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Stephenson, Neal. THE BAROQUE CYCLE, in three volumes and eight books: v. I, Quicksilver (1. Quicksilver, 2. King of the Vagabonds, 3. Odalisque), v. II The Confusion (4. Bonanza, 5. The Juncto), v. III. The System of the World (6. Solomon's Gold, 7. Currency, 8. The System of the World). New York: William Morrow, 2003 f.

Historical fiction with the over-arching theme of the birth of the modern world in the Baroque Period from the middle of the 17th c. of the Christian calendar into the early 18th. At least in Stephenson's vision here, the shift to the new "System of the World" centered in finance, science ("natural philosophy"), politics, math, computation, machines, and computation machines. See and/or hear for a useful and entertaining introduction in the shift of the world between the times of Queen Elizabeth I of England (who is dead before the action picks up around the time of Oliver Cromwell) and Queen Sophia Charlotte of Hanover (lived 1668-1705) and Caroline of Brandenburg-Ansbach (1683–1737), who are characters in the novel: the shift between the world of Tudors and Stuarts and that of Hanovarian monarchs of England, between the Wars of Religion (in the background) and the feud between Leibniz and Newton (featured in the Cycle). Cf. Laurie R. King's The God of the Hive and the transition into an even later modern world in England and parts of Europe in 1924.

Possibly of most immediate interest, Solomon's Gold and the introduction of the idea that the rapidly-developing world of the early 18th century — the United Kingdom, primarily — faced in some senses a number of choices, including their primary source of force/energy to do work and labor in the world: mechanical engines or human slaves. The answer was not straight-forward at the time, except on moral or ethical grounds, and the imperfection of the choices made is important for the cultural evolution of modernity.

The sections in Currency set in Clerkenwell Bridewell remind us that in addition to labor by chattel slaves, labor could be extracted also by "involuntary servitude [...] as a punishment for crime"[1] — where "crime" could include prostitution, an apprentice's striking his master, and just being among "the disorderly poor."[2] The combination of renewed threats of job loss through automation and, in the United States, the nearly-"involuntary servitude" of prison labor has reinforced the relevance of Stephenson's work.

For bibliographic detail, see Internet Speculative Fiction Database, and follow the links, possibly starting at a site available as of October 2023, here.[3]

RDE, 20/VI/01, 2/V/13, 12Nov15; finishing 30Oct23