Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson

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.

FOUR and a half of five stars.

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