I’ve been reading Neal Stephenson’s new book, Quicksilver, and it’s slower going than some other reading I’ve been doing lately, but not too slow. The book is set … around … well, between about 1650 and 1720 so far… it keeps jumping forward and backward through time and back and forth across the Atlantic as it does so… which is fine, I can follow all the different paths of the same characters fairly easily (elsewise I would never have finished Stephenson’s last book, Cryptonomicon)… but there is so much to it…
Just now, as I turned to page 194-195 in my reading, I found myself throwing up my hands, waving them back and forth between my eyes and the book to stop me from reading on, muttering about it being too much history… please, no more history… Page 194 is part of the family tree of the House of Burboun, and the last third of page 193 was so complicatedly knotted that one of the characters in the scene was unable to follow what the other characters were saying about … I don’t even know… probably something about english relations with the french… and I can take endless amounts of science and even relish at seeing historical figures come alive such as Ben Franklin and Isaac Newton (among others), but there is something about the politicking and intermarrying and warring of all the royalties, between the kings and queens and dukes and earls and courtiers just of England I get lost, and here we are mixing in the Germans and the French and the Dutch and … you lost me.
Much as I hardly care that we have a “President” “presiding” over the US (I believe the position is a figurehead only, that actual decisions are made behind the scenes by people you probably don’t know the names of), the much-more complicated and melodramatic turns of the european theatre of royalty, especially in this time period (Cromwell, the reformation, Louis XIV in France, etc…) just … can’t hold my attention enough to grasp their workings. It’s meaningless tripe to me. So whereas in the next dozen pages, the character who was as befuddled as I am now will likely go through experiences that make it clear to HIM, it is likely that it will be in one eye and out the other… (Wait, does the expression work with reading?) … that I won’t understand or remember the political intrigues of the royalty, but instead the effect these intrigues had on the scientists of the time.
Sigh. Time for bed. Tomorrow’s reading looks to start off slow. But maybe after a couple dozen pages we’ll jump back forward through time to the pirate armada’s raid on a lone, seemingly defenseless ship! That is sure to liven things up.