This is the middle third of Stephenson's enormous epic The Baroque Cycle, which began in Quicksilver and concludes in The System of the World. Do not try to read this book without first reading Quicksilver. This is Stephenson writing like Stephenson; if you like his writing, you can't put it down, and if you don't, well, it's really long. I love his writing, and he's kept me completely distracted from the world for the past few days, when I really haven't wanted to face the world anyway. There are a few sections that get a little slow, but for the most part, the political intrigue is interesting, and the action is fast and furious. There's so much going on that it's hard to follow, but it's fun to watch it flying past even when I know I'm missing a lot of it. And there's even the occasional belly-laugh. It's difficult to say much more without starting to reveal the story, which I try to avoid doing. I'll be eager to see if the third volume manages to actually come to a conclusion (Stephenson's biggest weakness as a writer seems to be in actually having the story end at the end of the book, an obligation he ducks with this one by making it the middle of a larger work) -- as soon as I catch my breath.
9 out of 10.