Increasing my ops tempo by allowing storytellers to whisper in my ear(buds).
This series must be contemplated as a unified whole. This review is for the entire BAROQUE CYCLE.
Sorry Neal, I was wrong. For me Neal Stephenson was a bit of an acquired taste. My first Stephenson exposure was with SNOWCRASH, a zany over-the-top Sci-Fi farce with quirky characters, tight plotting and fascinating ideas—try an ancient software virus in the human brain. My next Neal Stephenson encounter was THE DIAMOND AGE and this was for years my last. It was not until revisiting SNOWCRASH now as an audiobook (narrated by the superb Jonathan Davis) that I realized that anyone able to reach such dizzying fictional heights once deserves more than one strike. It was after this that I listened to ANATHEM; strike two. But there was one more title that had received acclaim that I first had to tackle before relegating Stephenson to one-hit-wonder status: CRYPTONOMICON. This was a home run; different from SNOWCRASH in almost every way but still wonderful, and really long. From this I learned three things: (1) Stephenson was not easy to pigeon-hole; and (2) He could handle fictional works in the long form; and (3) If you are not preoccupied with plot advancement, the rabbit trails can be quite scenic. So, once I learned that many of the characters in CRYPTONOMICON had ancestors in THE BAROQUE CYCLE, I determined to tackle the whole lot back-to-back, as if it were one giant novel. QUICKSILVER is the first audio installment of THE BAROQUE CYCLE, which is here divided into seven installments. In print form it is broken into eight books published in three hefty volumes.
I could tell from the comments of other listeners that this huge tome is not for everyone. If you require fast tight plotting, this may not be for you. If you enjoy witty repartee between vagabonds, kings, courtiers and thieves then this may be the mother lode. I liken Neal Stephenson to Gene Wolfe; another writer who can keep my interest just by the brilliance of his prose. It was in the middle of ODALISQUE, book three in the cycle, that I realized I didn’t much care that the plot was just creeping along, and that side trips to follow the numerous cast of characters kept taking me away from the one I liked best. I was enjoying the show and didn’t want it to end. This is truly not seven different novels, but one huge novel tied together by recurring characters and one vast and very satisfying story arc.
This accomplishment by Neal Stevenson is just the thing that the term magnum opus was coined for. Mr. Stevenson demonstrates his ability to manage a vast narrative alternate history and retains his focus over two-thousand six-hundred eighty-eight hardcover pages, through one-hundred fourteen hours of audiobook narration; yet the feel and texture and pacing is consistent throughout the entire work. Amazing. If you decide to tackle this tome you will be rewarded. It may cause you to rethink the whole audiobook medium.
I really enjoyed Stephenson’s insights into the politics of the scientific community, revolving around Isaac Newton. The fusing of Natural Philosophy (science), Alchemy, commodity-based monetary theory, rags-to-riches character transformations, and court intrigue make for a fascinating experience. Listening to this series is like taking a time-travel vacation to the eighteenth century. The shabby, muddy, miasmic grunge of the period’s living conditions sometimes remind me of Monty Python and the Holy Grail or Jabberwocky, with associated punch-lines. This is a very different world from the one we live in but I began to think I might understand it a little better and found that, in some ways, it might not be so bad.
If you are at all interested in free-market economics, and commodity-based monetary theory then one of the long-term story arcs will be of intense interest to you. Stevenson explores the impact of the foundation of the central Bank of England upon the flow of gold. And his deft insertion of an Alchemical component into the mix creates an enjoyable element of mystery. This is the story-line that required one-hundred hours to tell.
This is a Science Fiction work because the alternate-history angle with Alchemy infecting the realm of science will appeal to the SF fan. If you were provided with a plot outline or given some character sketches you may think this an historical novel, and it could be read from that perspective. But Science Fiction readers don’t as a rule read historical novels, but they will read this, therefore, whatever qualities it possesses, justify the SF label.
—PERSISTENT THEMES OF THE BAROQUE CYCLE—
Predestination versus Free-Will is on everyone’s mind
The debate between Protestantism versus Catholicism had a huge political impact
Geocentrism versus Heliocentrism is the only thing everyone can agree upon
Commodity-based Monetary theory makes the world work
Court Intrigue and witty conversations provide joy in every circumstance
Meritocracy rags-to-riches stories abound
People can endure much if they have hope
Vagabond underworld versus Persons of Quality show we have much in common
Alchemy counterpoised with Natural Philosophy revel the nature of science
Encryption and secret writing have long been employed
True love makes life worth living
Courtly liaisons show the shallowness of the ruling class to whom society is entrusted
Simon Prebble does yeoman’s work on this production. To my ear he nailed every single pronunciation of every word in the course of over one-hundred hours of narration—no mean feat. His character voicings are subtle but immediately recognizable. His talent allows him to even give convincing alternate pronunciations of words to the different characters that are appropriate to their individual personalities. The more foppish English characters habitually emphasize different syllables than the lower class characters. Despite the deep quality of his voice Simon Prebble handles both male and female character voices convincingly. His voice has a limited range but I was constantly amazed at how he could make subtle alterations in inflection, diction and pacing to effectively distinguish the various characters in a conversation. Simon Prebble achieves the desirable state of occupying the place in your head usually reserved for your own internal sub-vocalizations when you are reading a print book to yourself. This is a high achievement indeed and makes this a soothing book experience.
Narrated by Simon Prebble (Main text)
Kevin Pariseau (Chapter epigraphs)
Neal Stephenson (Introduction)
Reading Fantasy and SCI-FI on audible.
This is a pretty catching novel of what is a series about a pretty fascinating time in history. While I am not always sure what the point of the book is, the tale is great. The characters kind of flow through life, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. The time period is fascinating and you meet a lot of characters you will see through the rest of the series.
A very generous helping of period details, this book makes sense of the Pilgrims, the crypto-Catholics, the origins of British science in the Royal Society, Newton, Leibnitz, the fourteenth Louis, Oliver Cromwell, John Churchill, Hanging Judge Jeffries; the London Black Death of 1665, and the Great Fire of 1666
The explosive extraction of phosphorous by the unbearably foul distillation of vast quantities of urine; the production of wooten steel; how an Irishman with a stick kills an armored nobleman as though he were an insect; the encampment of the Turks at the Battle of Vienna, with Jan Sobieski;
I often cheered
This is the first volume (of 8? 11?) of The Baroque Cycle, the best thing ever written by Neal Stephenson, who is a wonderful author. This is a slow start for the Cycle; if you're not sure if you want to read the whole cycle, start instead with Book 2 (Odalisque) or Book 3, volumes that provide more early action.
Quicksilver was published as a single volume, including "books" 1-3. The "books" were broken into three audiobooks, which is a) three times the price and b) breaks syncing with the Kindle book as the syncing does not continue with "King of the Vagabonds" and "Odalisque".
The story and performance are great, but this is too annoying to ignore.
I wish it had included the other two volumes that make up the print/ebook edition of "Quicksilver." As it is, it is only the first third of the book.
This ends after the first third of the book, so there isn't a real ending. I found the ending to the book a bit disappointing, in that after 927 pages not much had actually been resolved. I found it interesting enough to immediately buy "The Confusion," which is the sequel to this book.
This is a fast, entertaining book. The narrators were good, but it is probably best enjoyed in print form so that you can quickly skim through the parts where Stephenson goes on a long tangent totally unrelated to the story.
Easily entertained and amused.
The narration was good, historical facts mildly interesting, plot was weak. I noticed it was a series and downloaded all three. After listening to the first, I thought it was mediocre at best but couldn't imagine anyone publishing a series if it didn't have some appeal somewhere. I assumed book 2 would improve on book 1 and 3 would be the pinnacle that everyone seemed to be raving about. Book 2 was even worse, I could not stay awake. I never downloaded book 3 and am looking to return it.
Enjoyed this book several years ago and still have the hardback in my library. Thought I'd like to give it a listen. Discovered that Audible broke it into thirds and sold each third as a separate book. If this is a trend..... count me out.
I'd loved all the other Stephson that I have read but this book just didn't do it for me. I couldn't stay awake, and couldn't figure out what was supposed to be going on or why I should care. There didn't seem to be any story here.
I stayed with this book long after I thought I should have abandoned it. As it turns out, my first instinct was correct. I should have abandoned it.
The ONLY thing going for this book is the insight that it provides into some of the daily life in the 17th century, as well as the state of scientific knowledge in those times. If you have a scientific or engineering background you will probably enjoy learning the history of some of Newton’s laws, for example. If you aren’t that interested in the development of science, this book will be even more boring for you than it was for me.
I stuck with it because the series got pretty good reviews, even though the reviews for this particular book are mediocre. I did not take into account that reviews for a series should ALWAYS be better than the reviews for the first book, because people who don’t like the first book won’t listen to the rest of the series.
The narration by Simon Prebble is good, but isn’t five-star. I occasionally couldn’t distinguish one character’s voice from another. His voice does have a quality about it that seems to suit the material; that is, it goes with the book.
I should have paid more attention to the critical reviewers. You should too.
Step into Baroque
Fighting off Pirates outside of Boston Harbor
Never dominated the story, underscores dialogue with varied natural sounding voices
I had to concentrate to listen - I could not do other brain work while listening.
This is the start of a wonderful series of books.