I have just finished reading a good novel, Quicksilver, by Neal Stephenson. This novel was a gift from a good friend of mine. I like the author and while there are those who have complained about the book, it was not such a torture for me to read because I took several months to finish it as I have been writing my thesis before.
The tome, is actually made up of three books. The first book centers on Daniel Waterhouse and his exploits as a young Natural Philosopher and friend to Isaac Newton. The second book consists of “Half-Cocked” Jack Shaftoe, his meeting with Eliza and their subsequent adventures together and apart. The 3rd book features Eliza and Daniel in the events leading up to the Glorious Revolution. Therefore, it was not until around page 800 that the story actually begins to build upon the characters thus established.
I really like Neal Stephenson (I have almost all his books in my collection) and his writing style. I do intend to purchase his latest book – Anathem, but that will have to wait until either I go back to the UK or when the Malaysian book stores decide to slash the price of the book from its present RM70+ for the paper back. I like him because he weaves a believable web of fiction around very true and actual persons and events. Also, he puts technical computer knowledge into very subtle uses that any non computer scientist can appreciate, while all mathematicians and computer scientist would absolutely love.
However, I have to confess that there are two other reasons why I liked this book. First, is the oft mentioned places at Cambridge – it conjures up very vivid imagery in my head from the fresh memories as the first book introduces a host of characters including Natural Philosophers and the beginnings of the Royal Society. Second, is the use of French that is garnished across the pages – it adds an extra flair to the book and is simple enough to understand as the second book was filled with courtly events, Versailles and the Sun King.
While reading this novel, it made me think of some of my mathmo friends at Cambridge. I think that they would be able to appreciate his writing, if they are the kind who actually like reading fiction.