilization out of the dreggs of superstition and alchemy into the age of empiricism and reason. As described by Stephenson, practicing true science is NOT a pretty picture.
And while we witness the progress of the scientific age, we see that honesty in politics has not progressed one iota.
How can I put this? Uhm. Right. Let's see.
The Baroque Cycle of Stephenson is one of the best historical novels of the XX century. There, I said it. And I have all of O'Brian's books too, so it's not that I don't have any reference.
Stephenson, after the success of 'Cryptonomicon', which is 'just a kind of SF', if you like, jumps back 400 years and brings to life the ancestors of his previous novel characters. And it works a treat. After reading the beginning - when 'Half-cocked' Jack Shaftoe meets Eliza at the second siege of Vienna, and whisks her off to Amsterdam via the Hartz mountains, meeting Leibniz on the way, right while in London the young puritan Waterhouse contemplates the head of Cromwell on a pike and thinks of his friend Newton - you feel like you've been swept off your feet too, then dropped straight into seventeenth-century Europe and England.
I could not wait to read the whole trilogy, and once I finished it, I read it again. I still do, every now and then.
Admittedly, the title caught my attention because of the software company (www.quicksilver.com) and the surfing gear franchise, too. Of the many "things" I personally adore, computers and surfing (like, waves in, like, California -- not just the Internet) are at the top of the list. Simply stated, Neal is AHEAD OF HIS TIME, even though he takes us back a few centuries via this masterpiece.
Yet, he is futuristic enough to keep the reader thinking outside of the past and present. Sure, we live in the present grounded in the past... but when you read Neal's books (whether "Quicksilver" or one of his many others), you are transported to another world of thought that stretches your mind and its boundaries as we know them. Or think we know them. I need to re-read parts of this to ensure that I "get" him. He is brilliant, and I need to keep pace with his take on society (past, present and future), technology and their interface....Continua