Monday, 17 July 2006

reading progress

My reading is a long way from the boom days of a couple of years ago, and it had been a few months since I finished a book, but I finally finished Quicksilver on the weekend. I guess the slow-going is not a great sign for a book, but I think its probably more to do with the increased availability of online and online-derived entertainment options than with the quality of the writing, which is OK if not spectactular.

Like Stephenson's other books, of which I think I have read most (Snow Crash, The Diamond Age, Zodiac, Cryptonomicon), he's a passable stylist, but has a flair for making an interesting story. This book, the first in an ambitious trilogy, is much in the same vein as Cryptonomicon, set in real history but telling a fictional story. The setting here is the 1600s, a period which in many ways saw the reemergence of science from the slow progress of the middle ages. He bounces between protagonists a bit, with Daniel Waterhouse, Jack Shaftoe and the apparently surnameless Eliza all getting strong treatment. Its entertaining storytelling, and an evocative impression of the scientists of the time - Newton, Liebniz, Hooke, Huygens, etc - that encourages the reader to look again at their contributions.

I have the second instalment, The Confusion, on order, and that no doubt will be followed at some later date by The System Of The World. Its unlikely my rate of reading will increase, though, with a thesis looming increasingly largely (as opposed to large, which at this point it is not) on the horizon.

1 comment:

Keith Duddy said...

So not a boring and self-indulgent attempt at becoming an epic trilogist? This is the first positive review I've seen of this book. I like Stephenson's earlier funnier stuff, but was put off by friends telling me "he's just gone too far".

In other sci-fi: I'm reading Rudy Rucker's Realware at the moment - opposite end of the specrum, very short, very funny and to-the-point story telling, with a wonderful imagination (akin to Stephenson's future technology projections, but more cute by half).