Sadly, this trilogy did NOT live up to my expectations (which were high).
"Snow Crash" and "The Diamond Age" are still two of my favorite books of all time, but, I just found out from a friend that Neal Stephenson apparently changed publishers directly before Cryptonomicon. I think he also ditched his editor.
Stephenson is an excellent writer, but this book is badly in need of an editor.
According to Stephenson, the "Baroque Cycle" is actually 8 novels. The publisher is of the opinion that it is three. "Quicksilver" contains the first 3 (around 900 pages worth). The first book is kinda about Isaac Newton, math, and the state of scientific research in the 17th century. The second is about a ne'er-do-well type who inadvertently rescues a British harem slave who turns out to be a financial genius. The third book kinda brings all these characters sort-of-but-not-really together in a load of massively complicated political stuff, with tons of both historical figures and fictional characters involved.
More than the story, the book really has to do with Things That Stephenson Thinks are Funny/Interesting/Clever, etc. And some of them ARE very interesting, funny, and etc... But one gets the feeling that the author is self-consciously winking at you far too often. Too much cleverness. All the characters "correspond" to those in Cryptonomicon, too (which I read long enough ago that it needed to be pointed out to me.) I guess these are supposed to be their ancestors? In addition, it's very, umm... earthy. Fixated on unpleasant physical details, shall we say. And, it didn't really succeed in making mathematical proofs seem exciting, to me.
Stephenson apparently has tried to claim that this is a "science fiction" book, becase it contains a few fictional and unlikely elements - and it has to do with science. But it really is not.
Well, I'm going to continue with the series, but I'll consider myself lucky if I even finish it this month. It's been a slog so far. A not totally unrewarding one, but still.