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Quicksilver: Book One of The Baroque Cycle | [Neal Stephenson]

Quicksilver: Book One of The Baroque Cycle

In which Daniel Waterhouse, fearless thinker and courageous Puritan, pursues knowledge in the company of the greatest minds of Baroque-era Europe -- in a chaotic world where reason wars with the bloody ambitions of the mighty, and where catastrophe, natural or otherwise, can alter the political landscape overnight.
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Publisher's Summary

In this first volume of Neal Stephenson’s genre-defying epic, Daniel Waterhouse, fearless thinker and courageous Puritan, pursues knowledge in the company of the greatest minds of Baroque-era Europe in a chaotic world where reason wars with the bloody ambitions of the mighty, and where catastrophe, natural or otherwise, can alter the political landscape overnight.

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.

Listen to more titles in the Baroque Cycle.

©2003 Neal Stephenson (P)2010 Audible, Inc.

What the Critics Say

“[The “Baroque Cycle”] will defy any category, genre, precedent, or label – except genius….Stephenson has a once-in-a-generation gift: he makes complex ideas clear, and he makes them funny, heartbreaking, and thrilling.” (Time)

“A book of immense ambition, learning, and scope, Quicksilver is often brilliant and occasionally astonishing in its evocation of a remarkable time and place.” (Washington Post Book World)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.5 (1976 )
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3.7 (1234 )
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4.1 (1204 )
5 star
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3 star
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2 star
 (62)
1 star
 (50)
Performance
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  •  
    Benjamin Kailua, HI, United States 08-25-10
    Benjamin Kailua, HI, United States 08-25-10 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
    18
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    241
    9
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "Should have waited for reviews"

    Reasonable narrator (but not in the league of Patrick Tull or Davina Porter) but relatively boring story. I am four hours in and ready to abandon an audio book for the first time (after many). I would pass on this selection.

    4 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Casey Durant, OK, United States 08-17-10
    Casey Durant, OK, United States 08-17-10 Member Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
    11
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    90
    5
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "Made it half way through"

    I will wait for reviews of book two before I give up on the whole series. Puratins with moral delimmas was not a real good attention grabber for the first book. I listened for 7-8 hour before giving up.

    10 of 23 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rhonda Union City, TN, United States 10-28-10
    Rhonda Union City, TN, United States 10-28-10 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
    12
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    61
    5
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "Did I really use a credit here?"

    Yes, I did, darn it. I never made it through this one. I love historical fiction, and long, drawn-out rambling series--fiction, but this was just really boring to me. It's the first book I haven't been able to finish. Won't be getting the rest of the series.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Steve West Essendon Victoria 10-15-10
    Steve West Essendon Victoria 10-15-10 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    24
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    287
    4
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    1
    0
    Overall
    "Terrible"

    Out of the 200 audio books I have downloaded over I dont know how many years as a member this without doubt is the worst.
    Im reluctant to even give a star it's more a twinkle of a point...

    Please Neal Stephen dont write any more in the series or at the very least read a Ken Follett or Steve Berry to get a better idea of weaving a story through your facts.

    It is slow listening, boring, and the narration monotonous.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Richard Verdi, NV, United States 08-25-10
    Richard Verdi, NV, United States 08-25-10
    HELPFUL VOTES
    6
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    85
    2
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "Boring"

    Once again I was fooled into buying a book based on an authors previous books. While I greatly enjoyed Neal Stephenson's other books this one was as dry as a popcorn fart. I couldn't even get through it. Hey Neal...send me a refund!

    3 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    William Carmichael, CA, United States 08-22-10
    William Carmichael, CA, United States 08-22-10
    HELPFUL VOTES
    118
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    97
    38
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    3
    0
    Overall
    "I didn't want a history lesson."

    Wading through all the great things the author discovered while researching this book became too tedious. Until I sat down to write my review of Forsyth's "The Cobra" I had forgotten that I had not finished listening to this one. That's what it is—forgettable. You could probably find something better on which to spend your money.

    0 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Don Schaumburg, IL, United States 08-26-10
    Don Schaumburg, IL, United States 08-26-10 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    13
    6
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "Boring"

    Takes interesting charectors and beats you to death with trivia and tedious non essential information

    2 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    DAVID CLEARWATER, FLORIDA, United States 08-21-10
    DAVID CLEARWATER, FLORIDA, United States 08-21-10 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
    4
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    23
    10
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    1
    0
    Overall
    "Terrible"

    I wanted to like this book. But I couldn't make it past the first section. So erudite, so boaring, so full of non significant significance. I fell for the promotion of it. If you like the history of this period, stay away from this book.

    2 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amy Charlotte, NC, United States 08-17-10
    Amy Charlotte, NC, United States 08-17-10 Member Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
    28
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    73
    5
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    1
    0
    Overall
    "Yawn"

    Boring. Uninteresting. Dry. A waste of a good credit. Very, very, disappointing.

    8 of 22 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Anne ARLINGTON, VA, United States 03-13-13
    Anne ARLINGTON, VA, United States 03-13-13 Member Since 2014
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    5
    5
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Forest Gump for the Natural Sciences"

    I was first introduced to Neal Stephenson through his book Cryptonomicon (to which, in some ways, Quicksilver is a distant prequel). I loved Cryptonomicon, with its intricate plotlines, its fantastic characters, and its tidy resolution. I was eager to read more.

    Quicksilver was a good book, but it did not live up to Cryptonomicon primarily because it is too slow moving.

    If you are interested in natural sciences and the history of the Royal Society, this is a playful historical fiction that is extremely interesting in its portrayal of those scientists, their debates and activities.

    The main character is a sort of ambling good-natured scientist who meanders through various scientific societies making acquaintance with some of the great minds of the time through seeming happenstance. In this respect, I loved the book and its completely irreverent approach to these great minds.

    However, it had none of the adventure, urgency, or swashbuckling of Cryptonomicon. It was an interesting read, but a very slow one. Amusing and entertaining, but never gripping.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
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  • Tom
    West Wickham, United Kingdom
    9/18/10
    Overall
    "excellent book but.."

    This is an excellent audiobook, very well written and narrated, which I enjoyed very much but prospective listeners need to bear in mind two points.

    First this is not so much a historical novel and a novelisation of actual history: that is, the main characters are true historical figures and the events are, by and large, true events. This means that although the picture painted on 17th and 18th century England is both fascination and convincing, the book lacks a strong storyline and a clear narrative momementum. This means you need to concentrate when listening otherwise you lose the plot pretty fast!

    Second, to really enjoy the book, I think you need a fairly reasonable knowledge of the history of the period, and the history of scientific development - in particular the feud between Newton and Leibnitz on who invented the calculus - otherwise the allusive and subtle style of the book will lose you completely. Little time is spent by the author setting the scene, as it were.

    I'm going to check out the next in the series as I think the books improve judging by amazon reviews, and whilst I did enjoy this one, it wasn't what I expected - hence this rather lengthy review!

    15 of 15 people found this review helpful
  • Iain
    AberdeenUnited Kingdom
    9/9/10
    Overall
    "Ambitious and entertaining"

    The Baroque Cycle is a hugely ambitious work, sweeping across 17th century history. Quicksilver, the first book in the cycle, is centred on the early days of the Royal Society and the Enlightenment. Taking in the power struggles of Europe, the Plague and the Great Fire, it's a great read and makes a particularly good audiobook. Highly recommended.

    9 of 9 people found this review helpful
  • Amazon Customer
    Cheltenham, Gloucestershire United Kingdom
    10/13/10
    Overall
    "A excellent start to a very ambitious series"

    One of the best, most inventive and mind bending books I've read in years.

    If you like your fiction formulaic, procedural and devoid of complexity; then move on - nothing to read here! However, if, you want a challenge, then this is definitely the series for you.

    Quicksilver is a seamless blend of; historical themes, locations, religion, philosophy, world changing events, mixed with a who's who of scientific greats from the 17th century. All of these components blended into a plot which revolves on; intrigue, commerce and power.

    The book follows the life of Daniel Waterhouse a scientist, member of the Royal Society, friend of Isaac Newton, and son of a religious fanatic.

    The true genius of this book is that the reader is never allowed to drift, with Stephenson constantly changing characters, locations and even jumping forward and backward in time. He manages all of this without breaking the flow of the narrative.

    In the hands of a lesser author this mix could result in a boring historical tomb. In Stephenson's hands the book brims with interest. There is action aplenty, particularly during an engagement with pirates off the coast of Massachusetts and in the desperate search of a son for his mad father during the great fire of London. Drama and political intrigue with the mystery of French silver flowing into London. Despair and tension as Daniel walks across a deserted London cleared of people by the black plague on an elaborate scavenger hunt.

    Quicksilver is also very funny - from explosions caused by mistaken identity to hilarious Puritan moral dilemmas resulting from condoms made from sheep intestines.

    Simon Prebbles narration is top notch. Simon has the ability to give each person a slightly different accent or inflection making character identification easy, without turning the story into a pantomime of silly voices. The excellent voice work really shines through in the new enhanced audio format.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  • Christopher
    Pinxton
    1/20/11
    Overall
    "A glorious and enchanting tale"

    Having just completed the final book of Stephenson's cycle I am drawn to add a few words here (in view of the poor rating of some negative reviews) as only now can I appreciate the true scale of achievement of this wonderful book. Don't judge the work from a superficial reading of the first part. The sheer length and complexity of the plot makes demands on the reader, and especially in audio format the narrative races on, characters multiply and the inattentive listener will soon lose the plot; but persevere, put the time in, re-read if necessary and your efforts will be rewarded. In this first volume Stephenson gives a detailed account of Newton's early days as a student; the narrative proper takes off slowly which is befitting in a work that is ten times as long as a standard modern novel. But none of this is superfluous- details from these pages return, mulitiply and resonate in the later story just as the experiences of youth return to us in our maturity; and the depth of biographical detail allows us to come to know and love the characters in the book as if they were real. Also check out my reviews for the final three sections.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Christopher Duffy
    Oz
    3/25/11
    Overall
    "Better than the book"

    When I read The Baroque Cycle it was 10 nominal books packed as 3 actual books, sweeping in a way that Ben Hur got credit for (but, by comparison, just is not) and hugely engaging and entertaining. The audio book is SO Much Better! While 2 timelines are addressed, this is done much better than in the books where, alas, 2 seperate central characters had independant timelines addressed in parralel. In short, the audiobook is a much more sensible depiction of this genuinely world class tale. 'Epic' is, frankly, too minor a term to cover its scope, ranging as it does all over the globe and encompassing applications of power at every level in society. It is by turns heartwarming and horrific, educational and appaling. As a primer in history, philosophy, geography, politics, science and maths it is second to none, and more entertaining by far than education is generally allowed to be.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • P. J. Williams
    UK
    5/2/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Good but plodding"

    I've basically given up with this book, after about 6 hours very little has happened and I just don't feel engaged enough to continue. I know Neal Stephenson novels are very rewarding and you sometimes have to persist but whether it was the narrator or the pace of the story this one just didn't do it for me.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Chris Harrison
    CHORLEY, United Kingdom
    12/28/12
    Overall
    "Science History comes to Life"

    I personally loved this book. It does jump around a little bit in time but it needs to in order to explain the story, and it isn't hard to work out where you are up to, unlike some other books I've listened to recently.



    I've never had much of an interest in history, but this work really brings it to life. Whether or not it accurately follows history doesn't matter, because the storytelling is masterful.



    It does feel like it needs a better ending, and as this is the first of the long series I have read, I assume it will follow. I know I learned something whilst I read this and enjoyed it thoroughly too.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • P
    DUKINFIELD, United Kingdom
    11/27/11
    Overall
    "Excellent"

    This was my first audiobook. I never thought I would get used to the idea of not reading a book. However I found this great for driving, the pace of the reading is about right and I didn't find myself struggling to concentrate.
    The Book itself was great. I will be getting the next 2 in this series.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Jim
    London
    3/19/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Rewards close attention"

    Stephenson combines the politics of restoration England with the history of science to produce a satisfying read combining gripping real life characters, good dialogue and a lively plot. The plot jumps between the period around 1666 and the early decades of the 18th Century. The 1666 sections are an intriguing romp in which a cast of characters from the Royal Society such as the eccentric and prickly Isaac Newton bump up against rapier wielding dandies from the court of Charles the second and unhinged puritans mourning the passing of Oliver Cromwell and his republic. The plot is split between a mysterious intrigue involving the supply of faulty gunpowder to the English navy for its war against the Dutch and this is told in entertaining and amusing fashion. But Stephenson's real interest seems to be in making sense of the astonishing leaps in human knowledge happening at the time through Newton's development of physics as a field and the sort of logical and mathematical developments that paved the way for modern information technology. Personally, I found that part fascinating and it only added to my enjoyment of the more straightforward elements of the book. The parts of the book set in the early 18th century seem to be intended to set the scene for future volumes but they include some great passages on sailing and piracy at the time. I confess to being a bit put off by some other reviews but I'm very glad I made this purchase and look forward to hearing the remainder of the series

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Amazon Customer
    London, UK
    1/7/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "good solid Stephenson"

    The story takes some concentration but listening twice is a nice thing and only make the story better.
    characters are very relatable if you have read the Cryptonomicon.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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