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.
I found the addition of Katherine Kellgren as Eliza in the third book a little jarring, after having gotten used to Simon Prebble doing Eliza's voice ..Show More »in the two previous books (and doing a seamless job of it, too.)
Kellgren's Eliza is a touch too arch, too insufferably prissy; not how I imagined Eliza to be. It makes the numerous readings of Eliza's correspondence in this book three of the cycle seem interminable. This stands out because, though this is a ridiculously long work, I rarely lose patience with its length - and I remember reading through the correspondence sections of the third book without any impatience or sense of 'slogging through'.
I think her voice is just a bit too much, like trying to make an entire meal of lemon bars. Makes you long for plain bread. I'm hoping this effect lessens as the books go on.
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.
After spending about a month with all three volumes that consist of 115 hours, I have accomplished something that I wanted to do for years. I have to..Show More » thank my friend for reminding me to purchase these books. I'm not a hoarder of books. Just because an audiobook is on sale, I don't get them and save them for later. I don't like having stockpile of books that I might not ever read. I tend to buy them as I go. Having a backlog of reading material is a chore and not a pleasure.
As for the last book in the "Baroque Cycle", I have the up most respect for Neal Stephenson and how well he can tell a story and stay on topic. It is remarkable how focus he was to write almost 2700 pages and publish them within a few years time. Unlike his predecessor George R.R. Martin in "A Song of Ice and Fire", Neal Stephenson completed the "Baroque Cycle" in favor for his audience. I don't like to compare the two authors together, but it seems like Martin is being selfish by not completing his series in a timely fashion. Even his loyal followers, including myself, have their doubts that he will ever finish them.
Coming to the end to "The System of the World" is a bitter sweet. I am relief that it has ended and with the result that I was expecting. I kind of wish that there was a fourth volume because it is that awesome. Besides the "Dark Tower" by Stephen King, "Baroque Cycle" has to be one of my favorites. Neal Stephenson wrote this one for his readers and chose not to extend the tale any further. In that respect, he is a decorative author that enjoys his readers.
I have no regrets at getting to know Jack, Newton, Eliza and Daniel.
In my review of "Quicksilver", I have compared it to starting an eight course meal.