Quicksilver (The Baroque Cycle, #1)

ISBN: 0060593083
ISBN 13: 9780060593087
By: Neal Stephenson

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About this book

Quicksilver 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 it is the tale of Eliza, rescued by Jack from a Turkish harem to become spy, confidante, and pawn of royals in order to reinvent Europe 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, Quicksilver is an extraordinary achievement from one of the most original and important literary talents of our time.This P.S. edition includes 16 pages of supplementary materials.Cover design by Richard L. AquanCover illustration from the Mary Evans Picture Library; painting of Great Fire of London on stepback

Reader's Thoughts

Dan

This book is historical fiction at its best. It is jam packed with background on Europe in the 17th century: the wars, political machinations of the royalty, as well as the academic rivalries of continental and British natural philosophers and alchemists. Furthermore, the background of the characters is very well explained.The book is structured in an interesting way, it consists of three books. "Quicksilver", "King of the Vagabonds", and "Odelisque."The first book is almost entirely about the Puritan Daniel Waterhouse (apparently some ancestor of the Waterhouse family from Cryptonomicon.) He was Sir Isaac Newton's dorm mate at Cambridge, another student of "natural philosophy" as science was called back then. The book follows Daniel through the reformation, the plague years, the fire of London. It also details his involvement in The Royal Society, the British scientific academic establishment. It shows what it really must have been like to be an academic in 17th century England. It also shows how modern science came out of alchemy and the religious establishment. This book lays the foundations for the dispute between Newton and Leibniz.The Second book follows Jack Shaftoe, the "King of the Vagabonds" and apparently the Ancestor of the Shaftoe family from Cryptonomicon. It follows him as he joins an army as a mercenary to fight the Ottomans at Vienna. There he rescues Eliza from the Turks, and they continue from there across Europe. Getting into commodities trading in Amsterdam, and making the acquaintance of Leibniz.The Third book follows a now forty some year old Daniel Waterhouse, who is now an Adviser to King Charles II, and also Eliza who is essentially a stock broker for the nobles of France. This book is much more about the political posturing of the French and British royalties.Also, Enoch Root from Cryptonomicon (who is an Alchemist in the 17th century) makes appearances in each of the three books, hinting and helping everyone along.Each of the three books contain stories about Mathematical and Scientific advances of the times, as well as a continual theme of finance and economics.This book was well written, and very entertaining. However, it was so detailed as to be slow reading in some parts (especially in the third book, Odelisque.) Despite this, the book was fun through out. Although in the slow parts, I enjoyed it more for its factual content than the story (at many points, the density of information reminded me of Jared Diamond's Collapse.) Also, I read this book because I liked Cryptonomicon ALOT, and this book starts the Baroque cycle which occurs in the same world as that book. Also, people in the know, like John Banes and Henry Cohn, told me that it is good stuff.

Ryan

Technically, Quicksilver probably deserves 3 stars. The plotting is clunky, one of the main characters (Daniel) is so passive as to almost be irrelevant, another main character (Eliza) doesn't really make much sense, it's way to too long, there are way too many names/ideas/concepts introduced quickly without any context, and overall it's just a sloppy mess of a book.But goddamn is it a good read. I can't remember the last time I was so enthralled by a work of fiction. After giving up on it once many years ago, I picked it up determined to finish it, and being prepared to put in the work required to make sense of it all. This included many flip-backs, re-reads, googling, and studying of family trees, but it all added up into an absolutely absorbing and brilliant work of historical fiction that barrels onwards without really giving much of a shit about anything. Whether it's scientific debates between historical figures, detailed geographies of various cities in Europe, diatribes on the economic system of Europe, or side-splittingly hilarious descriptions of ridiculous furniture, almost every topic covered is interesting. Bravo, Mr. Stephenson.

Stephen Dranger

Reading a huge 900+ page hardcover book with a seemingly open plot filled with pages of 17th century philosophical exposition and the requirement of reading two more books just like it may seem like a chore, but for me at least, Stephenson makes it fascinating. He reveals (or invents, at the very least) the inner workings of Isaac Newton, early Dutch stock market fraud, the invention of the calculus, and Turkish harems. This all serves as a backdrop for Daniel Waterhouse, Jack Shaftoe, and Eliza of Qwghlm. Cryptonomicon readers will recognize these characters as the ancestors of the ones in that book, and indeed, other aspects of that novel make appearances. The plot is difficult to describe, as there doesn't seem to be a central conflict so much as a description of how the lives of each of these characters progress. As dull as that sounds, these people live extraordinarily interesting lives, and anyone interested in science or philosophy will be entertained by various tidbits Stephenson throws our way.This book isn't really the first in a trilogy as it is the first part of a really fucking huge book. (Technically, it's the first 3 books in a series of 8.) As such, you will be rewarded if you manage to make it to the second volume, where the real payoff for these characters is.Stephenson doesn't have a poetic way with words; rather, his strength lies in his marvelous ability to explain just about any concept. He also remains a master of the alternating academic/punk style that made Snow Crash such a popular book.

mark monday

it took me about a year to get through this one. somewhat worth it, and i will get around to the second and third books of this gargantuan trilogy eventually. i learned a lot about the philosopher-scientists and byzantine politics and what it actually was like to live in the tumultuous times depicted...and didn't learn a whole lot about the inner life of a couple of the central characters. but there are dozens and dozens of truly fascinating and wonderfully written passages depicting all sorts of dramatic and at-times morbid events - more than enough to make up for the relentless and dry detailing of every frickin' scientific, economic or philosophic theory ever contemplated.

Miles

It is always painful to write a negative review of a beloved author, but less so when the book in question is as desultory and tedious as this one. Neal Stephenson is probably my favorite living author, but making it through the first volume of his Baroque Cycle (which is really three books in one) was like taking a cross-continental flight through a turbid storm with only momentary glimpses of clear sky. Any experienced Stephenson reader expects to be bowled over by recondite descriptions of, well, pretty much everything, but Quicksilver displays the needless sprawl and lack of restraint that can render impotent even the most beguiling intellect. For a book that spans a considerable length of time during which things are constantly happening, there is a remarkable paucity of events, in the sense of emotional climax or meaningful developments in the story. The book’s bloated nature tarnishes Stephenson’s brilliance, exacerbating his worst tendencies and drawing back from his best.Quicksilver takes place in late 17th century Europe, with small bits set in early 18th century not-yet-America. It is a fictionalized account of the intellectual, social, and political journeys of some of Europe’s most beloved thinkers, most notably Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz. This part of the tale is seen through the eyes of Daniel Waterhouse (ancestor of Lawrence and Randy Waterhouse from Cryptonomicon), a lesser savant who rooms with Newton in college and goes on to be a member of London’s Royal Society. There are two other main characters: Jack Shaftoe (ancestor of Bobby) and Eliza. Jack is a lovably audacious London-born vagabond who gallivants around Europe with an air of self-determination uncommon for the time period. On one of his many adventures, he meets Eliza and frees her from a harem during a battle with the Turks outside Vienna. They travel together for a time, eventually part ways, and Eliza becomes involved in Europe’s nascent currency speculation business.These three characters, and a massive host of supporting ones, dance around each other throughout the novel, occasionally crossing paths or engaging in indirect shenanigans with mutual acquaintances. They experience many genuinely interesting things, but the book’s plot never quite decides which story it wants to tell, leaving the reader feeling as if Stephenson himself didn’t really know (or––more likely––that he simply didn’t care about adhering to plot conventions). This feeling of disconnection inhabits Stephenson novels with varying strength, but dominated Quicksilver in a way that was both distracting and disappointing.Despite its many flaws, there is much to like in this 900+ page door-stopper. Daniel, Jack and Eliza all come to represent the tension between individualism and allegiance to monarchy that sprang from the Protestant Reformation and culminated in the American Revolution and the advent of constitutional democracies in Europe. Jack is especially flippant about authority and his own status as a person without status. Daniel, the Puritan son of a radical father, is a man whose considerable intelligence makes him useful to British aristocrats, but who is treated as an outcast due to his family history.Describing Eliza is more difficult; she is definitely the character about whom I feel most conflicted. Equal parts proto-feminist and hyper-sexualized temptress, Eliza is a baffling contrast of progressive and anachronistic qualities. I don’t know if that’s what Stephenson was going for, but I was left with the nagging feeling that he wanted to write a character who was supposed to be a strong female in a male-dominated world. In this, he was partially successful. Eliza’s strong qualities are diminished somewhat by Stephenson’s tendency to overemphasize her body as a sexual object of the male gaze. Even worse, Eliza is sometimes blasé about her own sexuality in a way that just didn’t sit right with me. In one particularly disturbing scene, Eliza is coerced into performing fellatio on a nobleman. This is her thought just before capitulation: “What was about to happen wasn’t so very bad, in and of itself” (599). Now, it’s perfectly possible (although I suspect not probable) that someone in this situation could have such a thought, and also that a woman sold into a 17th century harem might be casual about being forced sexually, but in this case Stephenson’s writing really bothered me. Eliza is assertive with her intelligence and sexuality at other points in the story, and is certainly not a simplified caricature. But too often she comes off as a kind of pornographic fantasy that just happens to have a brain and some guts.In general, this novel does a great job of reminding the reader that most humans lived before modern scientific thinking and the plethora of technologies it spawned. Quicksilver is situated at a tipping point in Europe’s historical conversation about what the world is and how we should live in it. Daniel and Jack both represent the struggle between predestination and free will that was taunting Europe’s elite. The idea of scientific truth “pushing back the veil of God” is front and center in the novel’s best moments, with some of history’s biggest minds obsessing over the paradox of how to justify the existence of (or need for) omniscient will within an increasingly understandable set of natural laws. Stephenson’s prose wields its characteristic cleverness and erudition, but his attempts to utilize certain Baroque writing elements largely fall flat, adding little to the reader’s engagement in the story and providing ample opportunity for inanition.My problems with this book stem from the fact that I’m not a European history buff. If I were, I’m sure many of the passages I found absolutely boring would have had me begging for more. The tidbits of intellectual history were fascinating, and I occasionally enjoyed learning about an old type of building, tool, or cultural practice, but more often than not Stephenson’s tangents proved mere distractions from the main story (what little of it there was). The worst part was the politics. I usually eschew the historical details of monarchies, which, as unique and raunchy as they can sometimes be, always amount to the same old shit: assholes trying to get the upper hand on other assholes. I can occasionally get sucked into power-centered narratives like Game of Thrones or Shogun, but such stories need to be emotionally visceral to keep my attention. I really don’t care how Louis XIV and his sycophantic horde of admirers spend their days at Versailles while working people suffer. I don’t care who the next King of England will be, because I’m too modern-minded to want any king at all. Stephenson seems to expect readers to find monarchical plots and authority struggles interesting in and of themselves, and does little to enliven protracted lists of people and events that ultimately have little influence on Quicksilver‘s story or characters.I also don’t care much about the history of money, which plays a large role in this book; it’s just a topic that draws Stephenson’s interest but repels my own. In his other works––most notably Reamde ––Stephenson has evinced in me a fascination with objects and methods about which I have little knowledge and less interest, but Quicksilver couldn't grab my attention enough to challenge those boundaries. My biggest regret here is that I became so annoyed with this book that I stopped reading very closely after the first few hundred pages. I just didn’t get enough bang for my buck by paying close attention, so once I learned who the important characters were, I began hunting for them and skimming paragraphs that clearly weren’t going to teach me anything I wanted to know. It’s also true that elements of this book were simply over my head. And while I managed to follow the story just fine, I’m sure there were plenty of fun and even profound moments along the way that I missed. But I also made short work of a lot of dense gobbledygook.In its finest moments, this book is fantastic––as good as anything one could hope to read. But therein lies the problem: because Stephenson sets such a high bar, it’s hard to take it when the overall effect doesn’t prove earth-shattering. My quarrel with Quicksilver is no doubt due in part to my own intellectual shortcomings and parochial interests, but I also think the book contains some objectively obnoxious and dull qualities. Even so, I love Stephenson and will press on with the Baroque Cycle because I am invested in reading his corpus. He can be a real pain in the ass, but he’s worth it.This review was originally published on my blog, words&dirt.

Daniel Roy

It seems people who have read 'Quicksilver' have either loved it or hated it. I'm sorry to say, I belong to the second group.Neal Stephenson originally became one of my favorite all-time authors for 'Snow Crash', for I felt his prose was quick, sharp, precise and very enjoyable. I remained a fan throughout 'Cryptonomicon', because although he was no longer quick, his drawn-out discussions on Things Geek remained fascinating.I was looking forward to 'Quicksilver', but I'm afraid this book has seriously damaged the affection I had for Mr. Stephenson's work. Quicksilver is no longer witty, nor particularly fascinating. It sounds a lot like somebody who's spent a long time doing historical research setting out to prove the depth of his knowledge... which I guess is exactly what it is.Stephenson spends the better part of this novel throwing out random historical facts of no importance whatsoever in the hopes of sounding as historically knowledgeable as, say, Umberto Eco. It seems in the middle of his research, Stephenson actually forgot about such things as 'plot', because all we're left with is a very, very, very long mess of discussions of things related to historical events and trying to cleverly tie in with historical characters such as Newton or Franklin.To cap it off, this book is only one of three in a series (if you exclude Cryptonomicon as 'Volume 0'.) My god, how can one write so many pages on such a lack of plot? I cannot imagine plodding through another such book, let alone two 1000 pages bricks.If you're thinking of picking this book up because you enjoyed 'Cryptonomicon', try and read a few pages in the library before shelling out the dough. Perhaps you will like it, but I certainly know I did not. I miss the days when Stephenson remembered how to get to the point and pack his novels with action and revelance, instead of being so infatuated with the names Waterhouse, Shaftoe and Root that he felt necessary to write 4000 pages about them.

meg Olson

The first third of the book was generally plodding and lacking in any interesting protagonists (and no, I don't care that the oh-so-clever-writer added in as many famous characters as he could think of, they were still generally annoying). The second third showed much more promise, and was actually really fun, until the very end when everything got awful. Not like The-Empire-Strikes-Back-second-act-as-many-bad-things-happen-as-possible awful, though I think that's what the author was aiming for. Just unneccesary and silly and revolting. Based on that, a quick thumbing of the final third, and the pervasively self-conscious and occasionally completely-annoying prose, I'm done with this one. It had high points. The descriptions of some of the experiments in the first section. The soon-to-be insane Vagabond King. There was even an infrequent well-written paragraph. It appears there is actually quite a lot of story material for a really good book here, but this redition of the plot has abused my trust for far too long. One last thing. The only "real" female character in the novel is badly written. I mean, it's not like his male characters beyond Jack are well-thought out and consistently imagined. But Eliza is a particularly poorly developed character- confusing and often contradictery, with shifting morals and no real reason behind many of her actions. I don't know if this is one of those "well aren't women just like that, guffaw" things or simply another literary over-extension on the author's part. I do know it was aggrivating, though.

Terry

Neal Stephenson needs an editor.Also, it may be cute and even kind of interesting to write an historical fantasy novel using idioms and vernacular from the 20th century on purpose, but it just doesn't work for me.And yeah, ok we get it Neal, you're really clever and know a bunch of stuff...that doesn't mean you need to reference every bit of it you can stuff into the books you write.It's kind of dissapointing because the ideas and possibilities of where this book could have been going were really interesting...Neal Stephenson just kept getting in the way.

WK

4.0/4.0It's the Moby-Dick question.The plot's about an angry guy chasing a whale. There's not a lot of variation on this theme: he catches it, or he doesn't. Maybe he catches it and wishes that he didn't, maybe he doesn't and regrets that he failed. But this basic plot, a straightforward quest for revenge, is such thin gruel that you'd have to be on the lower end of the intellectual spectrum to fail to realize that the book's about something a little bit more than hunting a big fish.Even so, there's no guarantee that you're going to tolerate 20 pages about rope. At the end of the digression, you're either going to respond in one of two ways. You might be of the sort to go, "Hmm, that was some fascinating rope discourse. I had no idea that rope could be used in such multifaceted ways, and having read that, I am now a different and slightly more rounded person." Then again, you could respond with a "JESUS FUCKING CHRIST, enough with the stupid rope already! For fuck's sake, where's that son of a bitch whale? The white sea mammal is the TITLE of the book, and I'm reading about some shitty rope?! Christ, I need some vodka."You should know what sort of reader you are before picking this book up, because The Baroque Cycle is about 3,000 pages long, and Neal Stephenson digresses like an ADHD kid on speed. Melville's focus is a goddamn space laser in comparison. Quicksilver has economics, mining, mathematics, piracy, slavery, early Puritan philosophy and I forget what else.It is genius, pure and simple.This is one of the first great works of the 21st century, and I can't recommend it highly enough. But odds are great that you'll hate it mightily if your concern is the destination instead of how you get there.

Jennifer Uhlich

** spoiler alert ** I have been thinking on how to describe the process of reading this book, and I think it best to indulge in a kind of extended metaphor (Mr. Stephenson, I hope, will appreciate the spirit of the undertaking, even if the metaphor itself is a little simplistic.) Imagine, if you will, that you are pressed against a vast stained glass window, which is illuminated from behind. The space around you is dark, but there is something behind you that keeps you from stepping back to see a greater portion of the window. You can move over the surface of the window in any direction, but you can never see more than what is right in front of you. Your task is to grasp the meaning of the window. At first all you can do is study, and marvel at, the colors and textures, the subtle changes in hue and thickness. You linger for a while over your favorites; you touch the ripples in a particularly distorted piece, or move carefully over one that seems excessively thin and fragile. Over time you start to make sense out of small sections—you piece together a figure here, a deliberate striation there—but you still cannot assemble these moments of illumination (hah!) into any kind of larger narrative. About 600 pages in, you suddenly fit together several sections at once; you start to project outwards from there, sketching in your mind’s eye plausible window-shapes, imagining just how large this damn thing might be. Around 700 pages in you suddenly come across a sharp curve in the leading, and another, and you realize that your ideas were far too mundane for this work: this is not just any window-form, but a rose window, as vast and complex as any you have seen. By the end of the book, you sense that there are at least two overarching themes. One is revolutions—not just the political kind, but also the rotations of bodies, their trajectory and orbits and intersecting paths. Another is emptiness—the emptiness behind it all, be it the celestial framework of the universe or the intricate mechanisms of finance and politics as Europe moves through its Age of Reason. I am dazzled. And jealous. But mostly dazzled. Did I mention that he wrote this beast longhand? That he tried many methods of notetaking, but in the end found it easiest to keep his decade of research “in his head”? Why, then, only four stars? Because this is a book where plot and theme are one and the same, and the characters exist to demonstrate the great clockwork he has constructed. Oh they are people to be sure; but they are people who never linger in a moment, never savor a touch or a glance, never lose themselves in a haze of emotion—or if they are teetering on the edge, the curtain falls, the chapter ends, and we are back to calculus. The characters tell us a lot about what they feel, and it is a testament to the fine calibration of the clockwork that how adroitly they delineate their inner states is precisely aligned with their backgrounds, education, and sex. But we never feel it, we only read it. Did Mr. Stephenson ever weep for his people, as he put them through their paces? Perhaps he felt a pang, regret, but I’m not sure he wept, and a book of this scale should provoke tears. There is a coldness in the prose. I am aware that this was not a sentimental age, but I cannot even feel their injuries, their violent surgeries; I felt more moved by the plight of that poor dog than any of the characters, though many of them also suffer what could be called cruelty. Also, Eliza reads like she was written by a man. She is a marvelous construct for an erudite Pygmalion to play with, but she did not live for this reader. In the back matter, Mr. Stephenson describes how he began the project after reading about Newton and Leibniz, and certainly their work and positions are marvelously rendered here. So this was never a project about the human heart, and there is little room for a poignant moment in a book so stuffed with ideas and events and so bustling with people. But now, able to step back a little from the great window, I find myself remembering a blur of descriptions and ideas . . . and yet only three things really stand out: the meticulous tracking of Eliza’s successive penetrations (Pygmalion takes careful notes, to the exclusion of all other displays of love or intimacy), and two bodies. One is the little Shaftoe boy in the beginning, and the other is Tess’s horrific decay at the end. Both float past us with all the other teeming flotsam of this magnificent teeming novel, and I cannot help but think that something was lost in not giving them more weight. Love matters. But perhaps that too is part of the emptiness, of a world ruled by particles instead of God.

William

I loved Stephenson's "Snow Crash". Really liked "Cryptonomicon". But, this novel was terribly boring. It is divided into three books. Book 1 follows the scientist Dan Waterhouse. Book 2 followed Jack Shaftoe, King of the Vagabonds. Book 3 sees Eliza, a former slave girl, caught up in a spy ring between the French, English & Dutch governments. Sounds good, but it isn't. The writing is too long, and too detailed to remain focused on what should be important to the story...the story. I found myself skipping paragraphs of setting and science-speak to find the plot of the novel, but to no avail. Oh, there are moments of real conflict and intrigue, but they are few and far between. I know their are two more books which will tie up loose ends, (and there are many) but I don't think I will waste my time wading through another 1800 pages (900 per book) to learn...nothing

Mindy McAdams

I'm a big fan of Neal Stephenson, and I bought this in hardcover when it first came out. And I hated it. I got about 200 pages in and then gave up. I was just bored silly. But my best friend (also a Stephenson fan) read it and promptly burned through the other two equally gigantic volumes in The Baroque Cycle, and she hounded me for years -- literally, years -- until I finally picked this up again.I started at the beginning, and this time, I fell under its spell. I bought and read the other two books, and I really loved all of them. I give this four stars instead of five because of my initial experience with it. I can't explain why I hated it the first time, but what I would recommend is that if you loved Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon or Anathem, give this a try. By the time you get to know Eliza and Jack Shaftoe, you should be loving it.P.S. Eliza is one of the best female characters EVER.

Margo

I bought this book because it said on the cover that it was a "New York Time Bestseller". How can this be? The paperback version is 916 pages and I got to page eight hundred and sixty something and then couldn't take it anymore. It was one of the most boring books I've ever read in my entire life. There were only a couple interesting characters and of course they had the shortest sections in the book. I could saved myself the hassle and only read the 100 or so pages that were semi interesting. It was like a hugely boring history lesson (that isn't actually factual) that seemed to stretch on and on and on. I had to force myself to keep reading it and I wasn't even successful. I can't believe people read this book and then liked it enough to continue on to two (TWO!!) more books in the sereis. Also, why was this book in the science fiction section?!?

Jeff

Fascinating insights into the minds, life and times of Isaac Newton, Leibnitz, Boyle, Hooke and many of the greatest minds at the intersection of alchemy and the development of modern science. Also fascinating insights into the development of business and commerce were also beginning in this critical period of history. Some brilliant writing and sometimes drags, but definitely a good read.Some fantastic writing interspersed among some unfortunately slow sections. Sorry for the long quotes, but 2 favorites here:"The notion that the Sun exerted some centripedal force on the planets was now becoming pretty well accepted, but by asking for data on the interaction of the moon and sea, and of Jupiter and Saturn, Isaac was as much as saying that these were all of a piece, that everything attracted everything ... and ... were different only insofar as they came from different directions and had different magnitudes. Like the diverse goods piled up in some Amsterdam merchant's warehouse, they might come from many places and have different values, but in the end all that mattered was how much gold they could fetch on the Damplatz. The gold that paid for a pound of Malabar pepper was melted and fused with the gold that paid for a boatload of North Sea herring, and all of it was simply gold, bearing no trace or smell of the fish or the spice that had fetched it. In the case of Celestial Dynamics, the gold - the universal medium of exchange, to which everything was reduced - was force. The force exerted on Saturn by the Sun was no different from that exerted by Titan. In the end, the two forces were added together to make a vector, a combined resultant force bearing no trace of its origins. It was a powerful kind of alchemy because it took the motions of heavenly bodies down from inaccessible regions and brought them within reach of men who had mastered the occult arts of geometry and algebra. Powers and mysteries that had been the exclusive province of Gods, Isaac was now arrogating to himself." 676-677"Each breaker ... was as unique as a human soul. Each made its own run up onto the shore, being the very embodiment of vigor and power at the start. But each slowed, spread thin, faltered, dissolved into a hissing ribbon of gray foam, and got buried under the next. The end result of all their noise, pounding, repetitious efforts was the beach. Seen through a lens, the particular arrangement of sand-grains that made up the beach presumably was complicated, and reflected the individual contributions of every single wave that had ended its life here;" 689That's some good stuff.

Dan Schwent

This was the book that knocked Neal Stephenson off of my "buy on sight" list. Too long, nothing happening, the first of three dauntingly large volumes. That about sums it up.

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