I just finished it last night and rdm’s comment makes so much sense to me now. I think I will go reread it.
I had a hard time with all the same names of Cryptonomicon, I kept trying to reconcile my mental images of Root, Shaftoe, et. al. from Crypto with the eponymous characters in QS which sometimes jarred.
Re: familiarity with the Time period: I do believe this is the first time my History of Science class in college has paid off:) Other than allowing a History Major to get a Science credit without any pesky math, I learned a lot about the RS and the development of scientific thought in the 17 and 18th centuries.
Still, this was a hard read. I had some difficulty getting a feel for the flow of the storyline e.g. the Clancyesque chapter headings blurred together so I found myself constantly going back and figuring out exactly when I was…Hmm, this goes to the spoiler above as well in a way!
I am impressed with the way NS kept the voices sounding authentic. In some of my International Studies courses we had to do similar thought experiments, imagining the reaction of say a Savoy noble to the Italian unification attempts of the 1850s. It was pretty challenging and I think Neal did it very well.
THe gratuitous Mother Goose references and the like were fun in a Terry Pratchett kind of way- once I recognized them as such and not jarring non sequiters.
I’m going to have to read this a second time to get a better feel for the book but I think this really needs to be viewed as a part of the trilogy. The story arcs don’t seem as developed as I’d like by the end of the first book. When it’s all finished, I think it will be a great series.