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Quicksilver (The Baroque Cycle (8 volume) #1)

3.91 of 5 stars 3.91  ·  rating details  ·  24,143 ratings  ·  1,486 reviews
Quicksilver is the story of Daniel Waterhouse, fearless thinker and conflicted Puritan, pursuing 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.

It is a chronicle of the breathtaking ex...more
Paperback, P.S. Edition, 927 pages
Published September 21st 2004 by HarperCollins Perennial (first published January 1st 2003)
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Community Reviews

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Bryan
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...more
Kemper
(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...more
WK
4.0/4.0

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...more
Manny
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...more
Jamie
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...more
Stephen Dranger
Feb 25, 2009 Stephen Dranger rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
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
Scott
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
William
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
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.
Lightreads
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...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
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...more
Margo
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
Sandi
Feb 23, 2012 Sandi marked it as lemmed  ·  review of another edition
I tossed this one because I liked it. "Quicksilver" is the book of the month for one of my reading groups. When I went to the bookstore, I saw the mass-market paperback and the trade paperback on the shelf next to each other. I picked up the mass-market version because it was cheaper. What I didn't realize was that I was only getting 1/3 of the book. A hundred paged in, I was enjoying it so much, I decided to switch the full version as soon as I had a Borders coupon.

I do have to say that I reall...more
David
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...more
Kerry
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...more
Brooke
I went on a long Neal Stephenson kick a while back:

QUICKSILVER
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...more
Terry
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...more
Sandi
Feb 23, 2012 Sandi marked it as lemmed
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
Elizabeth
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.
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...more
Liz
Feb 17, 2009 Liz rated it 3 of 5 stars
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
Jacob
July 2009

Ah, Quicksilver. Where to begin? 17th century Europe and England, war, rebellion, political intrigue, religious strife, treason, murder, betrayal, plague, executions, slavery, thievery, exploration, alchemy, wealth, fame, power, adventure, and calculus. Whew. It's a massive book (three books, actually; the first three of eight, collected in three volumes, hence the term "Cycle") and an ambitious project on Stephenson's part, but most of the time it just feels ridiculously bloated.

Book...more
Dan
Aug 22, 2008 Dan rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Natural Philosophers, Mathematicians, Alchemists, Vagabonds, and Puritans
Recommended to Dan by: John
This book is historical fiction at its best. It is jam packed with background on Europe in the 17th century: the wars, political machinations of the royalty, as well as the academic rivalries of continental and British natural philosophers and alchemists. Furthermore, the background of the characters is very well explained.

The book is structured in an interesting way, it consists of three books. "Quicksilver", "King of the Vagabonds", and "Odelisque."

The first book is almost entirely about the P...more
Joe
This book is kickass.

Part 1 is thick and includes lots of philosophy. And dandy Englishmen doing dandy Englishmen things. Some good pirate parts in the current time. The flashbacks are more for background. I'm still not sure if they are going to form a computer that deals with God or what.

It picks up in Part 2 with the Vagabond King. Hell yeah! Turkish invasion of Vienna! Harem girl escapes with neutered man about to go crazy from the pox! Flashbacks of gritty youth spent with criminals! Fuck,...more
Marisa
Neal Stephenson is really interested in the same things I am... and he does make it all sound so fun... but the weakness of this book is its heavy reliance on historical characters, like newton, about whom one might have a different idea than he does. I think that Stephenson is also trying play with ideas and adopt a tone that is forever inching him away from the populist (but excellent) Snow Crash into a pynchonesque nerdville where most fear to tread. I wonder if he'll be able to pull it off.....more
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The Baroque Cycle 18 186 Sep 11, 2013 09:43AM  
South African Boo...: Quicksilver (The Baroque Cycle #1) by Neal Stephenson 21 18 Jun 18, 2013 07:13AM  
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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
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