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In the second book, Stephenson introduces Jack Shaftoe and Eliza. "Half-Cocked" Jack (also know as the "King of the Vagabonds") recovers the English Eliza from a Turkish harem. Fleeing the siege of Vienna, the two journey across Europe driven by Eliza's lust for fame, fortune, and nobility. Gradually, their circle intertwines with that of Daniel in the third book of the novel.
The book courses with Stephenson's scholarship but is rarely bogged down in its historical detail. Stephenson is especially impressive in his ability to represent dialogue over the evolving worldview of seventeenth-century scientists and enliven the most abstruse explanation of theory. Though replete with science, the novel is as much about the complex struggles for political ascendancy and the workings of financial markets. Further, the novel's literary ambitions match its physical size. Stephenson narrates through epistolary chapters, fragments of plays and poems, journal entries, maps, drawings, genealogic tables, and copious contemporary epigrams. But, caught in this richness, the prose is occasionally neglected and wants editing. Further, anticipating a cycle, the book does not provide a satisfying conclusion to its 900 pages. These are minor quibbles, though. Stephenson has matched ambition to execution, and his faithful, durable readers will be both entertained and richly rewarded with a practicum in Baroque science, cypher, culture, and politics. --Patrick O'Kelley --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Think scope and breadth of Game of Thrones, set in actual 17th century Europe. Historical fiction set on a massive scale.Published 3 days ago by A. Eifler
I love this book! The humor and excess of the author can be categorized as Rabelaisian. The characters are larger than life--much larger than life--and their adventures are the... Read morePublished 16 days ago by thorsprincess
In the time since its publication, this book, truly the first third of one long novel, has become beloved to me. Read morePublished 21 days ago by MarkB
What can I say? Neal Stephenson could publish his grocery shopping list, and I think I would eagerly devour it. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Max A. Wilkins
I will admit, it took two attempts to get hooked into this book. The first time I only got 30 minutes in and got bored, but the second time I gave it a bit longer and got totally... Read morePublished 1 month ago by J A
A rambling good time read that weaves the world's most interesting and enlightening figures of an era into a complex tale. I can't wait to read the next volume. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Bri
An almost indescribable mix of scholarly, funny, techno-nerdish, swasshbuckling, gritty magic. Read it!Published 3 months ago by Andrew C. Hook