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Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson


by Neal Stephenson

Other authors: Lisa Gold (Family Trees), Jane S. Kim (Illustrator)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Baroque Cycle (Vol. I, Books 1-3)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
8,080142702 (3.9)227
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 ... Performed by Simon Prebble and Stina Nielsen.… (more)
  1. 40
    Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco (ateolf)
  2. 10
    Water Music by T. Coraghessan Boyle (lyzadanger)
    lyzadanger: Similar buffoonish, humorous treatment of English historical figures.
  3. 00
    An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (ehines)
    ehines: Both interesting contemporary books set amidst the scientific enlightenment, Pears is a bit more historical where Stephenson is more flashily contemporary, but fans of one certainly should look at the other.
  4. 00
    The Mongoliad: Book One by Neal Stephenson (Mind_Booster_Noori)
    Mind_Booster_Noori: Neal Stephenson retelling History with his excellent writing skills...
  5. 00
    Boilerplate: History's Mechanical Marvel by Paul Guinan (Othemts)
  6. 00
    Mason & Dixon by Thomas Pynchon (uncultured)
    uncultured: Quicksilver is to Mason & Dixon as Agatha Christie is to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
  7. 01
    Fingersmith by Sarah Waters (YossarianXeno)
    YossarianXeno: Both are compellingly written historical novels

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» See also 227 mentions

English (136)  German (4)  All languages (140)
Showing 1-5 of 136 (next | show all)
While Stephenson has the ability to write great storylines and craft amazing characters he unfortunately never met a detail - historical, technical, plot or character related - that he doesn't like. While piling everything in worked with 'Cryptonomicon' it just seems to bloat his other books, and this is no exception.
At its bare bones, this is a fascinating and rollicking fictional interpretation of one of England, and Europe's, most fascinating periods - starting just before the Restoration and continuing through to the end of the Stuarts. And Stephenson chooses to focus on the interesting scientific developments of the era. But he manages to suffocate the story under a ridiculous encrustation of detail, most of which adds nothing to the story. Add to that the fact that he reveals much of it in the form of letters (second only to the dream sequence in the lazy writer annoying way of moving a plot forward) or cod-Restoration drama plays. It is not the period that is at fault - a book set in the same era and same people of interest - 'The Sensorium of God' - was a great read.
My other complaint with this book is Stephenson's main female character, Eliza. Stephenson has the ability to write strong, well-rounded female characters and his other books, for whatever their flaws, has shown this. But Eliza is a character bordering on the ridiculous, and by the ending chapters of the book I was wishing she would just disappear. Her miraculous rise from impoverished girl on an island I assume was meant to be mirroring somewhere in the Hebrides, surviving on her wits to rise to the top of the social pyramid in Versailles via various adventures could have been enjoyable but she just comes across as unbelievable and frankly her whole plot line is silly and she seems to exist only as an excuse to tie together male characters and an excuse to talk about them.
I made it to the end of this book, but with a sense of disappointment. This could have been so much better if half of it had been pruned. I won't be continuing with the series. Nor, I think, will I be continuing with Stephenson as an author. This is the third of his books I have read since I first read, and loved, 'Cryptonomicon', and all of those three books have been disappointed. Life is too short to continue along that path. ( )
  ForrestFamily | Mar 26, 2020 |
Y'know, I love me some immersive historical fiction, and I've enjoyed some of the Stephenson I've read (I must set Anathem aside) ... but. I am going to inch forward with Quicksilver; however, I have found the "huge backstory database" dumps at the beginning to be so hamfistedly handled that I had an impulse to throw the book across the room.

C'mon, Neal -- NOT doing those things is one of the things that Heinlein taught. I know this isn't strictly speaking science fiction, but jeez. ( )
  tungsten_peerts | Feb 5, 2020 |
While it was something of a slog, I did enjoy this book enough to see it through to the end. Part of the fun of historical fiction is the novelty of seeing new characters fit into real events. Instead I felt frustrated and confused when I didn't know who was who, which was more likely a failure on my part for not being up on my Enlightenment history and only knowing bits and pieces of what characters were talking about. I won't take all the blame though. It was hard to know which long rambling passages were worth rereading because they were important and which to let go because they were just "interesting." I may carry on with the series, but only for Eliza, who really is a great character. I would have given up if not for her. ( )
  revafisheye | Jan 10, 2020 |
Hey, It's a trilogy. ( )
  sigma16 | Dec 5, 2019 |
Hey, It's a trilogy. ( )
  sigma16 | Dec 5, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 136 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Stephenson, Nealprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gold, LisaFamily Treessecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kim, Jane S.Illustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Aquan, RichardCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gräbener-Müller, JulianeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sarkar, ShubhaniDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Springer, NickCartographersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stingl, NikolausTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Those who assume hypotheses as first principles of their speculations ... may indeed form an ingenious romance, but a romance it will still be.

— Roger Cotes,

Preface to Sir Isaac Newton's

Principia Mathematica,

second edition, 1713
There is, doubtless, as much skill in pourtraying a Dunghill, as in describing the finest Palace, since the Excellence of Things lyes in the Performance; and Art as well as Nature must have some extraordinary Shape or Quality if it come up to the pitch of Human Fancy, especially to please in this Fickle, Uncertain Age.
Memoirs of the Right Villanous John Hall, 1708
In all times kings, and persons of sovereign authority, because of their independency, are in continual jealosies, and in the state and posture of gladiators; having their weapons pointing, and their eyes fixed on one another; that is, their forts, garrisons, and guns upon the frontiers of their kingdoms; and continual spies upon their neighbors; which is a posture of war.
— Hobbes, Leviathan
To the woman upstairs
First words
Enoch rounds the corner just as the executioner raises the noose above the woman's head.
"Crying loudly is childish, in that it reflects a belief, on the crier's part, that someone is around to hear the noise, and come a-running to make it all better. Crying in silence, as Daniel does this morning, is the mark of the mature sufferer who no longer nurses, nor is nursed by, any such comfortable delusions."
"'As I'm now beginning to understand–you are something of a virtuoso when it comes to manipulating men's mental states,' Monmouth said.
'You make it sound ever so much more difficult than it really is,' Eliza answered. 'Mostly I just sit quietly and let the men manipulate themselves.'"
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This is the first volume of the three-volume edition. Please don't combine with the first volume of the eight-volume edition with the same title.
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Average: (3.9)
0.5 6
1 58
1.5 8
2 102
2.5 27
3 265
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