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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 (1648 )
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  •  
    Daniel Fayetteville, GA, United States 03-28-12
    Daniel Fayetteville, GA, United States 03-28-12 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Great story, great narration"

    In keeping with its title and the cycle of which it is a part, this book is exemplary of Neal Stephenson's inimitable style, though this time wrought in a Baroque form. Great prose beautifully written, outstanding plot, diverse subject matter and realistic, breathing characters, historical fact filigreed with invented fancy. The work itself is almost flawless, typical of Stephenson's handiwork.

    I read these books as they were released, and was afraid that the dozens of characters, each with different countries as their home and of differing levels of literacy might prove confounding to any narrator. Happily I found the narrator Simon Prebble equal to the task.

    Although the characters are numerous, Mr. Prebble makes each one distinct. Even the young and old Daniel Waterhouse get different voices. Mr. Prebble somehow manages to make it obvious they are the same character, albeit one is a version 40 years younger than the other.

    The fact that the characters might be English, Irish, French, Dutch, American, German, African, etc. might present a problem for a lesser narrator, but portraying these diverse accents doesn't seem to be any problem for Mr. Prebble. For instance, switching from Jack's East London to Leibniz's German accent is done easily and transparently, even when they are conversing with each other. Sometimes I think Mr. Prebble might be having a little fun at the French character's expense by making their accents a little outrageous at times. Where there are songs, Mr. Prebble sings; when speaking a fictitious language (the native tongue of Eliza's home Qwghlm) he sounds like a native.

    Mr. Prebble's diction is generally superb, only a few times did I find a muddled word here or there and, since I listen mostly in the car or airplanes, quite possibly due to the environment and not the narration.

    The recording itself is quite good. Constant fiddling with the volume knob isn't necessary on this recording as it is on other audio books. Unfortunately, there is one annoying production issue concerning the narration of the excerpted works at the beginning of each chapter. The difference in the timbre of the recording is quite noticeable, and seems to suffer from undue amounts of digital aliasing. Possibly these were recorded in a different studio? The narrator is different for these, Kevin Pariseau, though the lapse in quality is not his. All in all, a minor flaw that hardly detracts from an otherwise overwhelmingly good production of an outstanding piece of literature.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jerry Hilts Portland, OR, USA 02-04-11
    Jerry Hilts Portland, OR, USA 02-04-11 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "WARNING"

    This is not "Quicksilver" the first volume of the three volume Baroque Cycle.

    This is "Quicksilver" the first *book* of the first volume. The first printed volume, also conveniently called "Quicksilver", contains "Quicksilver", "King of the Vagabonds", and "Odalisque". Theses are separate purchases on Audible.

    So, other than being a bit disappointed to find out that I bought "Quicksilver" instead of "Quicksilver", it's a quite enjoyable story. If you're a science geek like me, you'll enjoy the fictionalized account of Newton, Hooke, Leibnitz and other key players in this key point our history.

    The audio quality and narration is also particularly good, though the Dutch, German and French accents all sound a bit similar.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ted Lancaster, PA, United States 08-31-14
    Ted Lancaster, PA, United States 08-31-14 Member Since 2010

    Don't know what I want to be when I grow up. Trip's cool though. Use Audible to make gym-training sane... And rip my imagination.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    644
    ratings
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    224
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    Story
    "OMG This Is So Boring!"

    I have not been so bored since I tried to listen to, Flaubert's Parrot. I'm thinking that this is perhaps a masterpiece of post-decontructionism. Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault along with their academic fan-boys will be proud that like Jullian Barnes, Stephenson has written a book about nothing.

    Hell is a place with infinite facts that lack connection, which is exactly what deconstructionism is about - ferreting out and eliminating all connections. After hours of listening to Quicksilver try to start its engine… I finally concluded that it either lacks fuel.. or AN ENGINE AT ALL! Okay, maybe by the thirtieth book in this epic, I'll discover that there is a there, there somewhere. Unfortunately… As I concluded after simultaneously listening to Stephenson's Snow Crash… The guy wants not so much to be read… As to be studied.

    Yeah, I get it, Stephenson's smart. He does a bunch of research. But look, I don't want to study a science fiction novel… I want to ride it. This one doesn't ignite.

    I'm going to return Quicksilver.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robin Eugene, OR, United States 10-17-11
    Robin Eugene, OR, United States 10-17-11 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "I simply adore this book!"

    How on earth can I have listened to the same book as some of the other reviewers? This book transported me to England during some of the most eventful decades of modern history. The characters would be sci fi heroes if it weren't for the fact that they lived. The times were so charged! The black death, the great fire, the birth of modern science and America. I have no idea how anyone could read this and not be dazzled. Simon Prebble is as always a master. If you like to learn and think when you read this will be a revelation. If you want mindless fluff, pass on.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alison Austin, TX, United States 06-26-11
    Alison Austin, TX, United States 06-26-11 Member Since 2010

    Miss Construed

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    "Oddly enough I like it."

    Short on story, long on details; somehow, I still liked it. The narration was excellent.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Laurene New York 06-26-11
    Laurene New York 06-26-11 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Complex story, well narrated"

    There's a lot going on in this series of historical novels, most especially the birth of modern science and finance. There's also a lot of adventure and political intrigue. I was a bit daunted by the first volume when I first read it, but I boned up a bit on the history (the Restoration and the Royal Society for the first book) and when I revisited it via audiobook I got much more out of it and enjoyed it immensely. I do think that the narration makes it easier, but it could also be that I'm a bit better informed.

    The writing is, incidentally, gorgeous. This is not just a book of ideas, although sometimes it gets a bit too expository when Stephenson has to make the characters explain what's going on. Otherwise, the prose is very fine.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Debbie Lakeside, CA, United States 01-08-11
    Debbie Lakeside, CA, United States 01-08-11 Member Since 2008
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    "I liked it???"

    Learned some interesting things but, WOW, hard to get through. Still working on it, actually. I keep this one around when I want to engage my inner brainy nerd self.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jody Pittsburgh, PA, United States 12-19-10
    Jody Pittsburgh, PA, United States 12-19-10
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Interesting but not flawless"

    I found this book to be interesting and entertaining, and enlightening of the period. It makes me want to read up on the history of the period. The biggest problem is that it leaves you in the middle of the story, with no conclusion at all, so you have to read the rest if you want to know what's going on. This seems to be a trend in some of the recent scifi/fantasy series I've been "reading," and I don't much like it at all.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert Yamhill, OR, United States 08-14-10
    Robert Yamhill, OR, United States 08-14-10 Member Since 2009

    Hey Audible, don't raise prices and I promise to buy lots more books.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    3560
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    "Be warned my fellow reader."

    While I thought I should have waited for reviews prior to spending a credit on this book, it probably would not have saved me. Stephenson generally gets such good reviews that I probably would have eventually succumbed and regretted only later.

    The publisher review states that the book defies description and genre. I disagree. This is quite simply, a Fictionalized History of Science and frankly, for me, not a great one. If Science History is what you are looking for, try A Short History of Nearly Everything by, Walk In the Woods, Bill Bryson. It's witty, charming and will hold your attention much more than this tome.

    QS is well narrated but, for me, quite frankly the compliments cease there. The book rambles, there is little continuity except chronological that I could glean. While I endured the agony, I finished it but never found any part of it that drew me in and held me captivated. I am a scientist by education and studied science history which is interesting to me. But this book? Be warned my fellow reader. Some folks rate books highly because they think that they should and not because the book actually deserves it. But they are mistaken. I truly believe this is the case here. My only saving grace: it was just one credit.

    133 of 169 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tim United States 02-19-14
    Tim United States 02-19-14 Member Since 2010

    I use my left foot to type my reviews.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    649
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    "Eight Course Meal"

    I don't understand why some listeners are having a hard time getting through "Quicksilver." We all need to remember that this is just the first book of eight in The Baroque Cycle series. If you haven't read anything from Neal Stephenson before, please stop reading this review and go get some of his other titles to get familiarize with his style of writing.

    That being said, I found "Quicksilver" to be excellent with the quirky math and the overall history of the 17th and 18th centuries in the European era. The characters are not all strict and serious. In fact, they are pretty humorous.

    Like a five course meal, you start with a soup and salad. In the Baroque Cycle, there are seven more courses to go. I really enjoy at understanding the premise and hungry for more plates.

    Just think as "Quicksilver" as an eight course meal that you just started.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 11-20 of 103 results PREVIOUS12311NEXT
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  • F Gibb
    Dumfries
    8/3/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Warmed up towards the end"

    Now I loved Cryptomonicron. I LOVED it! (see my review on same)
    I've read a few other of Neal Stephenson's books and I was looking forward to another daft romp through history with this one. But it took a long time to get going. There were times when I felt like giving in. The sense of humour wasn't so prominent during the first bit, and it merely seemed like an exercise in showing off how much he knew about the late 17th Century.
    The second half of the book seemed to get back on track, however. The style relaxed a bit and unlikely scenarios with an infectious disregard for shame and taste became evident. It was definitely (for me) a book that saved itself in the second half. I'll probably try book 2, but the series is on a warning!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Amazon Customer
    Hertfordshire UK
    4/13/13
    Overall
    "What audio books are all about"

    I simply cannot recommend Quicksilver and the whole of the Baroque cycle more. The characters are rich and full and the dialogue natural whilst maintaining a keen sense of the setting and brilliantly narrated throughout.

    I would not say that this collection has a plot but rather it is a journey filled with adventure and emotion and a total delight from start to end.

    I keep a copy on my device permanently and each time I come back to these books I find myself completely engrossed once again.

    Of all the books in my audible library (130 at the time of this review) it is The Baroque Cycle that I urge my friends towards when they question if audio books can ever be as good as printed literature.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • samantha
    Nottingham, United Kingdom
    4/13/13
    Overall
    "Instantly engaging, adventure ."

    For all those fans of Treasure island. This story features all the characters sons and daughters to continue in a follow on adventure. Suitable for teenagers and upward. The quality of writing evokes real imagery of the people and places described. The tale picks up the pace quickly, making you want to know what happens next.



    David Tennant, has a melodic voice, wonderful to listen to, he adopts different voices for different characters making the dialogue easy to follow.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Sean
    belfast, United Kingdom
    12/23/12
    Overall
    "Excellent book, well narrated"

    Stephenson departs from his usual Cyberpunk/Futurist theme with this, the first book in his Baroque Cycle. His bold use of some of the more famous occupants of the golden age of Science could have backfired in the hands of a less meticulous author, but fortunately this book adheres to Stephenson's usual eye for detail and subtlety woven narrative. It is apparent from the beginning that the Author has carried out his research, the use of language as well as a liberal smattering of contemporaneous ideas (Vitalism and Humours to name but a few), helped to transport me to 17th century Europe and beyond. The characters are complex and full of depth and the picture painted is one of a society thriving with intrigue and mystery. The book is excellently narrated by Simon Prebble and Kevin Pariseau, with Neal Stephenson himself making the odd appearance. Overall I found this book to have been a highly enjoyable experience. I am now working my way though the second book in the cycle, which I am also thoroughly enjoying.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Ryan
    United Kingdom
    10/9/12
    Overall
    "False advertising"

    This book is advertised on a UK site as "Quicksilver." This in in fact not the case, instead it only includes 335 pages (equivalent) of a 950 page book.



    This in in fact the US version which has been split into 3 seperate books. At no point is this mentioned and it is an utter scam that attempts to trick you into buying part 1 of a 7 book series, rather than 1 of 3 as it should be in the UK.



    Despicable.

    2 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Catherine
    United States
    3/20/12
    Overall
    "so confusing!"

    got this book on a recommendation from my brother but i CANT get past the 2nd hour! every time i start from there (which was every night for 2 weeks) it seems like a completely new book! i have no idea who the new characters are, WHERE these people are at and what time frame we're looking at!

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Brian
    Preston, United Kingdom
    9/11/10
    Overall
    "Informative but not compelling"

    I have tried my best to listen to the book but have still to finish it.
    The book is informative in detail but is not as gripping as I thought it would be after reading the review.
    Sorry only two stars awarded.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Richard
    London, United Kingdom
    9/8/10
    Overall
    "Better than a sleeping pill"

    A seemingly very dull story read in a flat manner. After the first four hours I almost lost the will to live. Purchase with caution

    2 of 7 people found this review helpful
  • Scott
    Chelmsford, United Kingdom
    11/6/11
    Overall
    "Not for me"

    I got in to Neil Stephenson books same time go and was looking forward to this book, I just could not get in to this book, it took to long and seem to go no ware

    0 of 2 people found this review helpful
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