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Quicksilver (The Baroque Cycle, Vol. 1) by…

Quicksilver (The Baroque Cycle, Vol. 1) (original 2003; edition 2004)

by Neal Stephenson

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7,088112507 (3.93)167
Title:Quicksilver (The Baroque Cycle, Vol. 1)
Authors:Neal Stephenson
Info:Harper Perennial (2004), Paperback, 960 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:pleasure, read

Work details

Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson (2003)

  1. 30
    Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco (ateolf)
  2. 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.
  3. 00
    The Mongoliad: Book One by Neal Stephenson (Mind_Booster_Noori)
    Mind_Booster_Noori: Neal Stephenson retelling History with his excellent writing skills...
  4. 00
    Boilerplate: History's Mechanical Marvel by Paul Guinan (Othemts)
  5. 00
    Water Music by T.C. Boyle (lyzadanger)
    lyzadanger: Similar buffoonish, humorous treatment of English historical figures.
  6. 01
    Fingersmith by Sarah Waters (YossarianXeno)
    YossarianXeno: Both are compellingly written historical novels

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Showing 1-5 of 109 (next | show all)
A gloriously dense book, everything time it reminded me of something I learned in history class made reading the textbook even more worth it. I'm pretty sure I know Newton, Leibniz, lots of nobility. I'm looking forward to reading the other books but, even thought I'm a relatively fast reader, I can only read this when I'm fully awake which goes against my normal bedtime reading, so I go over my library's due date. What's interesting is that this is usually the sort of book I don't like, I have a really bad mind for names and relations and don't like looking up the dramatis personae too much. But, this book was still very amazing without looking up every character, that's how I know I love stepehensons books, they capture a world with a core of a few characters and a dearth of others

I couldn't give this enough stars ( )
  Lorem | Feb 26, 2015 |
I would have given this five stars despite the dearth of female characters (I was willing to excuse i on the grounds of the subject matter--Royal Society, Restoration), but there is a rape scene at the end of part two that is gratuitous and written with the male gaze in way that is so repugnant to me that I almost stopped reading. I really should drop it down another star, so strong was my negative reaction. What really upset me is that for a book that is so nuanced, there was nothing beyond the gross titillation of this scene, which really served no narrative purpose, and if any character development was afforded by it, it was none the author actually cared to develop. It was a few pages of a decision so poor on the part of the author that marred my enjoyment of 1000 other pages for me.

Otherwise, if you enjoy historical fictions, science, math, and physics, have any interest in the political convolutions of 18th century Europe or the beginning of the Royal Society, this book is gripping. ( )
  endlesserror | Dec 30, 2014 |
A wonderful ride, and great fun. I loved all three books of the Baroque Cycle _Cryptonomicon_. ( )
  JoePhelan | Dec 14, 2014 |
While one could say that the saga of the Waterhouses and Shaftoes continues, it may be more appropriate to say that in Quicksilver, the saga begins. As in Cryptonomicon, we are introduced first to the Waterhouse - in the case, Daniel - the son of a Puritan troublemaker named Drake. We meet Daniel late in his childhood and follow his career up through the ranks of the newly formed Royal Society - a gathering of the intelligencia of England just prior to the great Fire of London. After spending some time following Daniel in his interactions with various notables of the time (Isaac Newton, Robert Hooke, James Wilkins and others), we jump onto the continent to get our fill of Shaftoes.

At this point, we follow the story of Half-cocked Jack Shaftoe - a vagabond by birth and inclination - hero by accident. As he's working on looting the battlefield at the end of the siege of Vienna, he finds himself with an ostrich, a stallion, a sword and a girl - none of which originally belonged to him. This poses no problem for our morally unencumbered Shaftoe, and the pair make their way from Vienna to Paris with the intent of selling the ostrich feathers for a profit in the Parisian markets. As usual, Shaftoe falls for the girl, but she ends up being way out of his league. Let's just say that shortly after the part company, she finds herself the center of attention at Louis XIV's court at Versailles. In the Shaftoe part of the story, we find ourselves introduced the the Sun King, William of Orange, various members of the French court and the Dutch mercantile exchanges.

This is an absolutely fascinating story. Of course, part of my interest comes from living in Paris and Versailles, so I can envision Shaftoe hiding out in Paris or crashing the masquerade ball at Versailles. I've visited Amsterdam, Vienna and London (three other major settings), and so the places are familiar to me and this brings to the story more alive. It's also fascinating to have the luminaries of the period (Newton, Leibniz, John Locke, Boyle, Huygens, etc) pop in and out of scenes.

And even though the book is absolutely chock full of historical and scientific minutia, it's still incredibly funny. It's a very dry humor, for the most part, but there are several guffaw-worthy passages. The only downside is that the book is voluminous AND dense. You can't read it if you're tired, but if you can stay alert, you can find some real gems. ( )
  helver | Sep 26, 2014 |
It was okay. I will continue with the series, but it wasn't among the best I have ever read. ( )
  autumnturner76 | Sep 22, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (11 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Neal Stephensonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gold, LisaFamily Treessecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kim, Jane S.Illustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Aquan, RichardCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sarkar, ShubhaniDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Springer, NickCartographersecondary 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.'"
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
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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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0060593083, Paperback)

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

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:03:48 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

"Quicksilver is the story of Daniel Waterhouse, fearless thinker and conflicted Puritan, pursuing knowledgein 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, confidate, and pawn of royals in order to reinvent Europe through the newborn power of finance" --Cover, p. 4.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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