[FoRK] Re: What are you reading?

rst at ai.mit.edu rst at ai.mit.edu
Tue Jan 4 08:31:21 PST 2005

James Walker writes:
 > Like many on here, the third volume of Stephenson's trilogy - enjoyed
 > the first two immensely.  Incidentally there is a great Wikipedia
 > accompaniment to the Baroque books.

Just got through them; now rereading Cryptonomicon.  I'm somewhat
curious about what others thought of certain rather unexpected events
at the end, particularly the properties of the Solomonic gold and the 
unusual uses to which it gets put.


I'm referring in particular to the sudden twist on the expectations of
any modern reader when it turns out that the philosphic mercury is
real, and that alchemy works -- well enough to transmute at least one
coin's worth of base medal into gold, and oh by the way, revive
multiple corpses.  It's almost as if you're reading science fiction
for a couple of thousand pages (in the sense that let one major Tor
editor call the Aubrey-Maturin books the best science fiction he'd
seen in years), and then suddenly get pitched without warning into
fantasy.  (And yes, certain earlier plot points make more sense in the
light of this information, but they could have been made sense of some
other way).

And then there are the masonic themes that show up unnamed in the
third book (perhaps personally, in the form of Solomon Kohan).

The interesting question, to me, is why Stephenson did this.   Maybe
he's using alchemy as a metaphor for something else; maybe it's just a
good yarn...


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