Daniel Waterhouse finds himself embroiled in a dark conflict that has been raging in the shadows for decades. It is a secret war between the brilliant, enigmatic Master of the Mint (and closet alchemist) Isaac Newton and his archnemesis, the insidious counterfeiter Jack the Coiner, a.k.a. Jack Shaftoe, King of the Vagabonds. Hostilities are suddenly moving to a new and more volatile level, as Jack plots a daring assault on the Tower of London itself, aiming for nothing less than the total corruption of Britain’s newborn monetary system.
The Baroque Cycle, Neal Stephenson’s award-winning series, spans the late 17th and early 18th centuries, combining history, adventure, science, invention, piracy, and alchemy into one sweeping tale. It is a gloriously rich, entertaining, and endlessly inventive historical epic populated by the likes of Isaac Newton, William of Orange, Benjamin Franklin, and King Louis XIV, along with some of the most inventive literary characters in modern fiction.
Audible’s complete and unabridged presentation of The Baroque Cycle was produced in cooperation with Neal Stephenson. Each volume includes an exclusive introduction read by the author.
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©2004 Neal Stephenson (P)2010 Audible, Inc.
“[Stephenson is] a know-it-all and a show-off, no doubt about it, but he gets away with the lectures, digressions and excruciatingly cataloged details because he is so damn funny and inventive.” (San Francisco Chronicle)
Stephenson does it yet again! I appreciate how this series captured my interest with the first book and each subsequent book adds a new layer of intrigue. I've learned more about 17th Century Europe from Neal Stephenson than in four years of High School, and thoroughly enjoyed it in the process! I can't wait to tackle the final book.
My reviews are honest. No sugar coating here.
After finishing "Solomon’s Gold", I was excited to get through the "Currency." I was suspecting that the story would pick up in the second book in the last volume. For anyone that has been invested in the Baroque Cycle thus far, there is an instinct trait of Neal Stephenson's writing. Depending on the tempo of the setting, his style can be slow and fast. Unlike other authors, Stephenson let the reader decide on what pace to read these books.
For example, the Baroque Cycle could be considered as a soap opera with Eliza, or a history lesson of the 18th century with Newton and the Towers of London, or an action pack adventure with Jack the Coiner. However you interpret the Baroque's society, you are never disappointed on the outcome. His writing style is not like a bull, charging the gate. His style is more of a turtle morphing into a rabbit.
As for "Currency", I thought that the series reached its climax by going into more in depth in the gold plates and the Bank of England. I've been looking forward to this ever since the definition of Quicksilver. Although I really enjoyed the constant cat and mouse game between Newton and Jack, I was ecstatic to learn more about the financial system and the building of the towers.
There are so many elements in this series, but if you decide to focus on one of it and see it through the end, all of the notes will come together in the Baroque Cycle.
My main commentary is on the last (System of the World) part of this amazing eight part epic. Can't say enough about how much fun it was.
Here, the stories all finally start to come together and make a bit of sense again. We follow our characters as they begin to make major changes in the world around them. We see the birth of "money" as a standardized system. Anyone with an interest in economics will definitely enjoy this portion of the story, but there's still plenty of adventure in there for the rest of us.
Highly detailed, and sometimes slow moving, the entire story will span over 50 years, the reign of many different kings and queens across europe, several trips to America and back, pirates, african queens, and the Philosopher's Stone. Well worth slogging through the slow points to find out what happens in the end.
"Fact or Fiction?"
In this part of Stephenson's epic we continue our tour of historic London, visiting places as diverse as Parliament, Newgate Prison, Bedlam and the Bank of England; while a complex plot of mystery and intrigue unfolds. A sort of Conan Doyle meets Alexander Dumas.
I've taken to going on long walks in Richmond Park with my audio player. This way I can listen for hours on end without any loss of concentration. A really long novel, full of local colour and historical detail, with a complex and exciting plot, is what I require for this. Forget HD 3D movies on TV- this is the true immersive experience because the spoken novel engages the imagination on another level entirely.
For six months now I have been suspended between two worlds and at times I feel unsure as to where I am- I have to remind myself that the year is 2010 and not 1714, and that this is a work of fiction and not history. Now I am unsure- was the long anticipated meeting of Newton and Leibniz cut short by the passage of a harpoon thrown at Peter the Great, Tzar of Russia, in a tavern in Hockley?
Is the Bank of England build on the site of a Roman temple dedicted to Mithras?
And is there really a secret passage from the cellars of the Bank to the Church of St Stephen Walbrook?
And did Daniel Waterhouse build the logic machine (aka computer) with the help of whores in Newgate Prison, and to drive it, finance the first steam engine?
And on the streets of London, was a civil war narrowly averted with the help of Jack's gold?
"Fact and fiction seamlessly interwoven"
The Baroque Cycle is excellent from start to finish but this particular book is my favourite because of the way so many characters and plot strands are brought together. Don't worry if you haven't listened to all the other books in the series - you can start with this one and enjoy it as the stand-alone masterpiece it is.
The interaction between fictional character of Daniel Waterhouse and real characters like Sir Isaac Newton make this story feel well-grounded in the period. The detailed descriptions of London life are intriguing too, especially as many of the places referenced are still present in the London of today.
The narrator clearly separates the many characters with excellent voicing that helps make this complex story easy to follow. It's the best narration of all the many books I've listened to on Audible.
Whilst taking a long series of flights I came close to listening to this book in a single sitting.
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