Of Philosophers and Vagabonds.

I have finally, sitting here an hour ago, finished reading Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle. ‘Finally’, as I’ve been working on it on and off for almost a whole year.

The strange thing is that for a series of a mere three volumes (even if they are especially thick volumes) that would ordinarily speak of a lack of engagement, or excitement, or similar negative something-or-other.

But no. I don’t understand it either. Rarely do I read a series of books with a grin plastered across my face for such a high percentage of the time with them open in front of me. I think I kept getting distracted by other things (a quick re-read of the better Discworld novels, a variety of trashy things, work, real life, &c.) with frightening regularity. Yet the ease with which I was distracted has nothing to do with the quality of the Cycle. Believe it or not.

Rather, each time I returned to what was after all a 2500-page monster of a series I was hooked right back in within a few paragraphs - partly by the characters (who are deeply and engagingly drawn), partly by the plot which switches back and forth between up-close swashbuckling and thoughtful philosophising in a quite dizzying fashion, and in a great part by the way Stephenson’s writing gives you the sense of a man who just enjoys language.

Everything you may want to know (including some spoilers, so tread carefully) can be found by following the link above, so I won’t go into much detail. Instead, I will simply report that these books are among the most satisfying I have read in along while, and are great fun with it. Don’t be put off by the weight, or the slow (for the first 50 pages or so) start - enjoy them instead.