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.