Product info (from Goodreads):
In the year 1689, a cabal of Barbary galley slaves — including one Jack Shaftoe, aka King of the Vagabonds, aka Half-Cocked Jack — devises a daring plan to win freedom and fortune. A great adventure ensues — a perilous race for an enormous prize of silver … nay, gold … nay, legendary gold.
In Europe, the exquisite and resourceful Eliza, Countess de la Zeur, is stripped of her immense personal fortune by France’s most dashing privateer. Penniless and at risk from those who desire either her or her head (or both), she is caught up in a web of international intrigue, even as she desperately seeks the return of her most precious possession.
Meanwhile, Newton and Leibniz continue to propound their grand theories as their infamous rivalry intensifies, stubborn alchemy does battle with the natural sciences, dastardly plots are set in motion … and Daniel Waterhouse seeks passage to the Massachusetts colony in hopes of escaping the madness into which his world has descended.
It’s been a while since I read the first part of this cycle but I felt immediately at home. I admired the courage of Eliza and the never-ending procession of her financial and private enterprises. I was gobsmacked when Jack managed to escape the throes of STD and slavery with a galeon full of enchanted gold and a crew of pirates. Newton and Leibiniz made my inner nerd happy. If you are into picaresque literature, it is your book. If you like history of finances, the birth of modern science, banking and philosophy it is your book. If you like a healthy doze of sci-fi, it is also your book. Too good to be true? Well, almost. ;p
Stephenson has claimed time and again that he doesn’t need an editor. He is, of course, wrong. With the right editor his books wouldn’t be just good, they would be brilliant and much, much shorter. As they are, you can be sometimes a tad too overwhelmed with too much plot, too many characters, and too much description. Oh well, the choice is, as always, entirely yours. Let me quote here one fragment of the second part which, despite many shortcomings, persuaded me to read the last installment
“When a thing such as wax, or gold, or silver, turns liquid from heat, we say that it has fused,” Eliza said to her son, “and when such liquids run together and mix, we say they are con-fused.”
– Neal Stephenson, The Confusion
It is not a series for a casual reader. If you like longer books which can teach you more than a series of lectures then you’ll forgive The Baroque Cycle a lot and will keep on reading till the very end.