Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Quicksilver, Neal Stephenson, William Morrow, 2003, 916 pp

I learned recently that Stephenson's next book will be out this summer, so it was time to read The Baroque Cycle trilogy. It took me almost two weeks to read this tome but was worth every minute.

Naturally it is great. Same clever wordiness and headlong adventure sequences as his earlier books, but set in the 1600s with Isaac Newton, King Charles II, King Louis XIV and all the various Natural Philosophers/Alchemists of the Royal Society in England as well as in other countries. Also featured are the entangled Houses of Stuart, Orange-Nassau, Bourbon and others who intermarried and produced the Kings and Queens of England and Europe; the traders, bankers and stock exchanges, especially in the Netherlands; the religious wars of Catholics vs Protestants; and even some scenes in Boston at the beginnings of MIT and Harvard. Lots of history.

In addition are early ancestors of the Waterhouse and Shaftoe families (main characters in Cryptonomicon) and even the author of the original Cryptonomicon, John Wilkins, who was an early Natural Philosopher (what we now call scientists) at Cambridge where Newton spent his early adult years. Thanks to a list of characters, maps and family trees, I could keep track of it all. Oh yes, Enoch Root is there already an old man.

Very impressive that an exciting cyberpunk sci fi writer can also do historical fiction so well. As soon as I finished it, I wanted to go on to the next volume. I saw that the 1600s were a turning point in history, a step away from superstition to science, from monarchy to democracy, etc. Then there is Eliza, super smart and savvy and probably the female ancestor of someone in Crytonomicon, because she has a son at the end. Fantastic book!

(Quicksilver is available in paperback and ebook by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore. To find it in your nearest indie bookstore, click on the cover image above.)

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