We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]


Like much of the rest of the blogosphere, many of the Samizdatistas have been waiting for months, weeks, even years for Neal Stephenson to finish writing Quicksilver, his prequel of sorts to Cryptonomicon. We were promised a romp through scientific and other society of the early 18th century, meeting Newton, Leibnitz, Benjamin Franklin, and other luminaries of the time, in a doorstop length tome full of other characters curiously connected to the 20th century characters of the earlier novel. And we waited, waited, and waited some more, as the publication date kept getting put back. It was getting almost as bad as waiting for Godot Vernor Vinge.

But now, hallelujah. The book is here. Eugene and Glenn are happy. We can all get down to some serious reading, and perhaps find out what is in Enoch Root’s cigar case. (I think it is actually fairly obvious, although perhaps it is less so to readers of the American editions of the Harry Potter books).

And that’s the problem. <expletive> American editions. The American edition of Quicksilver has been out since Tuesday. The British edition is not out until October 2. We have to wait another whole week.

Well, if we are desperate, actually we don’t. The Murder One specialist bookshop in Charing Cross Road had a few copies of the American edition for £20 when I was there this afternoon. However, they were going fast. And to tell the truth I don’t have time to read the book now, and the 27 hour plane trip to Australia I will be subjecting myself to in just over a month will likely be a perfect opportunity (plus, somehow, sitting on a 747-400 at 38000 feet while flying in and out of Tokyo seems a somehow approriate place for reading a Stephenson novel. Not quite as good as sitting reading Snow Crash for the first time in 1994 in an emergency hut on a mountain in Hokkaido while waiting out a tremendous rainstorm with lots of Japanese people with much higher tech looking trekking gear than I did but who were somehow just as wet, but still good).

For now I need to be doing other minor things like finding a job. (If anyone feels the need to employ a telecommunications/technology or possibly even media analyst who is also capable of doing just about any quantitative financial job if need be, plus many quantitative jobs in other fields, please let me know. I am presently in London but would be also interesting in working in the US if anyone was willing to sponsor a visa for me).

In any event, I can also save a few pounds by waiting for the British edition: Amazon is selling that for £11.89, which means, as a true overcaffeinated Virginia Postrel devotee, I can have The Substance of Style as well. Or, I could wait and buy a copy at Neal Stephenson’s signing at Forbidden Planet on October 21. (On the other hand, maybe not. I have met Stephenson on previous book tours, and in person he is exactly the classic introvert he says he is. Which means he is great to listen to at a reading, lecture, or Q&A session, but he is rather withdrawn if you try to talk to him one on one. But this is okay. He writes wonderful pooks. However, the signing in London is just a signing).

Or I could just go back to Murder One, buy the book, and then sit down and enjoy Stephenson’s wonderfully unique take on the Baroque period, and his lengthy and fascinating digressions, and his absurdly complicated puns, and his exquisitely nerdy in jokes.


7 comments to Me….want….Quicksilver

  • Eric Sivula

    Are you saying that the cigar box contains a “Philosopher’s Stone”? That would make since the main character is described as an alchemist.

  • FeloniousPunk

    I just got mine. Going to start it as soon as I am done with Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow.

    Great book, that, btw.

  • I noticed that the publishing dates for the subsequent two books of the series are spring and fall of next year. Methinks Mr. Stephenson finished the drafts of all three before making the first publishing-ready, so that fans and addicts could complete the trilogy in a much shorter period of time that is typical.

  • Johan

    B. Durbin,

    I think I read in a newspaper review (in Swedish so sorry, no link) that he had already completed the whole triology of 3 000 pages.

    And I have a question: do you need to read Cryptonomicon first to read Quicksilver, or can you start with the latter right away? It’s already out in Sweden…

  • Here in the Colonies we have these huge shopping centers called ‘buyer’s clubs’ (like Costco and BJ’s and Sam’s Club). Giant sheds that cover acres, sell everything from TVs to petrol to clothes to sides of beef to pallets of machine tools. Cosco started offering Quicksilver 23 Feb at the discounted price of US$15.99.

    Sounds ghastly but they’re fun to shop in. You can buy a six months supply of loo paper if you’re of a mind…

  • Well, it’s just one theory that it is the philospher’s stone, but it does seem to fit the evidence we are given. The various theories are given here, which I also linked to from the original post. (The evidence for the philospher’s stone idea is about half way down).

    As for the best order of reading the books, Neal Stephenson has said the following

    I’m trying not to give the idea that it’s a tightly locked together set of books. They’re supposed to work as stand-alones. There are always a few strange little corners of the story that may not make sense outside of the context of the full series, but 99% of it can stand on its own reasonably well, I hope. It’s kind of a wink to the science fiction readers out there: “See, it really is a science fiction book!”

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Great piece. I am waiting to get my copy. I met Stephenson about a year ago at a book signing, and he is exactly as Michael described. BTW, Peter Hamilton, another pro-libertarian sf writer, is also having a book signing at the Forbidden Planet store in October. Not sure of the date, but you can google their website for details. I strongly recommend Hamilton’s book Misspent Youth, which is a nice play on the idea of crynonics.