I finally had the time to read this book, and it was great, of course, and yet it was kind of...I don't know. Almost too picaresque. (Amazingly, I spelled that correctly the first time.) I was six or seven hundred pages into it and still waiting for things to "start," even though, by that time, huge, huge events had taken place, and characters had gone through all sorts of things, and there were pirates and wars and explosions.
It seems to me that Cryptonomicon, while being a lot like this, still had a sort of tension at its heart that drove the narrative along, a tension that, for me, seemed to be missing.
Also, one of my favorite novels is Mason & Dixon, by Thomas Pynchon, which is very much like this book, in that it is about some members of the Royal Society (Well, Mason was, at least.) doing official things for the King (Like measuring out a line.) in roughly the same time period. (The Mason-Dixon Line being surveyed in 1763-67, about 50 years after the last (chronologically speaking) events in Quicksilver. The property dispute between Pennsylvania and Maryland even makes an appearence in Quicksilver in the form of a brief mention by William Penn. Anyway, both books have a great deal in common, being decidedly modern (or, gulp, postmodern) sorts of novels that are nevertheless thoroughly embedded in the time periods they cover. Mason & Dixon is even written in period-accurate (sort of) English. Consider the opening sentence:
quote: Snow-Balls have flown their Arcs, starr'd the Sides of Outbuildings, as of Cousins, carried Hats away into the brisk Wind off Delaware, - the Sleds are brought in and their Runners carefully dried and greased, shoes deposited in the back Hall, a stocking'd foot Descent made upon the great Kitchen, in a purposeful Dither since Morning, punctuated by the ringing Lids of various Boilers and Stewing-Pots, fragrant with Pie-Spices, peel'd Fruits, Suet, heated Sugar,-...
And it goes on like that. (I think I like the very first bit, about Snow-Balls and Cousins, even better than "A screaming comes across the sky.")
Stephenson doesn't really go for that effect, though he does throw in the occasional Capitalization upon Nouns of great Import. Both novels are really, really smart. I don't know, perhaps it is unfair to compare them, but I think that Mason & Dixon, having that Line and its Drawing to drape the story on, holds together, as a novel, better than Quicksilver, where the closest equivalent, I think, is essentially the creation of the Modern World. But that lacks the sort of unified focus of something as relatively simple as drawing a line.
Um, anyway, has anyone read one, or better, both? So that they might better explain what I've completely failed to say? Or, you know, not.
Posted by Malnurtured Snay (Member # 411) on :
I read Cryptomonicron, but I'm waiting for either the paperback of Quicksilver or a gift certificate to Borders.
Posted by TSN (Member # 31) on :
I've never read Pynchon's book (or anything by him, truth be told), but I think Quicksilver is more about its characters than about any particular plot, if that makes any difference.
Also bear in mind that, having finished Quicksilver, you're still only a third of the way through the story, which is probably a major factor in its semming to fall short.
Posted by The_Tom (Member # 38) on :
quote:Man Reading Pynchon On Bus Takes Pains To Make Cover Visible PHILADELPHIA—According to riders on the eastbound C bus, John Bolen, 23, made a conscious effort Monday to make the cover of Thomas Pynchon's The Crying Of Lot 49 visible to all on board. "Instead of resting the book on his lap or on the seat in front of him, he was holding it up in this really awkward, uncomfortable-looking way," rider Caryn Little said. "Then, every so often, he'd glance around to see if anyone was noticing what he was reading." Bolen vehemently denied the Pynchon-flaunting charges, insisting that "the light was bad" on the bus.