I started Quicksilver a bazillion years ago. It was the first book I started in 2010! I took a hiatus to read Wolf Hall because I was only on page 300 (of 927!) and I COULD. NOT. WAIT. for some quality Tudor time. I’ll say this for Quicksilver: it was remarkably easy to pick it back up again. I thought I might have to start over or back track a lot, but no, it was easy to jump right back in.
Which isn’t to say that the book was always easy to follow. Especially in the Jack Shaftoe/Eliza sections, I’m still not entirely sure the details of who got involved with what and with whom and why and how in the hell they ended up THERE, but I just let it go and it was possible to move on without necessarily knowing how the hell THAT happened. (Kind of like Lost, in a way…but without the flashbacks. Or the island. Just in that “Ok, I’m just going to pretend I know what happened and leave it at that” kind of way.)
Neal Stephenson has absolutely been cemented as one of my favorite authors and I’m totally looking forward to books 2 & 3 of the Baroque Cycle. I’ll admit it: it’s because they’re big. I like big books and I can not lie. If I see an exceptionally large book, I am COMPELLED to read it. Part of the initial attraction to Stephenson is that Cryptonomicon was so effin’ LARGE. It’s also what got me to pick up Infinite Jest the first time. Stephenson is my kind of writer: a triology of books each clocking in at 800+ pages. Excellent.
800+ pages that never drag. I read this pretty much exclusively before bed, and it was consistent that each evening, I would have trouble putting it down. Every 20 minute chunk was as good as the last. Some chunks were so good that they got extended to 45 minute to 1 hr chunks and kept me up past my bedtime. Well worth it.
The book is divided into three “sections” following three inter-related main characters: Daniel Waterhouse (a scientist with the “Royal Society” of London), “Half-Cocked” Jack Shaftoe (a Vagabond), and Eliza (who is originally found in a harem, which is really all I can say without getting spoiler-y). My favorite sections were the Daniel Waterhouse sections – I’m really fascinated with science history and the antics of nerds. I live with an engineer and my life kind of resembles The Big Bang Theory, so the Royal Society seemed exceptionally realistic to me. Isaac Newton is an especially well written character – very believable “crazy genius.” I found the Eliza sections kind of hard to suspend disbelief at times that a lady was doing all of this stuff back in the seventeenth century. I’m all down with feminism, but this seemed a bit “revisionist” to think that she’d be that audacious and not get her head cut off. Her adventures are certainly compelling, but they do skirt the “willing suspension of disbelief” line. I’m pretty neutral on the Jack Shaftoe sections. Advanced the plot and rather hilarious at times, but I don’t feel much other than a kind of dull fondness for the character. I would read a whole book on Waterhouse, and would probably enjoy a book focused on Eliza as well, but wouldn’t pick up a novel solely focused on Shaftoe.
On to Vol. 2 – The Confusion! Maybe I can finish this one in less than three months… Stay tuned.