This book, although about Half-Cock Jack (no, that is not "half-cocked"), is really a bridge between Book 1 and 3. Jack finds Eliza at the siege of Vienna, and by the end of the book you start to realize that Eliza is going to be more of a character than Jack will.
Book 1 showed the scientists and mathematicians, and their noble patrons, while this story shifts focus on the poor. So there are vagabonds, soldiers, miners, Satanists, Turks, hareems, the oddities and intrigues of nobles, spies, diplomats, early modern capitalism and more. The action is definitely higher than in book 1. Better yet, Neal Stephenson doesn't shift gears back and forth in time anywhere near as much (or so it seems) as in Book 1, so it is much easier to follow, especially if you are doing something else.
The section on early modern capitalism - focusing mainly on the trading center in Amsterdam - is very interesting. Well worth sitting still and listening to that section. The section in which Jack gets entangled with the Satanists is a bit hard to follow, requiring you slow down and pay attention. All in all a number of "laugh out loud" moments, which makes this yarn a rollicking one. One cautionary note, however: this book is a little more sexually oriented than Book 1, so if you are listening in the car with others - especially children - you are going to have to turn it off unless you want to answer a lot of interesting questions.
The narrator, Simon Prebble, shows that the range of his voices is even greater than in Book 1, and continues to keep me engaged.. Hey, you got through Book 1, and if you ignored the reviews there and listened anyway - and found it interesting - trust me that you will enjoy this one too.
Montana passes the Firearm Freedoms Act, striking down the Federal government's right to regulate firearms built, sold, and kept within the State. California passes their medical marijuana law and allows a controlled substance to be sold openly, despite Federal laws disallowing it. The list of nullification is longer, and will continue to grow.
If you have heard someone speak about Nullification - or the right of the States to nullify laws coming from the Federal government - have wondered "how can they do that?" and want a serious answer, this is probably the only book out there that will answer you. Note: this book does not discuss Succession, which is often linked with Nullification, but does touch on the subject in the section on whether the American Civil War "resolved all of those questions".
So, what does the book contain: the history of the case for Nullification. That is pretty much it. It does not tell you "how to resist Federal tyranny in the 21st Century", it tells you the legal case that States make. It explains the language of the U.S. Constitution (very well, I think) and related writings of the time. And it goes into great detail of specific State Resolutions that cite nullification. How great a detail? The book came to an end and the narrator started reading the appendices, which are the resolutions themselves, and the audio was only 1/2 done. That's how much detail.
Listen to the sample audio to the narrator's voice. If you like it,you will have an easier time getting through the book. For me, his voice started to induce sleep. (I know, you are probably thinking the subject matter did, but I was interested in the story up until I hit the appendices.)
Overall, I liked the book because I like the narrative story of the history of our country and of its constitution. I downgraded the rating for the narrator's voice and for the extent of the appendices. Word-for-word readings are too "over-the-top" to me. Maybe I am wrong though.
A review on Amazon calls this "math" fiction (as opposed to science fiction), which ought to give you a good idea of the sort of book it is. That said, it IS good, rip roaring geek fun with the math and science "heroes" of the late 17th and early 18th centuries. There's the English Civil War, Wars of the Spanish Succession, Malburian Wars, pirates, members of the Royal Society of Philosophers, Issac Newton, Gottfried Liebnitz, and more.
Sometimes too much more. This book is certainly not an audio book you can play while doing something else which takes too much brain power; you will quickly lose the thread and find yourself rewinding. This problem is especially acute as the author jumps back and forth between the 1660s and the 1710s following one character.
The narrator is excellent, with a range of voices, allowing you to distinguish between the characters in the book. He does a great British Lord "harumph!" voice. :) There is a second narrator, but he simply reads period quotes at the beginning of each chapter. It would have been nice if he had read the lead-ins that announced the change of time and locale, as it would give you an audible cue that the story is leaping forward and back in time, helping your mind shift gears again.
If you do not like long books (i.e. value for your Audible credit), you should probably move on, because this is only the first audio book of three that used to be what was book one in hardback.
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