This is book 7 of 8 in the Baroque Cycle (or the 2nd book in the third volume as first published). It takes place during during the year 1714 in London.
At the beginning of this book we learn what Jack the Coiner (a.k.a Jack Shaftoe) was up to in raiding the Tower in the previous book. He managed to cast doubt on the integrity of British money by tampering with an item of the mint's quality control system. (You'll need to read the book yourself to have it explained.) This is a serous challenge to Isaac Newton because he's in charge of the mint.
This all happens in the midst of the political unrest caused by the anticipated death of Queen Anne and the resulting battle between the Whigs and Tories over succession plans. Near the end of the book there are about a half dozen scenes happening simultaneously on an evening in London. A princess is in danger, there's sword fight, there's a riot, there's a fire, Newton has a meeting with his nemesis, young men with mohawk haircuts, and so on...
The book ends with the announcement that Queen Anne is dead. "Long live the King!" But which king?
In previous books of the Baroque Cycle the reader is informed (and reminded) that the purpose of Daniel Waterhouse's return to London from Massachusetts was to patch up the differences between Newton and Leibniz. They're both in London in 1714, but not much attention is paid to that particular problem in this book. There are more pressing issues to deal with.
One example of Neal Stephenson making this book match his historical research is the story of Sophia of Hanover dying in her garden after running for shelter from a rainstorm. In this book it is described how she dies in the arms of Caroline of Brandenburg-Ansbach, her granddaughter-in-law. I at first assumed this to be fictional flourish. But as best I can determine, it's a true story.
An example of the author's going off the deep end of fiction is in his description of a "logic mill" designed and constructed by Daniel Waterhouse. It is essentially an 18th Century digital computer programmed using punch cards made of small gold sheets. This I am sure to be pure fiction. I figure Stephenson included this in the story in order to tie it to Daniel's 20th century descendant in the book, Cryptonomicon
, who participated in the development of the modern digital computer.LINK TO
Wikipedia article about the Baroque Cycle
by Neal Stephenson.LINK TO
my review of Quick Silver
(Bk. 1) by Neal Stephenson.LINK TO
my review of King of the Vagabonds
(Bk. 2) by Neal Stephenson.LINK TO
my review of Odalisque
(Bk. 3) by Neal Stephenson.LINK TO
my review of The Confusion
(Bks. 4 & 5) by Neal Stephenson.LINK TO
my review of Solomon's Gold
(Bk. 6) by Neal Stephenson.LINK TO
my review of System of the World
(Bk. 8) by Neal Stephenson.