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Quicksilver (The Baroque Cycle #1)

3.9 of 5 stars 3.90  ·  rating details  ·  24,009 ratings  ·  1,472 reviews
This 2010 edition contains only book one of the Baroque Cycle. (It is not the three book volume originaly published in 2004 with the title of "Quicksilver.")

Quicksilver opens in 1713 with the ageless Enoch Root seeking Daniel Waterhouse on the campus of what passes for MIT in eighteenth-century Massachusetts. Daniel, Enoch's message conveys, is key to resolving an explosiv
Audio CD
Published August 27th 2010 by Brilliance Audio (first published September 23rd 2003)
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This book is just too vast to give justice to it in the few lines of this review that I might come up with now.

If you are ready to read this, here are some suggestions:

1) Start with Cryptonomicon first. You don't need to read this first, but it will help you get used to Stephenson's style, and you'll appreciate Quicksilver better having done so.

2) Before reading Quicksilver, spend some time brushing up on some basic English history. (Did you know that London burned? Do you know what the Monmouth
(The following is an excerpt from the journal of Neal Stephenson.)

After the success of Cryptonomicon, I’m having some problems narrowing down my next project. The issue is that I have far too many ideas, and I can’t decide which plot to use for my next book.

I know that I want do something set during the late 17th century in Europe. It was an amazing time with huge changes in politics, culture, commerce and science, but there was just so much going on that I can’t seem to make up my mind and pic

It's the Moby-Dick question.

The plot's about an angry guy chasing a whale. There's not a lot of variation on this theme: he catches it, or he doesn't. Maybe he catches it and wishes that he didn't, maybe he doesn't and regrets that he failed. But this basic plot, a straightforward quest for revenge, is such thin gruel that you'd have to be on the lower end of the intellectual spectrum to fail to realize that the book's about something a little bit more than hunting a big fish.

Even so, the
I received an unexpected visit yesterday evening from a Mr. Nosnehpets, who told me he was a time-traveller and writer from the early 25th century. He had just published a historical novel, and wondered if I would do him the service of reviewing it.

"Why me?" I asked, bemused.

"Well," replied my visitor with an insinuating smile, "You appear in it more than once. You don't know it yet, but you're one of your period's major authors."

I snatched the book, Mercury, from his hands, and it was even as h
I think it's official: I hate Neil Stephenson. I hated his so called cyberpunk classic Snow Crash --a fact that sets me apart from most of the nerdegalian-- and I really hated Quicksilver.

Quicksilver is kind of hard to classify, if you in fact insist on classifying it. It's kind of historical fiction in that it's set in the 17th and 18th century and follows the rise of empiricism and science. It features real people from that period, like Isaac Newton, Gotfried Leibniz, Robert Boyle, Robert Hook
Stephen Dranger
Feb 25, 2009 Stephen Dranger rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: scientists, armchair philosophers, and people who like reading for the sake of reading
Reading a huge 900+ page hardcover book with a seemingly open plot filled with pages of 17th century philosophical exposition and the requirement of reading two more books just like it may seem like a chore, but for me at least, Stephenson makes it fascinating. He reveals (or invents, at the very least) the inner workings of Isaac Newton, early Dutch stock market fraud, the invention of the calculus, and Turkish harems. This all serves as a backdrop for Daniel Waterhouse, Jack Shaftoe, and Eliza ...more
meg Olson
Jul 16, 2007 meg Olson rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone with infinite patience
The first third of the book was generally plodding and lacking in any interesting protagonists (and no, I don't care that the oh-so-clever-writer added in as many famous characters as he could think of, they were still generally annoying). The second third showed much more promise, and was actually really fun, until the very end when everything got awful. Not like The-Empire-Strikes-Back-second-act-as-many-bad-things-happen-as-possible awful, though I think that's what the author was aiming for. ...more
mark monday
it took me about a year to get through this one. somewhat worth it, and i will get around to the second and third books of this gargantuan trilogy eventually. i learned a lot about the philosopher-scientists and byzantine politics and what it actually was like to live in the tumultuous times depicted...and didn't learn a whole lot about the inner life of a couple of the central characters. but there are dozens and dozens of truly fascinating and wonderfully written passages depicting all sorts o ...more
Stephenson deserves an editor that will tell him to write less. The man prodigiously describes "cool" "fun" "interesting" events with such detail and precision that it usually loses its narrative flow. The guy has a command of the english language and is certainly fascinated by late 17th century and early 18th century goings-on that this feels like a historical narrative rather than historical fiction, yet the whole book feels like it was written in computer code; it is an odd stylistic quirk of ...more
Mark Hebwood
Well. Where to start with this... Ok. Let us first pretend that there are only two criteria to use when analysing works of fiction, (1) number of characters and (2) richness of plot. Now let us say we are drawing a chart, with quality 1 on the horizontal axis, and quality 2 on the vertical axis. Now we have a space into which we can slot a few books lying around the house. A Dickens novel goes into the upper right quadrant of the grid - many characters and rich plot to bind them together. A Samu ...more
Dan Schwent
This was the book that knocked Neal Stephenson off of my "buy on sight" list. Too long, nothing happening, the first of three dauntingly large volumes. That about sums it up.
Stephanie Swint
Quicksilver is an interesting book-especially since you can be discussing two different books. Quicksilver is the first installment of Neal Stephenson’s Baroque cycle. It is a political and scientific monster delving into the 17th and 18th century. The first thing you need to know is that Quicksilver:Volume One is a combination of Quicksilver:Book 1, King of the Vagabonds: Book 2, and Odalesque: Book 3. If you purchase Quicksilver Volume 1 do not purchase the Books that are available in a solita ...more
A long, meandering, Europe-trotting historical which alternates stretches of ponderous natural philosophy with stretches of hilarious piratical shenanigans, to somewhat dubious effect. I enjoyed this, the way you enjoy a book that you read in 100 page chunks over the span of a year, and it's worth noting that I could do that since there's very little throughline. But the thing is.

The thing is, Stephenson made a conscious choice to mix his oodles of historical research with a modern prose sensibi
Charlie Huenemann
(This is a review of the whole Baroque Cycle.)

The saga ranges over the years 1640-1714 (roughly), following three principal characters: Daniel Waterhouse, a British natural philosopher and non-conformist; Eliza, a woman kidnapped from a remote British isle and abducted into the seraglio, who is later rescued and who subsequently makes her way into the court of Versailles and the world of high finance; and Half-Cocked Jack Shaftoe, King of the Vagabonds, adventurer, galley slave, pirate, and symp
I loved Stephenson's "Snow Crash". Really liked "Cryptonomicon". But, this novel was terribly boring. It is divided into three books. Book 1 follows the scientist Dan Waterhouse. Book 2 followed Jack Shaftoe, King of the Vagabonds. Book 3 sees Eliza, a former slave girl, caught up in a spy ring between the French, English & Dutch governments. Sounds good, but it isn't. The writing is too long, and too detailed to remain focused on what should be important to the story...the story. I found my ...more
Reading this book was kind of like... spending an afternoon on a long walk through the countryside, with a kindly but eccentric uncle, who happens to be a brilliant historian. I could listen to his rambling anecdotes for hours... except at some point I realised that we'd been walking for so long... hypnotised by his voice... that I had grown several inches of beard...

It's a big book, but it's utterly fascinating and I loved it.

I have 40+ books sitting on my 'review-soon' shelf that I just don't
I bought this book because it said on the cover that it was a "New York Time Bestseller". How can this be? The paperback version is 916 pages and I got to page eight hundred and sixty something and then couldn't take it anymore. It was one of the most boring books I've ever read in my entire life. There were only a couple interesting characters and of course they had the shortest sections in the book. I could saved myself the hassle and only read the 100 or so pages that were semi interesting. I ...more
Mary-Jean Harris
I don't really know what to think of this book. At the same time, it was hilarious, ingenious, tedious, terrible, and intriguing. But it was always "alive"--I could have sworn the author time-travelled to the 1600s to write this--I mean, how can you known THAT much about the time period without going there?
(I'm new to the whole gif thing, so I hope that worked).
And there were way too many graphic and explicit scenes, so that I almost didn't finish the book. But I stuck with it, and I'm overall g
Jan 29, 2010 David rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to David by: my wife
Shelves: read-fiction
This book is sort of like Woody Allen's “Zelig”, if the movie had been a gigantic doorstop of a book, if it had been set mostly in Europe in the years 1650 – 1713 instead of Great Depression-era America, and if it had had three Zeligs instead of one. OK, so, maybe they're not so similar, but still, like Zelig, the main characters flit from one great historical event to another, influential but unrecognized in life's rich pageant. The three Zelig-like characters are Daniel Waterhouse, Eliza, and ...more
Clif Hostetler
I am beginning the Baroque Cycle by Neal Stephenson. Check this link for further explanation regarding this eight book series. This is a review of the first book, Quicksilver (not the three book volume of the same title).

This is a historical novel with two parallel story lines, one following the fictional Daniel Waterhouse as a young man in the late 17th Century and the other framing narrative following him as an old man in 1713 as he remembers his earlier life. Daniel as a young man was a close
I just finished reading this for the second time; I was loathe to dive into the Baroque Cycle again, because of the commitment involved: three volumes of nearly a thousand pages each, and you know how I feel about commitment.

But man is it great. So funny and clever and I learn SO MUCH (though since I'm learning nearly all of it all over again, clearly I didn't retain much the first time around.)

Uh, okay, quick synopsis? It takes place in the late seventeenth century, mostly in England, a bit in
I went on a long Neal Stephenson kick a while back:

I finished reading Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson about a month ago. This book took me almost two months to finish reading because it is so freaking long and epic. I really love Neal Stephenson. I've also read Cryptonomicon and Snow Crash. I highly recommend reading Cryptonomicon before Quicksilver, because you get to have the pleasure of seeing the family names of characters that lived in the 20th century popping up in 17th century E
Neal Stephenson needs an editor.

Also, it may be cute and even kind of interesting to write an historical fantasy novel using idioms and vernacular from the 20th century on purpose, but it just doesn't work for me.

And yeah, ok we get it Neal, you're really clever and know a bunch of stuff...that doesn't mean you need to reference every bit of it you can stuff into the books you write.

It's kind of dissapointing because the ideas and possibilities of where this book could have been going were reall
Feb 23, 2012 Sandi marked it as lemmed  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cross-genre, sci-fi
I admit it. I have absolutely no desire to finish this book. I'm so very close to the end, but I stopped caring somewhere along the way. I really don't know what it is that keeps me from finishing it. Maybe it's because I only have about 120 pages left and I know that nothing's going to be resolved. Maybe it's because I've read 781 pages and have no idea what the heck is going on. Is there even a plot? Is this book about anything other than history? I can see why people do like it. In fact, I li ...more
One of the most elaborate, detailed and wonderful books I've ever read and re-reading it was pure pleasure. If you want to be inspired by the 17th century, fall in love mathematics and science, or bedazzled by the sheer complexity of a world then this is book for you.
Dear Mr. Stephenson,
I understand that when I pick up one of your voluminous novels, I am agreeing to travel through the written word on whatever meandering path you choose, with stops for quirky lectures from unlikely characters, descriptions of the proper way to eat Cap'n Crunch, or whatever else pops into your brain as you spin your tale. This book was no different, with particularly delightful episodes regarding Vagabond Jack Shaftoe who comes out sort of unscathed through most of his adventu
Questo è uno dei romanzi più difficili che mi sia mai capitato di leggere per i suoi contenuti: non ho mai incontrato un tentativo così riuscito di riprodurre lo stile ma soprattutto il pensiero corrente di un periodo storico così lontano da noi come il tardo diciassettesimo secolo. Non potrei considerare questo romanzo "storico" perché non è tratteggiato con l'occhio di un contemporaneo che guarda il passato. L'autore si è immedesimato in maniera quasi inquietante nella mente di scienziati e va ...more
Courtney H.
Neal Stephenson really likes European history (but thinks it could do with some rewrites), really likes the advent of modern science and the people that brought it about, and thought it would be a great idea to write wittily about those people through the perspective of a fictional character, while using several other fictional characters to muse merrily about every single thing that happened in western Europe over a 60-plus year period in the 17th and 18th centuries. As a result, in the reading ...more
Kat  Hooper
[This audiobook contains Book 1 of the print edition of the Quicksilver omnibus. Book 2 is King of the Vagabonds. Book 3 is Odalisque.]

I’m a scientist by profession and I love history. Thus, I’m fascinated by the history of science, especially the era of Isaac Newton et al. So, Neal Stephenson’s Quicksilver should be just my thing and I was fully expecting to love this book (it’s been on my list for years), but I’m sad to say that I was disappointed in this first installment of The Baroque Cycle
Feb 17, 2009 Liz rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Not for the faint of heart!
This was an overwhelming book to read, and it’s an overwhelming book to try to review. What is this book about? What isn’t it about would be a more appropriate question! Set in the late 1600s, it is separated into three books, which chronicle the adventures of the three main characters. We first meet Daniel Waterhouse, whose radical Puritan upbringing makes him somewhat of an outcast in post-Civil War England. His main pursuit in life is Natural Philosophy, and he enjoys the privilege of being a ...more
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Neal Town Stephenson is an American writer known primarily for his science fiction works in the postcyberpunk genre with a penchant for explorations of society, mathematics, cryptography, currency, and the history of science. He also writes non-fiction articles about technology in publications such as Wired Magazine, and has worked part-time as an advisor for Blue Origin, a company (funded by Jeff ...more
More about Neal Stephenson...

Other Books in the Series

The Baroque Cycle (3 books)
  • The Confusion (The Baroque Cycle, #2)
  • The System of the World (The Baroque Cycle, #3)
Snow Crash Cryptonomicon The Diamond Age: or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer Anathem Reamde

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