How exciting is my life? I’m sitting at home on a Friday night eating a PB&J reading a book.
You know something? It beats the snot out of most stuff on TV… with a big stick.
My current reading endeavor is a science fiction, er historical fiction, er, historical science fiction book by Neal Stephenson: Quicksilver. What started out as a slow labor is evolving into a growing fascination (and a pleasant one at that).
Placed in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, Quicksilver is the first novel of a new trilogy, The Baroque Cycle. Stephenson‘s new novel follows some familiar characters as they intermingle with historical figures. The beginning of the novel finds Daniel Waterhouse traveling back to England to mediate a dispute between Isaac Newton and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. At stake: bragging rights over the invention of calculus (I know, it gives me tingles too).
Does “Daniel Waterhouse” sound familiar? If so, how about “Enoch Root” and “Jack Shaftoe”? For some reason currently beyond my grasp Stephenson decided to recycle characters from his novel Cryptonomicon. I may figure out why, but give me a break, I’ve only started the first volume, and it’s just shy of a thousand pages.
What about this book has really grabbed my attention? There’s no computers, no lasers, no one’s died (no one of consequence, that is) and there’s been no chase scenes. Interestingly, it really hasn’t jumped at me the way that Snow Crash did. This thing that has grabbed me is Stephenson‘s well written descriptions of early scientific minds working their way through the first stab at real physics. I’m always fascinated by the unique creativity that comes about when people decide to look at the world in a brand new manner.
So, what do I think? So far I’m intrigued. Not a lot of action, but a lot of inspiration. If you’re a Stephenson fan I can’t imagine you’ll be disappointed. If you’re not, you may want to wait for a) a full review or b) the paperback.
May I recommend: While I haven’t finished Quicksilver, I do give the following two other books from Neal Stephenson high marks:
Cryptonomicon: Another book mixing science fiction with historical fiction, Cryptonomicon, is split between World War II and present day tracing the lives of two generations of characters as they design, build and disassemble cryptographic science. Solid writing with a good balance of theory and action, this book didn’t drag me down, even at close to a thousand pages.
Snow Crash: My introduction to Neal Stephenson was this very engaging cyberpunk book. Snow Crash is a very smooth reading, hard to put down book that never takes itself too seriously (the Hero’s name is Hiro Protagonist, that’s calling a spade a spade). The action is quick, the science is solid and the characters felt real. Pick this up if you like VR, computers or if you trust me.