History and Fiction

I recently started trying to read Quicksilver by Neil Stephenson. I really enjoyed Cryptonomycon, Snow crash, Zodiac, and The Diamond Age. So expectation was high, but I found the mix of historical fact and invention of a fictional narrative confusing in terms of what was, and was not real. This is the first of 3 novels called The Baroque Cycle.

A friend had loaned me Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything. And I found I was reading about many of the same events that were in Quicksilver but with at least some integrity to history.

The third book in this related series is Music of the Primes by Marcus Du Satoy. Marcus hosted a logical games slot on BBC4 called Mind Games, which I enjoyed but now seems to have been chopped. The book however is essentially a history of the Riemann Hypothesis. Now this is really another cut on the some of the same history as the other two, but with the focus of just the mathematics, though many other parallel events are considered that have a context relevance.

In my opinion the two real histories leave the fictional history far behind, but I do hope that Neil Stephenson returns to real novels soon.


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