I have just finished reading the final volume of the majestic Baroque Cycle by Neal Stephenson. Stephenson is one of my favourite writers – although generally known as an SF writer, his interests encompass commerce, cryptography, the history of science, and a whole lot else. This wide-ranging set of interests is exemplified by the scope of the Baroque Cycle – three books (don’t call them a trilogy) spanning the period from the 1640’s to 1714, and detailing the rise of the Royal Society, the late-17th Century machinations over royal succession in France, Spain and England, the emergence of modern capitalism, and the escapades of a very richly painted cast of characters ranging from Sir Isaac Newton to ‘The King of the Vagabonds’.
I happen to be pretty interested in historical fiction (partly as a result of being married to a history nerd for nine years) as well as technology and science fiction (in moderation), so I lapped these books up (though, with the demands on my time of a one-year-old child, the last book has taken me most of this year to read).
The only thing I was worried about was Stephenson’s famed inability to finish a story – a failing that lets his earlier work, Cryptonomicon, down quite badly. But the Baroque Cycle ends well, with all the bad guys being thwarted and all our favourite characters achieving peace, love, and happiness. Just what you want after slogging through over 2,000 pages.
If you’re interested in learning more about Neal Stephenson, there’s an excellent ‘interview’ with him on slashdot. Well worth reading all the way through. I may track the man down (out of sheer perversity, for he eschews recognition) when I move to Seattle, where he lives.