May 7, 2009


by Neal Stephenson

I have given up on this book. It was the last one I was reading for the first reading challenge I've ever done, so I guess I've failed that, too. This was the chunkster of the list. It was a thrilling book to read at first- the language and descriptions are very rich, and each page has to really be savored. But the storyline was incredibly difficult for me to follow. It's set in the seventeenth century, and the main character is one Daniel Waterhouse, who works among a soceity of Natural Philosophers, making discoveries astonishing for their time, studying everything with vivid fervor and imagination (which sometimes takes them to grisly places) under the shadow of Isaac Newton. The problem I had was that the book is simply so heavy with gorgeous language it was hard to tell what the heck was going on. It didn't help either, that every other chapter jumped a decade or so, so two storylines were going on simultaneously (I always struggle some when a writer does this). I made it through 185 pages and then it just felt so tedious. I guess this kind of historical fiction is just not my thing. It's a fantastic piece of writing, and I love the way this author describes things, but I just can't follow along and it makes me tired. Too bad. Well, at least I tried. If anyone else has read Quicksilver and has a clearer picture on it, I'd love to hear what you made of it.

Abandoned                 927 pages, 2003

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Capacitor Fantastico


  1. 927 pages! That is a chunkster. Sorry it didn't work for you.

  2. You're not a lone in having problems with this! I've read some great reviews of it, but I also know of many people who abandoned it. Which is why I'm scared to pick it up :P

  3. Sounds like you gave it a fair chance! Sounds really challenging.

  4. Anonymous5/08/2009

    Thanks for letting us know how you felt about it.

  5. I'm glad to know I'm not the first to give up on this book. And it's only the first of a hefty trilogy!

  6. I read Snow Crash by Stephenson last year and really liked it, but it was tough (although MUCH shorter, probably by half). Fail is such an icky word. Don't get down on yourself about the challenge! As a host of two, I've realized very few people finish them and even less people abide by rules. :) It's all in fun.

  7. Thanks, Trish. I'm not feeling too down about it- it was lots of fun, and I'm definitely going to do more challenges!

  8. Anonymous5/10/2009

    At least you gave it a good go, and learned some new words while at it. Your friends are sure to marvel at your new-found pedantic pettifoggery.

    It took me two attempts to crack the entire Baroque Cycle. I guessed this going in to the endeavour, so I only 'skim' read the first book, noting down characters and plot in a wee notebook. I then stopped. I spent another year or so reading up on the history of the time and on the lives of the famous characters who feature in the novels.

    Once I had so grounded myself, I started again from the first book and it was a rollicking breeze after that. Stephenson is erudite and packs shed-loads of sly asides and commentary into every chapter. I'm sure that there is lots I missed, so I'll give these another read in my lifetime I'm sure.


  9. Please feel free to add another book for the 9 for '09 Challenge.

    If you check my blog, I havne't made much progress in this challenge and It's MINE.

    I've halfway read two books but can't finish them because I feel like reading something else.

    My challenge is flexible.

    Good luck in finding another long book.,

  10. 6p00d8...- Wow. A book that takes that much research to appreciate is really too much for me. It is so complex.

    Working Words- Thanks for letting me know! I do have a few other very thick books on my shelf, and I'm happy to choose another one.


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