QUICKSILVER: Volume One of the Baroque Cycle

Neal Stephenson, Author, Simon Preble, Read by, Stina Nielsen, Read by , read by Simon Prebble and Stina Nielsen. Harper Audio $75 (0p) ISBN 978-0-06-072161-9

Adventure, romance, politics, history, theology, magic, science, money and calculus: this audiobook has it all, and it astonishes on several levels. Never mind that it is only the first third of a trilogy or that this massive audiobook consists of "selections approved by the author" (the reading is punctuated with phrases like "here follows a brief summary of pages 167 to 182" or "pages 653 through 677 have been eliminated"). Stephenson's (Snow Crash ; Cryptonomicon ) masterfully complex and entertaining plot braids the life of Daniel Waterhouse, a colleague of Isaac Newton and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, with that of the "king of the Vagabonds," Half-Cocked Jack Shaftoe, and Eliza, a harem slave turned powerful financier. It is a tale of the pursuit of knowledge in Baroque Europe, peppered with taut action, knee-slapping humor and head-scratching science. BBC announcer/Shakespearean actor Prebble's performance is wonderfully nuanced. His authoritative narration, combined with his chameleon-like facility for character and accent, is nothing short of enchanting. Though he performs both male and female parts, Nielsen reads Eliza's copious letters; initially, this seems like a strange choice, but the shift from storytelling to that of reading merits the transition, and Nielsen's contribution enriches the whole. The experience of listening to this audiobook is something rare, as it's a literary tale that brings history, science and philosophy to life in a heartily entertaining fashion. Based on the Morrow hardcover (Forecasts, Aug. 25, 2003). (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 12/06/2004
Release date: 10/01/2004
Genre: Audio
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