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I finished this part of Stephenson's epic reluctantly; at a mere 3000 pages this book is not nearly long enough for my taste. So I am pausing to research the background. This part is set entirely in London, ten years since the last part ended and a new world- Daniel Waterhouse has returned from America and it came as a shock to realise that the last 2000 pages have been a flash-back from the sea journey that was described at the very beginning of the book. And what has Jack been up to all this time, apart from growing old? A gripping tale unfolds which keeps me guessing while Stephenson takes me on a sightseeing tour of historic London; and I am inspired to venture out to the city on a cold November Sunday and explore these places anew through the eyes of his extraordinary imagination. And yes, as far as I can tell, his geography is accurate in every detail. I don't want this story to end and there are only two more audiobooks to go.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
With two left to go, this one has been the most fun. There's a lot less of courtly politics and a lot more outrageous fun. It's all quite a bit over the top and ends with the punch line of what has to be the longest shaggy dog joke in literature. My feeling all along with this series is that Stephenson may be the most arrogant writer I've ever come across and he writes these huge checks with his ego -- then he manages to cash them and we all have a good time. I guess if you have the chops, you can be arrogant like that.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
Each book in this series just gets better and better. That is saying something since I gave the first book four stars and the middle one five stars. Others have summarized the plot and sidewindings of the book better than I could, so I will limit this review to two things. 1) The narrator of the audio book, Simon Prebble, is the perfect match for the material, and I highly suspect listening is the BEST way to experience the Baroque Cycle. 2) Neal Stephenson’s writing is simply unequaled. Below is just one quote to exemplify why I say this.
"If you were strolling in the gardens of Versailles you might one day hear sudden noises and turn around to see, some distance away, one fellow, let’s call him Arnault, going after another, call him Blaise, with a drawn blade, from which, if you were a careless observer, you might think that Arno had just snapped without warning, like an ice-covered bough falling from the tree. But in truth, the Arnaults of the world were rarely so reckless. A careful observer watching Arnault for two or three minutes prior to the onset of violence would see some sort of exchange between him and Blaise, a calculated insult from Blaise, let us say, such as a refusal to let Arnault through a door ahead of him, or a witticism about Arnault’s wig which had been so very fashionable three months ago. If Blaise were a polished wit, he would then move on, blithe, humming an air, and giving every appearance of forgetting the event. But Arnault would become a living exhibit, symptoms would set in that were so obvious and dramatic as to furnish a topic of study for the Royal Society. Why, a whole jury of English savants could stand around poor Arnault with their magnifying lenses and their notebooks, observing the changes in his physiognomy, noting them down in Latin, and rendering them in labored woodcuts. Most of these symptoms had to do with the humor of passion. For a few moments, Arnault would stand fast, as the insult sank in. His face would turn red as the vessels in his skin went flaccid and consequently ballooned with blood from a heart that had begun to pound like a Turkish kettle drum signaling the onset of battle. But this was not when the attack came, because Arnault during this stage was physically unable to move. All of his activity was mental. Once he got over the first shock, Arnault’s first thought would be to convince himself that he had reigned in his emotions now, got himself under control, was ready to consider matters judiciously. The next few minutes, then, would be devoted to a rehearsal of the recent encounter with Blaise. Affecting a rational, methodical approach, Arnault would marshal whatever evidence he might need to convict Blaise of being a scoundrel, and sentence him to death. After that, the attack would not be long in following, but to one who had not been there with the fellows of the Royal Society to observe all that had led up to it, it would seem like the spontaneous explosion of an infernal device."
2 of 2 people found this review helpful