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Quicksilver

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
8,999161935 (3.89)243
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.C. Boyle (lyzadanger)
    lyzadanger: Similar buffoonish, humorous treatment of English historical figures.
  3. 00
    Boilerplate: History's Mechanical Marvel by Paul Guinan (Othemts)
  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
    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.
  6. 00
    Mason and Dixon by Thomas Pynchon (uncultured)
    uncultured: Quicksilver is to Mason & Dixon as Agatha Christie is to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
  7. 00
    The Royal Society (The Landmark Library) by Adrian Tinniswood (themulhern)
    themulhern: Both books are in at the creation of The Royal Society.
  8. 01
    Fingersmith by Sarah Waters (YossarianXeno)
    YossarianXeno: Both are compellingly written historical novels
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» See also 243 mentions

English (155)  German (4)  All languages (159)
Showing 1-5 of 155 (next | show all)
Books 1-3 (Volume 1) of the Baroque Trilogy

Very intriguing and intensely cerebral, the novel is slightly weighed down by an overabundance of philosophical and scientific discourse. However, it is a truly satisfying read that I recommend to those interested in philosophy or those who are seeking to travel several decades in the baroque period (1660s through the early 1700s in this novel). You will certainly travel with the author as the details are not in short supply, and the descriptions quickly place you into the correct context.

Much of the books follow the real and imagined life of Isaac Newton and his fellow Natural Philosophers and Alchemists. Both Newton and his fellow Royal Society comrades are exquisitely intriguing, both for their minds as well as for the drama that follows them in their lives. Book two departs for a time to the life of Jack Shaftoe and Eliza. "Half-cock Jack" leads an entertaining life, with and without Eliza, leaving the reader wanting much more of his exciting adventures and witty conversations. Although we lose sight of Jack near the end of this volume, we do maintain contact with Eliza and the life that she has chosen to lead.

After the reader has resigned herself to the fact that these are separate stories of a single time period, the link between the seemingly thus far unrelated stories comes later in the volume. As the connection came later than I'd hoped, I was glad to remember that there were another 2000 or so pages in the trilogy. ( )
  avanders | Nov 28, 2023 |
I don't even know where to begin with this one, I just have some thoughts about it:
- I struggled a lot reading this.
- I really liked it.
- I don't know why.
- For some reason I think I liked this book more because I loved Cryptonomicon. ( )
  bramboomen | Oct 18, 2023 |
I am a very big fan of Stephenson. Coming to his work through Snowcrash and Reamde and the wonderful Cryptinomicron. This is just as great. And I get to journey a little through some fascinating history and science along the way. Really great. ( )
  DavidRFWarner | Oct 13, 2023 |
This book has all the things I've come to expect from Stephenson in spades, and yet ended up only mildly enjoyable.

It's very dense. Even reading carefully sometimes it feels like you're skimming with all the little bits and bobs thrown in everywhere. And I'm sure if I had a better grasp of English history I'd have appreciated it more. The range of characters is very broad, and trying to relate who's doing what to whom is a challenge.


I love his humour, and the way you trip over it from time to time when you least expect it.


Probably my biggest beef with it is the completely helter skelter style of the thing. There's just too many different types of narrative all jammed in there, and it just doesn't hang together. When a novel this size has no flow, why the heck publish it all at once in one volume? Add the abrupt changes (or outright endings) scattered here and there, and it was just too unfinished feeling for me.

I loved chunks of it, and I can't decide if the rest just had to be separated out better for me to enjoy it, or dropped on the cutting room floor.

Don't read this as your first Stephenson novel. But if you like others his written by all means give this a try. To me, it wasn't up to part, but I suspect I'm in the minority. ( )
  furicle | Aug 5, 2023 |
I got bored with this book and took it back to the library unfinished. ( )
  endolith | Mar 1, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 155 (next | show all)
"A great fantastical boiling pot of theories about science, money, war and much else, by turns broadly picaresque and microscopically technical, sometimes over-dense and sometimes too sketchy, flawed but unarguably magnificent, Quicksilver is something like a Restoration-era Gravity's Rainbow."
added by bookfitz | editThe Guardian, Steven Poole (Oct 24, 2003)
 
"A book of immense ambition, learning and scope, Quicksilver is often brilliant and occasionally astonishing in its evocation of a remarkable time and place -- Europe in the age of Newton, Pepys and Locke, to name just a few of the myriad characters who flock across its pages."
 

» 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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Epigraph
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
Dedication
To the woman upstairs
First words
Enoch rounds the corner just as the executioner raises the noose above the woman's head.
Quotations
"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.
Publisher's editors
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Canonical DDC/MDS
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Wikipedia in English (1)

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.

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