Cover image for Quicksilver
Title:
Quicksilver
Author:
Stephenson, Neal.
Personal Author:
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : William Morrow/HarperCollins, [2003]

©2003
Physical Description:
x, 927 pages : illustrations, maps ; 25 cm.
General Note:
Maps on lining papers.

"A novel"--Cover.
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780380977420
Format :
Book

Available:*

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Orchard Park Library X Adult Fiction Open Shelf
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Audubon Library X Adult Fiction Open Shelf
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Summary

Summary

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.

It 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 Eliza, rescued by Jack from a Turkish harem to become spy, confidante, and pawn of royals in order to reinvent a contentious continent 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 -- a historical epic populated by the likes of Samuel Pepys, Isaac Newton, William of Orange, Benjamin Franklin, and King Louis XIV -- Quicksilver is an extraordinary achievement from one of the most original and important literary talents of our time.

And it's just the beginning ...


Author Notes

Neal Stephenson, the science fiction author, was born on October 31, 1959 in Maryland. He graduated from Boston University in 1981 with a B.A. in Geography with a minor in physics. His first novel, The Big U, was published in 1984. It received little attention and stayed out of print until Stephenson allowed it to be reprinted in 2001.

His second novel was Zodiac: The Eco-Thriller was published in 1988, but it was his novel Snow Crash (1992) that brought him popularity. It fused memetics, computer viruses, and other high-tech themes with Sumerian mythology.

Neal Stephenson has won several awards: Hugo for Best Novel for The Diamond Age (1996), the Arthur C. Clarke for Best Novel for Quicksilver (2004), and the Prometheus Award for Best Novel for The System of the World (2005).

He recently completed the The Baroque Cycle Trilogy, a series of historical novels. It consists of eight books and was originally published in three volumes and Reamde. His latest novel is entitled The Rise and Fall of D. O. D. O.

Stephenson also writes under the pseudonym Stephen Bury.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

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 Cryptonomicon; 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.ack 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 2003 Booklist


Publisher's Weekly Review

Stephenson's very long historical novel, the first volume of a projected trilogy, finds Enoch Root, the Wandering Jew/alchemist from 1999's Cryptonomicon, arriving in 1713 Boston to collect Daniel Waterhouse and take him back to Europe. Waterhouse, an experimenter in early computational systems and an old pal of Isaac Newton, is needed to mediate the fight for precedence between Newton and scientist and philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, both of whom independently invented the calculus. Their escalating feud threatens to revert science to pre-empirical times. Root believes Waterhouse, as a close friend to both mathematicians, has the ability to calm the neurotic Newton's nerves and make peace with Leibniz. As Waterhouse sails back to Europe (and eludes capture by the pirate Blackbeard), he reminisces about Newton and the birth of England's scientific revolution during the 1600s. While the Waterhouse story line lets readers see luminaries like Robert Hooke and Isaac Newton at work, a concurrent plot line follows vagabond Jack Shaftoe (an ancestor of a Cryptonomicon character, as is Waterhouse), on his journey across 17th-century continental Europe. Jack meets Eliza, a young English woman who has escaped from a Turkish harem, where she spent her teenage years. The resourceful Eliza eventually rises and achieves revenge against the slave merchant who sold her to the Turks. Stephenson, once best known for his techno-geek SF novel Snow Crash, skillfully reimagines empiricists Newton, Hooke and Leibniz, and creatively retells the birth of the scientific revolution. He has a strong feel for history and a knack for bringing settings to life. Expect high interest in this title, as much for its size and ambition, which make it a publishing event, as for its sales potential-which is high. Agent, Liz Darhansoff. 13-city author tour. (On sale Sept. 23) FYI: The second volume in the Baroque Cycle, The Confusion, is scheduled to hit stores next April, followed by The System of the World in September 2004. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

The first installment of the best-selling author's multivolume epic. Simultaneous with the HarperPerennial trade paperback. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

Quicksilver Volume One of The Baroque Cycle Chapter One The Baroque Cycle v. 1: Quicksilver Book 1: Quicksilver Those who assume hypotheses as first principles of their speculations . . .may indeed form an ingenious romance, but a romance it will still be. --Roger Cotes, preface to Sir Isaac Newton's Principia Mathematica, second edition, 1713 Boston Common October 12, 1713, 10:33:52 a.m. Enoch rounds the corner just as the executioner raises the noose above the woman's head. The crowd on the Common stop praying and sobbing for just as long as Jack Ketch stands there, elbows locked, for all the world like a carpenter heaving a ridge-beam into place. The rope clutches a disk of blue New England sky. The Puritans gaze at it and, to all appearances, think. Enoch the Red reins in his borrowed horse as it nears the edge of the crowd, and sees that the executioner's purpose is not to let them inspect his knotwork, but to give them all a narrow--and, to a Puritan, tantalizing--glimpse of the portal through which they all must pass one day. Boston's a dollop of hills in a spoon of marshes. The road up the spoon-handle is barred by a wall, with the usual gallows outside of it, and victims, or parts of them, strung up or nailed to the city gates. Enoch has just come that way, and reckoned he had seen the last of such things--that thenceforth it would all be churches and taverns. But the dead men outside the gate were common robbers, killed for earthly crimes. What is happening now in the Common is of a more Sacramental nature. The noose lies on the woman's grey head like a crown. The executioner pushes it down. Her head forces it open like an infant's dilating the birth canal. When it finds the widest part it drops suddenly onto her shoulders. Her knees pimple the front of her apron and her skirts telescope into the platform as she makes to collapse. The executioner hugs her with one arm, like a dancing-master, to keep her upright, and adjusts the knot while an official reads the death warrant. This is as bland as a lease. The crowd scratches and shuffles. There are none of the diversions of a London hanging: no catcalls, jugglers, or pickpockets. Down at the other end of the Common, a squadron of lobsterbacks drills and marches round the base of a hummock with a stone powder-house planted in its top. An Irish sergeant bellows--bored but indignant--in a voice that carries forever on the wind, like the smell of smoke. He's not come to watch witch-hangings, but now that Enoch's blundered into one it would be bad form to leave. There is a drum-roll, and then a sudden awkward silence. He judges it very far from the worst hanging he's ever seen--no kicking or writhing, no breaking of ropes or unraveling of knots--all in all, an unusually competent piece of work. He hadn't really known what to expect of America. But people here seem to do things--hangings included--with a blunt, blank efficiency that's admirable and disappointing at the same time. Like jumping fish, they go about difficult matters with bloodless ease. As if they were all born knowing things that other people must absorb, along with faery-tales and superstitions, from their families and villages. Maybe it is because most of them came over on ships. As they are cutting the limp witch down, a gust tumbles over the Common from the North. On Sir Isaac Newton's temperature scale, where freezing is zero and the heat of the human body is twelve, it is probably four or five. If Herr Fahrenheit were here with one of his new quicksilver-filled, sealed-tube thermometers, he would probably observe something in the fifties. But this sort of wind, coming as it does from the North, in the autumn, is more chilling than any mere instrument can tell. It reminds everyone here that, if they don't want to be dead in a few months' time, they have firewood to stack and chinks to caulk. The wind is noticed by a hoarse preacher at the base of the gallows, who takes it to be Satan himself, come to carry the witch's soul to hell, and who is not slow to share this opinion with his flock. The preacher is staring Enoch in the eye as he testifies. Enoch feels the heightened, chafing self-consciousness that is the precursor to fear. What's to prevent them from trying and hanging him as a witch? How must he look to these people? A man of indefinable age but evidently broad experience, with silver hair queued down to the small of his back, a copper-red beard, pale gray eyes, and skin weathered and marred like a blacksmith's ox-hide apron. Dressed in a long traveling-cloak, a walking-staff and an outmoded rapier strapped 'longside the saddle of a notably fine black horse. Two pistols in his waistband, prominent enough that Indians, highwaymen, and French raiders can clearly see them from ambuscades (he'd like to move them out of view, but reaching for them at this moment seems like a bad idea). Saddlebags (should they be searched) filled with instruments, asks of quicksilver and stranger matters--some, as they'd learn, quite dangerous--books in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin pocked with the occult symbols of Alchemists and Kabalists. Things could go badly for him in Boston. But the crowd takes the preacher's ranting not as a call to arms but a signal to turn and disperse, muttering. The redcoats discharge their muskets with deep hissing booms, like handfuls of sand hurled against a kettledrum. Enoch dismounts into the midst of the colonists. He sweeps the robe round him, concealing the pistols, pulls the hood back from his head, and amounts to just another weary pilgrim. He does not meet any man's eye but scans their faces sidelong, and is surprised by a general lack of self-righteousness. "God willing," one man says, "that'll be the last one." "Do you mean, sir, the last witch?" Enoch asks. "I mean, sir, the last hanging." Flowing like water round the bases of the steep hills, they migrate across a burying ground on the south edge of the common, already full of lost Englishmen, and follow the witch's corpse down the street. The houses are mostly of wood, and so are the churches. Spaniards would have built a single great cathedral here, of stone, with gold on the inside, but the colonists cannot agree on anything and so it is more like Amsterdam: small churches on every block, some barely distinguishable from barns, each no doubt preaching that all of the others have it wrong. But at least they can muster a consensus to kill a witch. She is borne into a new burying ground, which for some reason they have situated hard by the granary. Enoch is at a loss to know whether this juxtaposition--that is, storing their Dead, and their Staff of Life, in the same place--is some sort of Message from the city's elders, or simple bad taste. Enoch, who has seen more than one city burn, recognizes the scars of a great fire along this main street. Houses and churches are being rebuilt with brick or stone. He comes to what must be the greatest intersection in the town, where this road from the city gate crosses a very broad street that runs straight down to salt water, and continues on a long wharf that projects far out into the harbor, thrusting across a ruined rampart of stones and logs: the rubble of a disused sea-wall. The long wharf is ridged with barracks. It reaches far enough out into the harbor that one of the Navy's very largest men-of-war is able to moor at its end. Turning his head the other way he sees artillery mounted up on a hillside, and blue-coated gunners tending to a vatlike mortar, ready to lob iron bombs onto the decks of any French or Spanish galleons that might trespass on the bay. So, drawing a mental line from the dead criminals at the city gate, to the powderhouse on the Common, to the witch-gallows, and finally to the harbor defenses, he has got one Cartesian number-line--what Leibniz would call the Ordinate--plotted out: he understands what people are afraid of in Boston, and how the churchmen and the generals keep the place in hand. But it remains to be seen what can be plotted in the space above and below. The hills of Boston are skirted by endless flat marshes that fade, slow as twilight, into Harbor or River, providing blank empty planes on which men with ropes and rulers can construct whatever strange curves they phant'sy. Enoch knows where to find the Origin of this coordinate system, because he has talked to ship's masters who have visited Boston. He goes down to where the long wharf grips the shore. Among fine stone sea-merchants' houses, there is a brick-red door with a bunch of grapes dangling above it. Enoch goes through that door and finds himself in a good tavern. Men with swords and expensive clothes turn round to look at him. Slavers, merchants of rum and molasses and tea and tobacco, and captains of the ships that carry those things. It could be any place in the world, for the same tavern is in London, Cadiz, Smyrna and Manila, and the same men are in it. None of them cares, supposing they even know, that witches are being hanged five minutes' walk away. He is much more comfortable in here than out there; but he has not come to be comfortable. The particular sea-captain he's looking for--van Hoek--is not here. He backs out before the tavern keeper can tempt him. Back in America and among Puritans, he enters into narrower streets, and heads north, leading his horse over a rickety wooden bridge thrown over a little mill-creek. Flotillas of shavings from some carpenter's block-plane sail down the stream like ships going off to war. Underneath them the weak current nudges turds and bits of slaughtered animals down towards the harbor. It smells accordingly. No denying there is a tallow chandlery not far upwind, where beast-grease not fit for eating is made into candles and soap. The foregoing is excerpted from Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022 Quicksilver Volume One of The Baroque Cycle . Copyright © by Neal Stephenson. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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