Sunday, May 18, 2008

End of The Baroque Cycle (second time around)

It's not for everyone, but Neal Stephenson's three-volume (nine in some countries) 3000-odd page epic (Quicksilver, The Confusion, The System of the World) is a truly titanic achievement. I've just finished reading it for the second time, on this occasion in one great continuous and hugely indulgent splurge. I'm itching to re-read the prequel/sequel Cryptonomicon, which I remember as being stunningly good, but MUST RESIST! I have things to do.

The Baroque Cycle is set in the late 17th/early 18th centuries and concerns Sir Isaac Newton, Gottfried Leibniz, calculus, alchemy, mathematics and physics, and the establishment of systems of currency. It also deals with slavery, Jacobitism and Whigdom, the end of the Stuarts, puritanism, shipbuilding, surgery, plague, fire, smallpox, clocks,Louis XIV, the manufacture of phosphorus, considerable amounts of sex and loads of violence, laced with a very (post-) modern sense of humour.

It was even better on second reading. Normal life, or what passes for it, can now resume.

1 comment:

calmsea said...

Spooky - I just finished it for the first time and it took an embarrassingly long time to read but was well worth the effort. Cryptonomicon is wonderful as well. I've an even earlier one of his lined up to read in the run-up to the US election - Interface. All about a presidential candidate with an implant in his brain that allows the pollsters to communicate with on the fly.
As for the discussion of black pudding without harming animals - I wish I'd patented that idea when I first had it. Black pudding is the only thing I've missed in over twenty years of vegetarianism. I keep wondering "could I get away with it? It's not really meat!"