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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
If you love a rip-roaring yarn you’ll actually learn something from...if you devoured The DaVinci Code or The Name of the Rose or An Instance of the Fingerpost...if you’ve ever marveled at the ideas of Neal Stephenson in books like Snow Crash...have we got a treat for you. Quicksilver is here.
Stephenson has resurrected one of the most extraordinary eras in human history: the late 17th and early 18th century, when modern science (then called “natural philosophy”) stirred to its feet, and made its first powerful strides; when secret codes, secret knowledge, and alchemy were the order of the day; when Protestants and Catholics warred over the true faith, and the forces of Islam laid siege to Vienna...
Here are: Isaac Newton and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, the simultaneous, disputing co-creators of calculus, and Benjamin Franklin as a boy, slick beyond his years. Here are Barbary pirates and vagabonds making their way in King Louis XIV’s court at Versailles. Here, too, are binary systems, hexadecimals, and memes.
And, for those who’ve read Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon, here are the forebears of some of that book’s characters. For example, “Half-Cocked” Jack Shaftoe, King of the Vagabonds, and a distant ancestor of U.S. marine raider Bobby Shaftoe. And, at the heart of the book, Dr. Daniel Waterhouse, generations removed from the Lawrence Pritchard Waterhouse who helped Alan Turing decode Nazi ciphers in Cryptonomicon.
It took an extraordinary storyteller (and researcher!) to create Quicksilver, one who’s been compared with everyone from Thomas Pynchon to Tom Clancy to William Gibson to Hemingway. (Incredibly, Stephenson, an early leader of the cyberpunk movement, wrote the first draft of this book with a fountain pen!)
If you’re as captivated by this parallel universe as we think you’ll be, there’s good news. Quicksilver is the first in Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle, with two more books to follow: The Confusion and The System of the World.
Each story stands entirely on its own (unlike, say, The Lord of the Rings). So you don’t have to read all three. But we bet you will. Bill Camarda
Bill Camarda is a consultant, writer, and web/multimedia content developer. His 15 books include Special Edition Using Word 2000 and Upgrading & Fixing Networks for Dummies, Second Edition.