» Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]


 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]


 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
Neal Stephenson
William Morrow Publishing

Rating: 10/10 ?

October 1, 2004
First and foremost, Quicksilver is certainly not a book for the casual reader who likes to breeze through pages without any serious thought to the events taking place on them. No, Quicksilver, and its author Neal Stephenson, are only recommended to a certain breed of reader. Why you ask? Quicksilver is a massive historical epic taking place mostly in Baroque period Europe that spans over 900 pages. It is also loaded with scientific theories and several heated debates that make British Parliament look tame. It requires thought and time to read and even more so to completely grasp. Most of you should probably stick with Dan Brown for your historical fiction fix. But for those of you willing to think a little, you will find plenty to enjoy in Quicksilver.

Quicksilver follows the adventures of three lead characters. There is Daniel Waterhouse, the natural philosopher (it's what scientist were called before the term had been coined) who finds himself hopelessly lost at sea (no pun intended) in the midst of the many brilliant minds that walked the Earth the same time as he. There is 'Half-cocked' Jack Shaftoe, a swashbuckling vagabond who is slowly dying from the pox while trying to forge a legacy for his children. And there's Eliza, formerly a young slave to a Turkish harem - that is until Jack saved her. Now she's looking to earn a fortune and extract revenge on the man who sold her into slavery. Finally there's the ever so mysterious Enoch Root (a.k.a. Enoch the Red), who is apparently the key to unlocking the secret of the three part series. Throughout the book, the four characters will interact with a multitude of historical figures and help shape the events of the world. Sound interesting?

Quicksilver is divided into three 'books', each around 300 pages. The first, tilted Quicksilver, follows Daniel Waterhouse on his voyage from Boston to London under urgent notice from a Princess named Caroline. Caroline needs Waterhouse to help settle a long running dispute between Isaac Newton and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz over the origin of calculus. This triggers flashbacks to Daniel's youth, from his days at Trinity and serving on the Royal Society. During his flashbacks, Daniel shares a room with an eccentric genius fascinated with optics (Isaac Newton), witnesses a possible murder, watches on helplessly as his father - a very faithful and influential Puritan leader named Drake - gets literally blown up by the King of England, visits his ailing mentor, John Wilkins (as he slowly dies at the hands of a kidney stone), converses with the likes of Samuel Pepys and Robert Hooke and takes a job controlling pyrotechnics at a theater. While back in the present, the ship he is traveling on attempts to out-maneuver the infamous pirate Black Beard and his invading fleet. All that in just the first book.

The second book, tilted King of the Vagabonds, follows Jack and Eliza as the travel across Europe trying desperately to make a fortune. Along the way they meet up with quarry owners,
Leibniz, and even the elusive Enoch the Red before finally arriving in Amsterdam. The second book contains far more action sequences than its predecessor, but such is the territory that comes with a swashbuckling vagabond. Read on as Jack battles Turks, flees from his vagabond kin and, without invitation, enters King Louis XIV's royal ball before boarding a ship which is bound for Africa (and is eventually attacked by Barbary pirates). All of this while slowly losing his mind to the pox! Indiana Jones who? But personally, I was anxiously anticipating Mr. Waterhouse's return to the story.

Which happens in the final book of the first novel of the three part Baroque Cycle, titled Odalisque. It follows Eliza's attempts to make herself into royalty, and thus achieving her dreams of earning a fortune, and Daniel's increasingly more interesting attempt to find a calling in life. If the first book in the novel focuses on science and the seconds focus is on the all mighty gold coin, then the third's focus is definitely on European politics. Eliza becomes a muse and mistress to several men in positions of power in France and the small, but fierce, Dutch Republic. Of course both the French and the Dutch are caught up in a seemingly endless on-again, off-again war with each other and England. While Eliza tries to become royalty, Daniel has bigger things on his mind: revolution.

Quicksilver is a highly addictive and enthralling read that has few flaws to be to found. It is simply as good as modern literature can aspire to be. It is witty, captivating, thought provoking,
heart racing and yes, even occasionally sexy. It will have you twitching in anticipation for the following novels in the series. It is, in a word, brilliant.

Reviewed by Tim Smith
LAS\' resident television expert.

See other reviews by Tim Smith



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