Mon, 07 Mar 2005

Quicksilver

Quicksilver is probably one of the dullest books I've read in some time. I can see that it might be interesting to someone with a deep interest in European history of the late 17th century, but perhaps not even then.

Quicksilver is the first book in Stephenson's Baroque Cycle, a trilogy of historical fiction novels covering European history of the late 17th and early 18th centuries, focusing specifically on the political maneuverings of the time and the development of science as we know it today. It involves such people as Isaac Newton, Gottfried Liebnitz, Robert Hooke, Charles II, Louis XIV, and William of Orange. The main characters are, however, completely fictional: Daniel Waterhouse, Jack Shaftoe, and Eliza. (Readers of Cryptonomicon may notice the reuse of family names. Also reappearing are Enoch Root and Qwghlm.)

As I mentioned above, I found the pace of the book to be exceedingly dull, despite the fact that I actually have an interest in the history of science in that period. (And no such interest in that period's politics, so the science was merely dull, while the politics were excruciatingly dull.) That's really my biggest complaint. I do feel that the book could have been more interesting if it had been edited down a lot.

Still, I did gain some things from the book. For one, I have a lot clearer picture of the history of the area (and, as far as my research can tell, the history in Quicksilver is quite accurate). But I can't really bring myself to recommend it to anyone other than raving history fans. Almost everyone I know found the book very tedious, and most never managed to finish it.

Steganography and the ending below the spoiler line.

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