Quicksilver, volume 1 of Neal Stephenson's Baroque Style trilogy

Discussion in 'Neal Stephenson' started by kenubrion, Sep 12, 2016.

  1. kenubrion

    kenubrion Well-Known Member

    After I finished Seveneves I decided to continue with Neal Stephenson's bibliography, as my reading mind was used to him and I greatly enjoy his writing style. After sampling Anathem and Cryptonomicon (I already own them from daily deal sales) and Quicksilver, I settled on the latter because it was described as a sort of historical fiction covering the years 1646-1713 in Europe, the Mediterranean, Arabia, India and the new colonies in America. It opens in 1713 Boston, uses about thirty pages to describe the setting, and then goes to 1640's to 1660's England and continuous in common chronological fashion as we follow the lives of three fictional characters about whom the entire story revolves from then on. Interspersed with their trials, tribulations, failures and successes are their interactions with real historical persons, mostly Persons of Quality, meaning royalty and the foremost scholars and inventors of the times.

    I absolutely loved everything about this book, which is the first of three volumes, each of which is around 1000 pages long. Since I have a science background, I loved following along in the footsteps of Isaac Newton, Leibniz, Robert Hooke, John Wilkins, and so on seemingly to include everyone involved in the Awakening as this era is described elsewhere.

    Political machinations however dominate the story, and these events occur in England, France and the Netherlands. Also perfect for me as it's a major interest of mine, to the extent that I minored in state and local government in college and have run for and been elected to three public offices, back when I was younger and bored with raising a family and growing a business. I expect this aspect of the story will cause many readers' eyes to glaze over, but I carefully read every word of it.

    All of the outcomes of the scientific and political occurrences are true to history. The fiction is limited to the events in the lives of our three protagonists, Daniel and Eliza and Jack. Wonderfully realized and enjoyable characters all, Stephenson is so strong in characterization as well as exposition.

    And in closing I will mention that his writing makes me speed through the rare action in order to get back to the dialogue and exposition, which is exactly the opposite of my usual reading style. I find myself reading slowly as well, since I have no desire to skim, so that I can savor every word. I'm now halfway through volume 2, The Confusion. The Baroque Style is actually eight books as written, but put together as three long volumes in the Kindle editions.
    Boreas and Diziet Sma like this.
  2. kenubrion

    kenubrion Well-Known Member

    I probably should have mentioned why Quicksilver, and entire The Baroque Style, is reviewed here. That is because Neal Stephenson has said, to someone who asked if it is a historical fiction, that it is definitely science fiction. I have been watching closely as I read to find any evidence of this, and instead of finding that I have realized that he is obviously referring to alchemy, which is the major underpinning of both the scientific and political plots. At least I think that's it.
  3. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    I'm going to be looking forward to picking this trilogy up after I start and finish Reamde.

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