Quicksilver: Volume One of the Baroque Cycle: 1

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9780060593087: Quicksilver: Volume One of the Baroque Cycle: 1

As extraordinary an achievement as Cryptonomicon, Quicksilver is Neal Stephenson's first novel in his acclaimed Baroque Cycle.

Neal Stephenson follows his international bestseller, the WWII thriller Cryptonomicon, with a novel set in the 16th and 17th centuries, in a world of war, scientific, religious and political turmoil.

With a cast of characters that includes Newton, Leibniz, Christopher Wren, Charles II, Cromwell and the young Benjamin Franklin, Stephenson again shows his extraordinary ability to get inside a place and time; as he did for the futures of his science fiction (Snowcrash,The Diamond Age) and for WWII (Cryptonomicon), here he does for the England of the Civil War and the Europe of the Wars of Religion and the Scientific Revolution. Quicksilver is yet another tour-de-force from a writer who is simply unique.

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Neal Stephenson follows his international bestseller, the WWII thriller Cryptonomicon, with a novel set in the 16th and 17th centuries, in a world of war, scientific, religious and political turmoil. With a cast of characters that includes Newton, Leibniz, Christopher Wren, Charles II, Cromwell and the young Benjamin Franklin, Stephenson again shows his extraordinary ability to get inside a place and time; as he did for the futures of his science fiction (Snowcrash,The Diamond Age) and for WWII (Cryptonomicon), here he does for the England of the Civil War and the Europe of the Wars of Religion and the Scientific Revolution. Quicksilver is yet another tour-de-force from a writer who is simply unique.

Review:

Quicksilver is a massive, exuberant and wildly ambitious historical novel that's also Neal Stephenson's eagerly awaited prequel to Cryptonomicon--his pyrotechnic reworking of the 20th century, from World War II codebreaking and disinformation to the latest issues of Internet data privacy.

Quicksilver, "Volume One of the Baroque Cycle", backtracks to another time of high intellectual ferment: the late 17th century, with the natural philosophers of England's newly formed Royal Society questioning the universe and dissecting everything that moves. One founding member, the Rev John Wilkins, really did write science fiction and a book on cryptography--but this isn't history as we know it, for here his code book is called not Mercury but Cryptonomicon. And although the key political schemers of Charles II's government still have initials spelling the word CABAL, their names are all different...

While towering geniuses like Newton and Leibniz decode nature itself, bizarre adventures (merely beginning with the Great Plague and Great Fire) happen to the fictional Royal Society member Daniel Waterhouse, who knows everyone but isn't quite bright enough for cutting-edge science. Two generations of Daniel's family appear in Cryptonomicon, as does a descendant of the Shaftoes who here are soldiers and vagabonds. Other links include the island realm of Qwghlm with its impossible language and the mysterious, seemingly ageless alchemist Enoch Root.

As the reign of Charles II gives way to that of James II and then William of Orange, Stephenson traces the complex lines of finance and power that form the 17th-century Internet. Gold and silver, lead and (repeatedly) mercury or quicksilver flow in glittering patterns between centres of marketing and intrigue in England, Germany, France and Holland. Paper flows as well: stocks, shares, scams and letters holding layers of concealed code messages. Binary code? Yes, even that had already been invented and described by Francis Bacon.

Quicksilver is crammed with unexpected incidents, fascinating digressions and deep-laid plots. Who'd believe that Eliza, a Qwghlmian slave girl liberated from a Turkish harem by mad Jack Shaftoe (King of the Vagabonds) could become a major player in European finance and politics? Still less believable, but all too historically authentic, are the appalling medical procedures of the time--about which we learn a lot. There are frequent passages of high comedy, like the lengthy description of a foppish earl's costume which memorably explains that someone seemed to have been painted in glue before "shaking and rolling him in a bin containing thousands of black silk doilies".

This is a huge, exhausting read, full of rewards and quirky insights that no other author could have created. Fantastic or farcical episodes sometimes clash strangely with the deep cruelty and suffering of 17th-century realism. Recommended, though not to the faint-hearted. --David Langford

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Book Description HarperCollins, United States, 2011. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Reprint. 201 x 132 mm. Language: English . Brand New Book. 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 . Bookseller Inventory # KNV9780060593087

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Book Description HarperCollins, United States, 2011. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Reprint. 201 x 132 mm. Language: English . Brand New Book. 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 . Bookseller Inventory # KNV9780060593087

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