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There's no way I can do justice to a 3,000 page epic in a little blog post. But I have to try, because Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle is one of the most enjoyable reading experiences I've had in years.
Here's a Mouthful
The three books of playful historical fiction Quicksilver, The Confusion, and The System of the World touch upon scientific exploration, picaresque action, romance, the supernatural, cryptography, science fiction, seafaring pirate adventure, alchemical secrecy, economic manipulation, whodunit mystery, the origins of binary computation, and political, religious, and courtly intrigues.
Over 40 Years Elapse
Although the story focuses on three main characters, a cast of dozens populate the worldwide action set between 1661 and 1714.
Daniel Waterhouse is a Puritan coming of age amidst the Scientific Revolution, trying to determine whether he belongs with geniuses like Newton and Leibniz, with the politically-scheming fops of the British royal court, or all by himself in the new wilderness of Massachusetts.
When called upon to resolve a great intellectual dispute, he risks his life in order to usher in a new world paradigm.
Infamous vagabond Jack Shaftoe wanders across Europe with only his quick wits and sharp tongue to keep him happy and alive. Servant to no man, he leads an aimless, opportunistic life--until he rescues harem-slave Eliza from the sword of a Turkish janissary.
Suddenly he finds himself doing the most insanely daring things, not on account of the syphilitic madness that plagues him, but rather for the love of a woman.
Socially and financially savvy Eliza pursues revenge against the man who enslaved her and her mother, and works towards the larger goal of ending the slave trade entirely.
Detouring into the worlds of stock markets, espionage, and political coups, she becomes caught in the crossfire between Louis XIV and his many enemies.
You'll Have to Read It Yourself
There is so much more: vivid characters, complex ideas, hilarious episodes, thrilling action scenes.
If dense/complex/fun/addictive fiction is your thing, or even if you just want to find out what large amounts of urine have to do with explosives, then here is a gripping yarn for you.
Chris Gray is an Extra Help Librarian (mostly working in San Carlos, Foster City, and Pacifica). He is 30 years old and moved to San Francisco from southwest Florida in March of 2009. When he’s not reading science fiction, comics, or cookbooks, he likes to listen to all kinds of music, hang out in parks looking for animals, cook, and make abstract video art.