Great Books by Neil Stephenson

Note: Amazon has pulled the plug on Amazon Affiliates in retaliation for having to collect sales tax, so I’m not referring clients to Amazon, anymore. I’m also no longer buying from Amazon. #AmazonBoycott.

I’ve been rereading “The Baroque Cycle” a trilogy of books by Neil Stephenson. I just finished “The Confusion”

“The Confusion (The Baroque Cycle, Vol. 2)” (Neal Stephenson)

But you should definitely start with the first in the series:

“Quicksilver (The Baroque Cycle, Vol. 1)” (Neal Stephenson)

I honestly think this is the most fun I’ve had reading a book. The possible exception might be the Terry Pratchet books, but as fun as those are, they are a “quick read”. The Baroque Cycle is three physical books, but could easily be six. These babies are fat! Yet every paragraph is fun, interesting, intriguing and even educational.

The time period is the 1600’s and the advent of the modern age of science is at hand. The characters include real people: Newton, Hooke, Wren, Leibniz, various kings, queens, and sundry nobility of France, England, Russia, Germany, and more. The story exposes early economics, venture capital, political science, warfare, alchemy and “natural philosophy” in a delicious multithreaded storyline spreading over most of the lifetime of the lead characters: Daniel Waterhouse, Jack Shaftoe, and Eliza a woman who works her way from slave to Duchess. If you read Cryptonomicon, some of these names may ring a bell. The thread of characters that spanned from WWII to the Dot Com era now reach back to some 400 years earlier.

It is for geeks, but perhaps the swashbuckling and historical context might spread the target audience. The sheer audacity of Stephenson to write such massive tomes of such broad scope with such phenomenal detail makes him a great writer. When you read the details of London burning, or the intrigues of the court of Versaille, you suspect that Stephenson must have been there, taking notes.

If you can hack these, go back and read everything of his. There are no bad Neil Stephenson books. He became famous for Snow Crash.

“Snow Crash (Bantam Spectra Book)” (Neal Stephenson)

But my favorite before this series, was Diamond Age.

“The Diamond Age: Or, a Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer (Bantam Spectra Book)” (Neal Stephenson)

If someone sat down today to cover the possibilities of nanotech in a novel of the dystopian future, you could never imagine it would become so interesting a study of social constructs, much less that it would be a great read. But if you take into account that it was written back around ’95 you’d have to believe, once again, that Neil Stephenson owns a time machine.

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