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by George Manville Fenn

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About Book

In Quicksilver, the first volume of the "Baroque Cycle," Neal Stephenson launches his most ambitious work to date. The novel, divided into three books, opens in 1713 with the ageless Enoch Root seeking Daniel Waterhouse on the campus of what passes for MIT in eighteenth-century Massachusetts. Daniel, Enoch's message conveys, is key to resolving an explosive scientific battle of preeminence between Isaac Newton and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz over the development of calculus. As Daniel returns to London aboard the Minerva, readers are catapulted back half a century to recall his years at Cambridge with young Isaac. Daniel is a perfect historical witness. Privy to Robert Hooke's early drawings of microscope images and with associates among the English nobility, religious radicals, and the Royal Society, he also befriends Samuel Pepys, risks a cup of coffee, and enjoys a lecture on Belgian waffles and cleavage-—all before the year 1700.

In the second book, Stephenson introduces Jack Shaftoe and Eliza. "Half-Cocked" Jack (also know as the "King of the Vagabonds") recovers the English Eliza from a Turkish harem. Fleeing the siege of Vienna, the two journey across Europe driven by Eliza's lust for fame, fortune, and nobility. Gradually, their circle intertwines with that of Daniel in the third book of the novel.

The book courses with Stephenson's scholarship but is rarely bogged down in its historical detail. Stephenson is especially impressive in his ability to represent dialogue over the evolving worldview of seventeenth-century scientists and enliven the most abstruse explanation of theory. Though replete with science, the novel is as much about the complex struggles for political ascendancy and the workings of financial markets. Further, the novel's literary ambitions match its physical size. Stephenson narrates through epistolary chapters, fragments of plays and poems, journal entries, maps, drawings, genealogic tables, and copious contemporary epigrams. But, caught in this richness, the prose is occasionally neglected and wants editing. Further, anticipating a cycle, the book does not provide a satisfying conclusion to its 900 pages. These are minor quibbles, though. Stephenson has matched ambition to execution, and his faithful, durable readers will be both entertained and richly rewarded with a practicum in Baroque science, cypher, culture, and politics. --Patrick O'Kelley

From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Adventure, romance, politics, history, theology, magic, science, money and calculus: this audiobook has it all, and it astonishes on several levels. Never mind that it is only the first third of a trilogy or that this massive audiobook consists of "selections approved by the author" (the reading is punctuated with phrases like "here follows a brief summary of pages 167 to 182" or "pages 653 through 677 have been eliminated"). Stephenson's (Snow Crash; Cryptonomicon) masterfully complex and entertaining plot braids the life of Daniel Waterhouse, a colleague of Isaac Newton and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, with that of the "king of the Vagabonds," Half-Cocked Jack Shaftoe, and Eliza, a harem slave turned powerful financier. It is a tale of the pursuit of knowledge in Baroque Europe, peppered with taut action, knee-slapping humor and head-scratching science. BBC announcer/Shakespearean actor Prebble's performance is wonderfully nuanced. His authoritative narration, combined with his chameleon-like facility for character and accent, is nothing short of enchanting. Though he performs both male and female parts, Nielsen reads Eliza's copious letters; initially, this seems like a strange choice, but the shift from storytelling to that of reading merits the transition, and Nielsen's contribution enriches the whole. The experience of listening to this audiobook is something rare, as it's a literary tale that brings history, science and philosophy to life in a heartily entertaining fashion.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From AudioFile
In the first of a proposed Baroque Cycle, we are immersed in seventeenth-century Europe and America--on the threshold of the Modern World. Alchemy is transmogrifying into chemistry, superstition into science. The Age of Reason dawns while crowned heads make war; court intrigue is the realpolitik of the day; Christendom is getting a face-lift. Pirates, spies, adventuresses, vagabonds, Jesuits, and other infidels abound, along with cabals, spies, juntas, conspiracies, waylayings, and ransomings! They're all crammed in here, along with plots and subplots that this reviewer, for one, cannot keep track of, and that principal narrator Prebble is largely indifferent to. When he does pay attention, he conveys some of the author's wit and sense of historical and scientific adventure. Otherwise, he is on an extremely well-tuned, mellifluous autopilot, so that the text neither suffers nor gains. Auxiliary narrator Nielsen, on the other hand, grates on the ear. Y.R. © AudioFile 2005, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine

From Booklist
This colossal novel by the author of the equally plethoric Cryptonomicon (1999) begins the Baroque Cycle, a trilogy set in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, when the foundations were being laid for the science and mathematics that led to the cryptography in Cryptonomi con; and despite its heft, it is readable as well as highly impressive, not least for the feeling for history it displays--something that will, however, surprise only those who haven't read the earlier book. The three main characters, ancestors of some of Cryptonomicon 's protagonists, are formidable representatives of their times and places. Daniel Waterhouse possesses a gifted scientific mind and is trying to go beyond the limits of alchemy to achieve a new understanding of the world; through his eyes, we see such titans of Enlightenment science as Robert Hooke and Isaac Newton. Jack Shaftoe is a street urchin from London who rises to a powerful position in Europe's vagabond community. Eliza, raised in a Turkish harem from which she escapes, lives fairly successfully by her wits, which encompass the know-how for supplying the ingredients of gunpowder. These three have the largest roles, but the book's flavor is imparted in the opening scene, featuring a young and curious Benjamin Franklin. As rich in character sketches as it is in well-developed scenes, Quicksilver will have readers--especially the history buffs among them--happily turning all its many pages. Roland Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

New York Times Book Review
"[QUICKSILVER] explores the philosophical concerns of today . . . through thrillingly clever, suspenseful and amusing plot twists."

Seattle Times
"A sprawling, engrossing tale."

Time magazine
"Genius . . . You’ll wish it were longer."

Sunday Telegraph
"An astonishing achievement."

"Sprawling, irreverent, and ultimately profound."

New York Times Book Review
"[QUICKSILVER] explores the philosophical concerns of today . . . through thrillingly clever, suspenseful and amusing plot twists."

Time magazine
"Genius . . . You’ll wish it were longer."

Sunday Telegraph
"An astonishing achievement."

Book Description

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 exploits of "Half-Cocked Jack" Shaftoe -- London street urchin turned swashbuckling adventurer and legendary King of the Vagabonds -- risking life and limb for fortune and love while slowly maddening from the pox.

And it is the tale of Eliza, rescued by Jack from a Turkish harem to become spy, confidante, and pawn of royals in order to reinvent Europe through the newborn power of finance.

A gloriously rich, entertaining, and endlessly inventive novel that brings a remarkable age and its momentous events to vivid life, Quicksilver is an extraordinary achievement from one of the most original and important literary talents of our time.

And it's just the beginning ...

Download Description
"A plethora of e-book extras, not found in any print edition, including: 1) INTERVIEW: Neal Stephenson shares intimate details and insight behind the making of Quicksilver; 2) QUICKSILVER METAWEB INTRODUCTION: Stephenson's take on his creation of a web-based network that may someday rival the internet; 3) QUICKSILVER DRAMATIS PERSONAE BY TYPE: a complete and concise list of characters grouped by character type

The long-awaited first volume of The Baroque Cycle comes to e-book at last (with loads of extras to boot)! Set against the backdrop of the late 17th and early 18th centuries, Quicksilver tells the intertwining tales of 3 unforgettable main characters (descendants of characters from Cryptonomicon) as they traverse a landscape populated by mad alchemists, Barbary pirates, and bawdy courtiers, as well as historical figures including Ben Franklin, William of Orange, Louis XIV, and many others. This breathtaking story ranges from the American colonies to the Tower of London to the glittering palace at Versailles, and all manner of places in between - and plays out during a singular nexus point in history, when rationality triumphed over mysticism, monarchy was overthrown, markets become free, and religious tolerance gained ground over harsh oppression.

Neal Stephenson's Quicksilver is here. A monumental literary feat that follows the author's critically acclaimed New York Times bestseller Cryptonomicon, it is history, adventure, science, truth, invention, sex, absurdity, piracy, madness, death, and alchemy. It sweeps across continents and decades with the power of a roaring tornado, upending kings, armies, religious beliefs, and all expectations.

About the Author

Neal Stephenson is the author of the bestselling Baroque Cycle (Quicksilver, The Confusion, and The System of the World) as well as the novels Cryptonomicon, The Diamond Age, Snow Crash, and Zodiac. He lives in Seattle, Washington.



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