The Core Dump

A strong conviction that something must be done is the parent of many bad measures

[By Nic Lindh on Friday, 18 February 2005]

Review: Quicksilver

Whoa. Neal Stephenson’s Quicksilver is one of the most engrossing novels ever published. It is huge and sprawling, jam-packed with trivia and populated with fantastic and richly–sometimes lavishly–drawn characters.

Weighing in at a well-fed 900 pages, Quicksilver is the first of three volumes in The Baroque Cycle, which is intended to be read as one novel. And yes, it takes a while to get through, but it is well worth the time investment, as it takes you deep inside the astounding changes taking place in the Baroque Era, with its rising merchant class and declining nobility, as well as the scientific breakthroughs accomplished by the likes of Newton and Leibniz (both of whom feature prominently in the book).

Perhaps most impressive, apart from the truly heroic amount of research Stephenson has performed, is how well the novel takes the reader into the thinking of the time, not shying away from the squalor and ugliness so prevalent. Also, the sheer wit and erudition Stephenson displays is awe-inspiring. You have to have quite a bit of mental horse power to carry off writing dialogue for Isaac Newton and Lous XIV, and Stephenson does so effortlessly.

On the downside, Stephenson sometimes does get a bit carried away with endless detail, and always takes the long road to get where he’s going. This mostly helps immerse the reader in the story, but sometimes obstructs the flow of the novel. Still, if you’re going to write about the Baroque era, you should probably do it in a baroque style.

Oh, and the syphilis. Who knew syphilis had so much to do with the progress of royal houses back in those days?

If you enjoyed Cryptonomicon, you will love Quicksilver. If you’re looking for a solid read, Quicksilver will not let you down. In fact, this novel is so good it made me break my iron-clad rule of No Hardcovers. There’s no way I’m waiting till July for the paperback release of The Confusion, so the hardcover is winging its way here from Amazon as I type these words.

« Dagnabbit


Enjoy the ten latest posts!

Book roundup, part 27

Includes Hollywood Dead, Tales from the Loop, Things from the Flood, The Court of Broken Knives, and Port of Shadows.

To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle

“Cancel everything. You’re going into emergency surgery today”

Nic has a retinal tear and has his vision is saved by a laser.

Book roundup, part 26

Includes The Storm Before the Storm, White Trash, Calypso, Tell the Machine Goodnight, Prince of Fools, and Provenance.

Renewing the nerd card: Installing Ubiquiti UniFi in the house

The Internet tells Nic to install Ubiquiti gear in his house, so he does, and now he has thoughts.

The greater the ignorance the greater the dogmatism

Working in the pod mines

What I wish I’d known when I started podcasting.

It is impossible for a person to begin to learn what he already thinks he knows

Smell the Foam Finger

Nic starts a new podcast about—gasp!—American sports.

Book roundup, part 25

Mostly excellent non-fiction in this installment. Includes Fantasyland, The Miracle of Dunkirk, Das Reich, The Undoing Project, Waiting for the Punch, Vacationland and Points of Impact.