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.
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©2003 Neal Stephenson (P)2010 Audible, Inc.
“[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)
I've read the Baroque Cycle trilogy twice since publication - it is extraordinary fiction. The very things that make it enjoyable to me - finely-grained, dense story telling - also seem to be the very things that many of the reviewers here don't like about it.
The plot is rich, particularly if you know your history - Stephenson's story telling and characters come through with developments that are pure kick, intriguing, complex, humane, and understandable.
Simon Prebble's narration is perfectly fitting and well done - masterful acting, really. The many characters are all distinct to the ear and the imagination. If you liked the read, you shouldn't be dissappointed.
I gave up on this book about 3 1/2 hours into it. The narration was putting me to sleep & the story!!!!
I like historical fiction a lot and have listened to scores of books since joining audible.com but this is one of only a couple of books that I simply could not finish. I had high hopes for the book and the series after reading the publisher's summary but the book never develops. I like long detailed books, but this one rambles aimlessly, sometimes providing exhaustive lists which drone on until the point at which I wished for an accident on the freeway to take my mind off the book. Here is an example. At one point, about 5 ?? hours into the book the topic of ???punishments??? is discussed. The list which follows for the next five minutes is laborious and mind numbing but when it ends, it simply ends and the author goes on to another topic without tying the last five minutes to anything before or after (at least as long as I continued to listen). Which brings me to the biggest problem I had with the book; even where there is an occasionally interesting section it is all too quickly gone without advancing the story line.
After reading some of the glowing reviews here I can???t help but wonder if they were really listening to the same book or if they were related to the author.
Neal Stephenson wrote one of my favorite books (cryptonomicon) and Simon Prebble is my all time favorite narrator. So when I found this series it could not be a better match.
But this book just does not go anywhere! I know I had high expectations, but I really wanted this book to be good, and because of this I kept on listening, but had to give up 2/3 into the book.
I cannot recommend this book. But I can fully recommend Cryptonomicon by Stepenson.
I found the historical and philisophical aspects of the book interesting, but it gets rather boring. It is like hanging out with my geek-friends who don't have a life, only their work. I was looking forward to intrigue and wow, this just didn't have it.
My feelings are mixed. On one hand, the writing style is fairly clever, but there is nothing to move the story forward. As a reader, a vision of an alternate pre-enlightenment era is entirely insufficient in itself to warrant so much reading. This book reads like a late-era European history textbook with a narrative structure. I was never enthralled by the lives and doings of boring rich gentlemen the first time around, and adding a bit of sci-fi to their lives does not, in itself, nudge them into being interesting. Even still, I'm sure I'd have probably enjoyed the book if it had had an interesting plot, (environment and characters being already dismissed to my mind,) but alas, the plot, again, reads like a historical account. The tides of history aren't an interesting plot in and of themselves. For me, there needs to be some serious degree of human drama to propel the story, and there mostly isn't. For readers who enjoy the style, the victorian language, and period, and love the idea of combining something magical with it, I recommend Clarke's "Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell" instead.
I agree with all the other reviewers on this one. There is one reason you might want to get this. It helps you get to sleep at night!
In truth the narration is great, bringing life into what is possibly the most disjointed and uninteresting story I have come across. Even the science history is poor. At one point it mentions he meets I think it was Newton as a boy, next minute he was recommending that someone reads his book.
The overdescription is just annoying too. The author seems to think that it is good if he can say something in a paragraph he could have said in a word! What actually happens is you know what he is rabbiting on about at the start of the paragraph but you have to wait for a minute or so to get some petty detail you don't want to know anyway.
Avoid this book like the plague....unless you have insomnia!
An unsocial freak living his life around audiobooks, the next best thing to under water blowdryers.
I was hoping this would be something diffirent since i am a history fanatic. I usually listen to books while working, but several times the book dissapeared among the hundred thoughts i have which never happens on any other audio book. It is complex and the main character is extremely boring. It is very technical yet it will have an audience with those who find toothpicks and pebbles more interesting than the end of the world or some alien invasion. Did i forget to say YAAAAAAAAAAAAWWWWWWWWNNNN!!!
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.
"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.
"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!
"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.
"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.
"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.
"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
"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.
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.
Very good but it assumes allot from the reader as in there understanding of philosophy and science.. Then there was no science as such philosophy is the unanswered and science is the answers we have today but at change...Newtons clock work universe today is proved not to be but the laws of physics are being challenged..
For merge story gets lost in the philosophy as the characters do
But I will try the second book
"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.
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