It's unfortunate that "Quicksilver" will turn so many listeners off the Baroque Cycle, because the other volumes are much more fun. "Quicksilver" is h..Show More »ard work, and is best thought of as an extended atmosphere-builder rather than a story. It is very rewarding though, if you know what you're getting into.
To enjoy "Quicksilver", you need three things:
* You need to be content with the fact that there's no plot. At all. All that happens is that a guy called Daniel wanders around London in the 1660s and 70s and chats with the leading scientific figures of the age. That's it. Oh, and there's some stuff about piracy in Massachusetts. Don't get me wrong,it's amazing writing and you will learn so much. You will get an amazing sense of the texture and atmosphere of the era. But there's barely a shred of story. Some people won't be able to deal with that. I didn't mind.
* You need a basic familiarity with the history of the 1660s and 70s and with the aforementioned scientific figures. Complete newbies will be baffled. Get prepared to do a lot of Wikipedia-ing.
* You need to want to listen to insanely detailed explanations of baroque science and the birth of economics. It's fascinating stuff ... if you like that kind of thing.
I enjoyed the listen, on the whole, although the wordiness and lack of forward progression does make it a struggle at times. And it undoubtedly is of extremely limited appeal. You might be better advised to start with Volume 2 if you'd like a story rather than a scene-setter.
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 Vi..Show More »enna, 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.
This series must be contemplated as a unified whole. This review is for the entire BAROQUE CYCLE.
Sorry Neal, I was wrong. For me Neal Stephe..Show More »nson was a bit of an acquired taste. My first Stephenson exposure was with SNOWCRASH, a zany over-the-top Sci-Fi farce with quirky characters, tight plotting and fascinating ideas—try an ancient software virus in the human brain. My next Neal Stephenson encounter was THE DIAMOND AGE and this was for years my last. It was not until revisiting SNOWCRASH now as an audiobook (narrated by the superb Jonathan Davis) that I realized that anyone able to reach such dizzying fictional heights once deserves more than one strike. It was after this that I listened to ANATHEM; strike two. But there was one more title that had received acclaim that I first had to tackle before relegating Stephenson to one-hit-wonder status: CRYPTONOMICON. This was a home run; different from SNOWCRASH in almost every way but still wonderful, and really long. From this I learned three things: (1) Stephenson was not easy to pigeon-hole; and (2) He could handle fictional works in the long form; and (3) If you are not preoccupied with plot advancement, the rabbit trails can be quite scenic. So, once I learned that many of the characters in CRYPTONOMICON had ancestors in THE BAROQUE CYCLE, I determined to tackle the whole lot back-to-back, as if it were one giant novel. QUICKSILVER is the first audio installment of THE BAROQUE CYCLE, which is here divided into seven installments. In print form it is broken into eight books published in three hefty volumes.
I could tell from the comments of other listeners that this huge tome is not for everyone. If you require fast tight plotting, this may not be for you. If you enjoy witty repartee between vagabonds, kings, courtiers and thieves then this may be the mother lode. I liken Neal Stephenson to Gene Wolfe; another writer who can keep my interest just by the brilliance of his prose. It was in the middle of ODALISQUE, book three in the cycle, that I realized I didn’t much care that the plot was just creeping along, and that side trips to follow the numerous cast of characters kept taking me away from the one I liked best. I was enjoying the show and didn’t want it to end. This is truly not seven different novels, but one huge novel tied together by recurring characters and one vast and very satisfying story arc.
This accomplishment by Neal Stevenson is just the thing that the term magnum opus was coined for. Mr. Stevenson demonstrates his ability to manage a vast narrative alternate history and retains his focus over two-thousand six-hundred eighty-eight hardcover pages, through one-hundred fourteen hours of audiobook narration; yet the feel and texture and pacing is consistent throughout the entire work. Amazing. If you decide to tackle this tome you will be rewarded. It may cause you to rethink the whole audiobook medium.
I really enjoyed Stephenson’s insights into the politics of the scientific community, revolving around Isaac Newton. The fusing of Natural Philosophy (science), Alchemy, commodity-based monetary theory, rags-to-riches character transformations, and court intrigue make for a fascinating experience. Listening to this series is like taking a time-travel vacation to the eighteenth century. The shabby, muddy, miasmic grunge of the period’s living conditions sometimes remind me of Monty Python and the Holy Grail or Jabberwocky, with associated punch-lines. This is a very different world from the one we live in but I began to think I might understand it a little better and found that, in some ways, it might not be so bad.
If you are at all interested in free-market economics, and commodity-based monetary theory then one of the long-term story arcs will be of intense interest to you. Stevenson explores the impact of the foundation of the central Bank of England upon the flow of gold. And his deft insertion of an Alchemical component into the mix creates an enjoyable element of mystery. This is the storyline that required one-hundred hours to tell.
This is a Science Fiction work because the alternate-history angle with Alchemy infecting the realm of science will appeal to the SF fan. If you were provided with a plot outline or given some character sketches you may think this an historical novel, and it could be read from that perspective. But Science Fiction readers don’t as a rule read historical novels, but they will read this, therefore, whatever qualities it possesses, justify the SF label.
—PERSISTENT THEMES OF THE BAROQUE CYCLE— Predestination versus Free-Will is on everyone’s mind The debate between Protestantism versus Catholicism had a huge political impact Geocentrism versus Heliocentrism is the only thing everyone can agree upon Commodity-based Monetary theory makes the world work Court Intrigue and witty conversations provide joy in every circumstance Meritocracy rags-to-riches stories abound People can endure much if they have hope Vagabond underworld versus Persons of Quality show we have much in common Alchemy counterpoised with Natural Philosophy revel the nature of science Encryption and secret writing have long been employed True love makes life worth living Courtly liaisons show the shallowness of the ruling class to whom society is entrusted
Simon Prebble does yeoman’s work on this production. To my ear he nailed every single pronunciation of every word in the course of over one-hundred hours of narration—no mean feat. His character voicings are subtle but immediately recognizable. His talent allows him to even give convincing alternate pronunciations of words to the different characters that are appropriate to their individual personalities. The more foppish English characters habitually emphasize different syllables than the lower class characters. Despite the deep quality of his voice Simon Prebble handles both male and female character voices convincingly. His voice has a limited range but I was constantly amazed at how he could make subtle alterations in inflection, diction and pacing to effectively distinguish the various characters in a conversation. Simon Prebble achieves the desirable state of occupying the place in your head usually reserved for your own internal sub-vocalizations when you are reading a print book to yourself. This is a high achievement indeed and makes this a soothing book experience.
Narrated by Simon Prebble (Main text) Kevin Pariseau (Chapter epigraphs) Katherine Kellgrin (Eliza’s letters) Neal Stephenson (Introduction)
This is really a pirate adventure with a lot of historical fact, speculation, liberty and down-right fiction thrown in. It's very well written and rea..Show More »d. A bit overlong in some of the description and detail, but the reading really makes an excellent job of hiding that.
I would strongly recommend that the listerner begins at the beginning of the Baroque Cycle and sees it through to the end, as most of the plot lines begin before, and finish well after, this book. Although it could be argued that this is a standalone listen I do not believe you would be doing the story any justice be stopping at the end of this book.
The reading and production of this is excellent. The characterisations are broad and consistent, with lots of emotion and humour conveyed.
With two left to go, this one has been the most fun. There's a lot less of courtly politics and a lot more outrageous fun. It's all quite a bit over..Show More » the top and ends with the punch line of what has to be the longest shaggy dog joke in literature. My feeling all along with this series is that Stephenson may be the most arrogant writer I've ever come across and he writes these huge checks with his ego -- then he manages to cash them and we all have a good time. I guess if you have the chops, you can be arrogant like that.
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 intr..Show More »igue. 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.