Monday, 29 October 2007

Oh but reader, heal thyself
Put the book back on the shelf

By the time the bus drops me off on the way home this evening, I will have closed the cover on the third and final installment of Neil Stephenson's Quicksilver trilogy. The cycle has taken me a number of years to complete, which I will put down to its considerable length (approaching 3000 pages, I would guess), and a few intervening activities generally incompatible with reading novels, most significantly the writing of a thesis.

I have enjoyed the series tremendously. I struggle to summarise it to people when they ask me what I'm reading. Its certainly an adventure story, with much buckling of swash to be found in exotic locations. Its also well and truly historical fiction, covering important periods of history in Europe, and movements such as the standardisation of currency and its trade, the development of organised science and engineering which eventually lead to the industrial revolution, and the slave trade from a European perspective. Although the setting is different, this mix is very much similar to the one he used in his previous book Cryptonomicon; indeed, he reuses character names (and associated archetypes) from that book, quite considerably.

The scope of the whole thing is quite improbable, and although Stephenson won't win any prizes for being prosaic, he tells a very good yarn, and has obviously done his research well and has a genuine affection for his subject matter.

Highly recommended.

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