Archive for September 17th, 2007

2007.09.17

System of the Moon

I got two things done this weekend. Well, more than two but I’m not counting laundry. I watched the series From the Earth to the Moon and then Apollo 13, and I finished Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle (Quicksilver, The Confusion, and System of the World). Amazing stuff.

As lately I’ve been in a space mode I thought I’d notch it up a bit and pick up a few movies about us going there. I’d seen From the Earth to the Moon when it first aired on HBO back in 1998. I was really impressed with the show. It was tragic, triumphant and honest. Apollo 13 I saw in the theaters. Though a bit dramatic at times, I was actually kind of surpised when I watched the extra materials on the DVD at how much time and research went into the film to make it real. Some of the lines are direct quotes from the astronauts, crew and family as they recollected the tense days wondering if they would be the first floating corpses in space. Both shows are well worth it if you’re a space geek like me.

Meanwhile the Baroque Cycle… What to say? It is huge, vast… So many people asked me what it was about and I still don’t know how to answer that question. Superficially it’s about tearing down the old world of feudalism and superstition and laying the groundwork for the modern world as we know it in terms of economy, science and multinationalism/multiculturalism. The depictions of life in the late 1600s and early 1700s are wonderous and scary, and various plots will take you all around the globe.

One of the primary plots is the shenanigans revolving around a cache of Solomonic Gold (it is slightly heavier than normal gold because it is imbued with mystical, alchemical power). Isaac Newton and other alchemical fanatics are after it while those that have it generally want to get rid of it. It is my assumption that the alchemy and what happens to a few characters with Solomon’s Gold is why Neal Stephenson let the books be marketed as a science fiction story.

Many of the characters are ancestors to characters in the Cryptonomicon except, apparently, Enoch Root. I wondered about him after reading Cryptonomicon (as have others) but wrote it off as artistic license. He’s a very complex thread in The Baroque Cycle and someday I’ll have to read it again and untangle what I can.

All in all a satisfying end of the weekend. I’ve just started in on David Wingrove’s Chung Kuo series. 57 pages in and it’s just as awesome as I remember it…

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