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Neal Stephenson's publisher has split the author's "Baroque Cycle" doorstops into nine paperbacks. Started reading the first one, Quicksilver
(comprised of the first three chaps. of Doorstop 1); probably won't finish it. Stephenson is a good teacher, in the sense of getting complex math and science ideas across to a mass audience, but he's been spending too much time off by himself writing with his crow quill pen. (Apparently he abandoned computer-writing for this series.) The novel has a giddy, "I'm so smart I could pinch myself" tone a la Douglas Hofstadter's Godel, Escher, Bach
, and it's hard to swallow Stephenson's revisionist effort to push computer science as far back in history as the alchemists. The anachronisms are annoying--having 17th Century characters using phrases like "run the numbers," or joking about "addiction" to tea--ah, yes, the therapy culture of the Baroque era. A book like John Barth's The Sot Weed Factor
does a much better job of injecting tricky postmodern concepts into an "archaic" novel, in that it actually reads like an artifact from an earlier era.