Quicksilver : Baroque Cycle

  • by Neal Stephenson
  • Narrated by Simon Prebble, Kevin Pariseau, Neal Stephenson (introduction)
  • Series: Baroque Cycle
  • 14 hrs and 48 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

In this first volume of Neal Stephenson’s genre-defying epic, Daniel Waterhouse, fearless thinker and courageous Puritan, pursues knowledge in the company of the greatest minds of Baroque-era Europe in a chaotic world where reason wars with the bloody ambitions of the mighty, and where catastrophe, natural or otherwise, can alter the political landscape overnight.
The Baroque Cycle, Neal Stephenson’s award-winning series, spans the late 17th and early 18th centuries, combining history, adventure, science, invention, piracy, and alchemy into one sweeping tale. It is a gloriously rich, entertaining, and endlessly inventive historical epic populated by the likes of Isaac Newton, William of Orange, Benjamin Franklin, and King Louis XIV, along with some of the most inventive literary characters in modern fiction.
Audible’s complete and unabridged presentation of The Baroque Cycle was produced in cooperation with Neal Stephenson. Each volume includes an exclusive introduction read by the author.

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What the Critics Say

“[The “Baroque Cycle”] will defy any category, genre, precedent, or label – except genius….Stephenson has a once-in-a-generation gift: he makes complex ideas clear, and he makes them funny, heartbreaking, and thrilling.” (Time)
“A book of immense ambition, learning, and scope, Quicksilver is often brilliant and occasionally astonishing in its evocation of a remarkable time and place.” (Washington Post Book World)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Be aware of what you're getting into

It's unfortunate that "Quicksilver" will turn so many listeners off the Baroque Cycle, because the other volumes are much more fun. "Quicksilver" is hard work, and is best thought of as an extended atmosphere-builder rather than a story. It is very rewarding though, if you know what you're getting into.

To enjoy "Quicksilver", you need three things:

* You need to be content with the fact that there's no plot. At all. All that happens is that a guy called Daniel wanders around London in the 1660s and 70s and chats with the leading scientific figures of the age. That's it. Oh, and there's some stuff about piracy in Massachusetts. Don't get me wrong,it's amazing writing and you will learn so much. You will get an amazing sense of the texture and atmosphere of the era. But there's barely a shred of story. Some people won't be able to deal with that. I didn't mind.

* You need a basic familiarity with the history of the 1660s and 70s and with the aforementioned scientific figures. Complete newbies will be baffled. Get prepared to do a lot of Wikipedia-ing.

* You need to want to listen to insanely detailed explanations of baroque science and the birth of economics. It's fascinating stuff ... if you like that kind of thing.

I enjoyed the listen, on the whole, although the wordiness and lack of forward progression does make it a struggle at times. And it undoubtedly is of extremely limited appeal. You might be better advised to start with Volume 2 if you'd like a story rather than a scene-setter.

The reader is brilliant.
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- David

Pure Stephenson--Intelligent, insightful, funny

I rarely write reviews, but this situation seems to demand it. I am amazed at both how few reviews have been posted and how many have been negative. It is not surprising that some did not enjoy Quicksilver, but where are the reviews from those that did? It is hard to believe that this rich, original and quirky book has not found an extensive audience.


Strictly speaking this is a "secret history". That is, it faithfully covers a historical period but creates characters and events that fit neatly in the cracks between what is known and what is not about this period. Into these cracks, Stephenson inserts Daniel Waterhouse, a fiction college mate of Newton and early member of the Royal Society. He is a puritan, a member of sect at the fringe of English society. Through his eyes we receive an intelligent and intimate understanding of his time--a time when culture, science, religion and commerce where changing radically--were becoming modern.


This might sound dry, but it is not. It is the coming of age story of man in the Restoration Court of Charles I. It is filled action including one of the most perfectly described pirate battles I have ever encountered. It has a cast of compelling characters, both real and imagined; scientists, both mad and brilliant. Running though all is a vein of wit and often hysterical humor. The prose itself is first-rate, far better than we have the right to expect in a historical novel. Add to all of this an excellent narrator with a perfect ear and voice for the accents and cadences of the time.


If you enjoy Stephenson or a well written historical novel, you should not miss this. By the way, Quicksilver is the first of several volumes in the Baroque Cycle. I have only read the second book, but I can already guarantee that there is much more to look forward to.
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- Michael L

Book Details

  • Release Date: 08-10-2010
  • Publisher: Audible Studios