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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read it!
This is a very, very, very good book. Get your hands on it as soon as you can and read it. For best effect, read its predecessors, "Quicksilver" and "The Confusion", first. It is the third and (apparently) final volume in a series - the Baroque Cycle - and the overall impact builds up steadily over the three books.
The entire cycle (the author apparently doesn't...
Published on 24 Jan 2005 by D. Harris

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Number two, again
I have finally finished re-reading this book, and I am happy to say that I will never attempt to do so again. The third volume of this trilogy is again divided into three books, and I don't think I'm being unreasonable by saying that absolutely nothing happens in the first one. Daniel Waterhouse basically sits in a carriage or walks around London and "notices" every small...
Published on 24 Oct 2011 by Blackbeard


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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read it!, 24 Jan 2005
By 
D. Harris (Oxford, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This is a very, very, very good book. Get your hands on it as soon as you can and read it. For best effect, read its predecessors, "Quicksilver" and "The Confusion", first. It is the third and (apparently) final volume in a series - the Baroque Cycle - and the overall impact builds up steadily over the three books.
The entire cycle (the author apparently doesn't like the term "trilogy") is set in the late 17th and early 18th centuries and views its characters though a number of themes - Natural Philosophy, war, money, commerce, alchemy, slavery, religion and many more. My impression was that in this volume, the themes go deeper, and Stephenson works harder on them, than in the preceding volumes. Despite this he succeeds in maintaining the pace, a trick which the earlier two (especially "Quicksilver") didn't always manage quite so well (though they were still excellent overall). It could be though that those earlier books did the hard work and set the scene.
Anyway, "System of the World" brings things to a tidy(ish) conclusion. There are suprises. There is a detective sub plot (along the lines of Samuel Pepys meets John Rebus). There is minute detail on London. (Please, someone, organise a Baroque Cycle walking tour - I'm sure it would be more rewarding than for certain bestselling historical novels I could name).
Actually this is the third in a series of four - the fourth, Cryptonomicon, which is set in the 20th century, was published first. The relationship with Cryptonomicon is loose - broadly the characters here are ancestors of those in the later (er, earlier) book and there is geekish fun to be had in watching Stephenson dispose everyone correctly by the end of "System". However many of the themes are the same, and in fact the ending of "Cryptonomicon", which I have seen some reviewers here criticise as just too implausible, fits better with the earlier volumes - where fortunes are gained and lost through treachery and chance - as background.
I do hope that Stephenson will follow up this story, in some way - I think I see hints in the text that he might: at least one character remains a real mystery and some of the themes are left open. Perhaps, though, for reasons of symmetry, that would have to be set in the far future.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A staggering achievement, 19 Jan 2006
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This review is from: The System Of The World (Baroque Cycle 3) (Paperback)
I've almost finished this book, only a few precious pages remain. In truth I'm dreading the moment that I do. Stephenson's characters have lived in my mind for many a month now, since I first picked up Quicksilver in April last year, and I'll miss them terribly. During that time I've come to know the streets of London in the last part of the 17th century almost as well as I know the London of today, and I've travelled across Europe, the Middle East, India, and the American colonies. I have come to know Isaac Newton and Louis XIV as real people. I have been made to think, and to laugh out loud, and to cry. Stephenson's skill with language is such that one constantly notices the beauty, power, and skill of the writing, and yet it never draws attention away from what he is describing, which comes across in almost cinematically atmospheric scenes. If you liked the war scenes in Cryptonomicon the best, this is the book for you; only start with Quicksilver!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a fine ending to the trilogy, 30 Oct 2004
By 
Travelling Jen (North Yorkshire UK) - See all my reviews
Neal Stephenson has written a fine ending to his Baroque Cycle Trilogy. Despite being a little fragmented it held my attention and engrossed me right to the end (886 pages!)The stories all conclude in satisfying and appropriate ways. Nearly all my favourite characters were present to push their stories forward. Many loose ends were tied, some were only recognised as stray plots when the extra details arrived to tie the bow!
As usual, Stephenson has pushed the action into the entertaining and only just possible.The action is so gripping that it had me reading into the night. His grasp of period detail is such that it can be hard to realise that he didn't live in the period he is descibing. I found it hard to pick out his exaggerations and fabrications, so for me, the only jarring is his persistant use of american vocabulary. (Which I try to forgive as Daniel lived for so long near Boston!)
However, I'm not sure that a reader could enjoy to this book without reading the previous volumes (Quicksilver, The Confusion). There is too much assumed knowledge for the plot to be comprehensible at this stage of its development.
This trilogy is recommended reading for lovers of a good tale, enthusiasts of military, scientific, nautical, medical and social history,and everyone who enjoys an intelligent book with a fabulous plot. Read all three volumes!!!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'Tis Pleasing to Enjoy Nearly 3000 Pages of Satisfaction, 4 Aug 2006
This review is from: The System Of The World (Baroque Cycle 3) (Paperback)
It's taken me roughly 6 months to read all three books of the `Baroque Cycle' and I have just finished the last one, 'The System of the World'. Neal's accomplishment (and by reading the acknowledgements (as if another couple of pages reading matters by this stage!) is by no means his alone; centuries of historical records have been Alchemically morphed into a work of fiction that binds commercial, social and technical markers in the West's trajectory, creating a glimpse of a world back then where and when it all happened, so that today we enjoy the fruits of change and progress. All in all, if you like a touch of romance, intrigue, technology and trade - this is a fine collection to devour over a long winter.

I could rave on for hours about the depiction of London - because I live and work there - and this in itself gave me much delight.

All in all, I feel I'm a better person for reading `Baroque Cycle', purely because it might have never come my way and it wasn't thrust down my throat by some advertising blitz. I chanced upon the first book in my local library, and like all good treasures, it took a hold of me. I'd read `SnowCrash', so new of Mr Stephenson's work, and also new that as a writer it would be a gamble for him to write so intensely of a past period, and thankfully he took up that gamble because it's a great read.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The last in a magnificent trilogy, 10 Dec 2004
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Neal Stephenson has done it again: just under 1,000 pages of dense, dark, glittering prose. If you've read the preceding two novels - Qucksilver and The Confusion - you'll be hard pressed to resist The System of the World. Why it lurks in the sci-fi sections of bookshops is a total mystery. More than just the last in his saga of science, politics and money in the 18th century - The System of the World is also a novel of ideas, a thriller and a slice of vividly imagined history in its own right. It's great to have the hugely entertaining Jack Shaftoe back and soaring over the heads of the London "mobile" scattering cash, the sinister Edouard de Gex, beautiful Eliza and the priapic Ravenscar. Daniel Waterhouse developes, too, and the Club he sets up to discover who's got it in for the Royal Society is a comic masterpiece - sort of geriatric, argumentative Bow St Runners. It's just as well the Baroque Cycle is titanically long, though. So few other writers comes close to equalling Stephenson in breath and range, that everything after this seems rather unexciting. Thankfully Luther Blisset (Q) and Patricia Finney (The Firedrake's Eye) can take up the slack.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent, 8 Aug 2010
This review is from: The System Of The World (Baroque Cycle 3) (Paperback)
Stephenson called it the Baroque Cycle for a reason. Dismissing it on the grounds of indulgence is like bemoaning the furriness of cats or the sheen of gold. The obsessively detailed world within is a microcosm for the desires, whims and machinations that have produced the modern world. Any novel with such a grandiose, ironic, title that can deliver substantially on any of that promise must be deemed a success. TSOTW does so, breathing life into legendary characters who birthed the Renaissance while giving us some of the most fascinating characters in modern literature; the ageless maven Enoch, the lovable rogue Jack Shaftoe, his soul-mate and economic innovator Eliza and the technological mediator Daniel Waterhouse. These are archetypal characters required to influence any revolution in thought.

Insights into modern economics, financial crisis, computing, information theory, warfare, geo-politics, the rise and fall of nations, linguistics, city planning, horology, I could go on. Stephenson has marshalled them all into a compendium of nerdishness. This is no bad thing. If we can have sagas about vampires then why not sagas about geeks? I don't believe this is intended to be a mass market book.

It's refreshing that an author with the skill and downright genius of NS has given nerds a bible, the origins of geek culture in science, technology and economics. Neal is our prophet & I sincerely hope he'll be inspired to write more.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Next time cut it short, Neal..., 17 Sep 2006
By 
Rizzo Loris (Milano, Italy) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The System Of The World (Baroque Cycle 3) (Paperback)
It takes weeks to read "Quicksilver", "The Confusion" and "The System of the World". Is it worth it? Definitely yes. Whatever it is you seek in a book, you are going to find plenty of it here. A great story that will bring you from Boston to London, from Versailles to Amsterdam, from Africa to Asia and through more adventures than any Indiana Jones film. A fantastic cast of characters, real ones and fantastic fictional creations like Half-Cocked Jack Shaftoe, the ultimate adventurer despite a certain anatomic shortage, and Eliza de la Zeur, virgin odalisque, financial genius and all-around epitome of feminine brilliance and determination. And masterful writing that manages to unravel a magnificent yarn of love, hate, revenge, betrayal, political intrigue, scientific discoveries and financial speculation borrowing styles from Defoe, Choderlos de Laclos, Stevenson and John Ford with a welcome touch of humor in the direst situations. And while you're having great fun reading, you are going to absorb along the way also plenty of interesting information about a momentous passage of age happened 300 years ago, and reminiscent of a similar phenomenon that may be happening nowadays. Is the Baroque Cycle perfect? No, sometimes it really is too long-winded, and probably the almost homonymous Robert Louis Stevenson could have told the same story in half the words. But this is really the only thing in which Neal Stephenson can get any better: the Philosopher Stone of his narrative would be more synthesis. Next time cut it short, Neal... that didn't make a lesser man of Jack Shaftoe, nor will it lessen your novels if not in size.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely brilliant!, 7 April 2005
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S. Bruntlett (Leicester, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Having just finished this last volume in an absolutely magnificent trilogy, I have to say that these are the best three books I've read for a very long time. Absolutely fascinating, witty, well plotted, thoroughly engaging, full of historical and fictional detail though not at the expense of wonderful characters and unparalleled storytelling.
I might just go back to the libary tomorrow and borrow the first two to read again!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not quite the full cigar, 4 Dec 2010
By 
Sentinel (Essex) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The System Of The World (Baroque Cycle 3) (Paperback)
I found myself completely absorbed in Stephenson's previous oustandingly good two novels in this trilogy (essential reading prior to this one), but though I found the period detail, esp. that of London, brilliantly realised, I felt the narrative pace slowed dangerously, so there were occasions when the wealth of detail felt a little like the author ensuring he didn't waste any of his research. To be fair, this volume is driven largely through the eyes of Daniel Waterhouse, now in his sixties, while the two most engaging and dynamic characters, Eliza and Jack are relegated to much smaller parts, and the momentum of the whole suffers. There are consolations in the character of 'Saturn', and a wonderfully evoked London, and the commensurate politicing (wheeling & dealing), but a more static overall plotline. Still well worth the read, but a sense of the author losing something of the red-hot inspiration which fuelled, and drove the 'cliffhanger' action of the first two truly superb volumes. A satisfactory 'tying together' of the loose odds and ends of the trilogy overall, but not quite the full cigar.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Number two, again, 24 Oct 2011
This review is from: The System Of The World (Baroque Cycle 3) (Paperback)
I have finally finished re-reading this book, and I am happy to say that I will never attempt to do so again. The third volume of this trilogy is again divided into three books, and I don't think I'm being unreasonable by saying that absolutely nothing happens in the first one. Daniel Waterhouse basically sits in a carriage or walks around London and "notices" every small detail about the geography of the city (and anywhere else he goes), which only shows that the author did a lot of research, but which does nothing for the story, if this can even be called a story. The uppermost thought in my mind as I was reading this was that Neal Stephenson has to be one of the most eloquent nerds on the planet. Or maybe I should use verbose instead of eloquent, because he just goes on and on about nothing, and half of the words he uses need to be looked up (I didn't look them up because I don't care what they mean). He uses "too" several times again in an inappropriate manner, but the worst one in this book is "wee". There is nothing small or little here, only "wee". Personally, I think anyone who isn't Scottish sounds stupid if they use it, but this was just ridiculous. He must have used it fifty times in as many pages. He uses all kinds of alternate spellings with words, like "musick", "smoak", or "a-maze", which I suppose is supposed to give it a more archaic feel, but it didn't do anything for me - nor did the use of "stone's throw", "bow shot", musket shot", "hand's breadth", etc. for measuring distances. There were almost too many things to mention about the writing that annoyed me, so I won't say anything more about it, apart from the dialogue and "action" scenes, the latter of which were not much better than a Robert Ludlum novel. One example of dialogue I can give is when Leibniz, a well-respected philosopher (among other things), hears something he can't believe, and says, "Say what!?" I may be wrong that this is a modern American colloquialism, but it still sounded absurd. It seemed that the reader was always supposed to stand in awe of certain people, like royalty, or Isaac Newton (who appears as Saruman in this series), but none of them ever say anything to deserve such awe (for the obvious reason that the author was incapable of portraying such persons). The plot was too loose (partly because of interceding, endless description), and the ending was just as boring as the rest. I don't remember disliking anything that this author wrote before I re-read this series, but now I am afraid to re-read anything else by him. One reason I think this didn't work for me could be that this is based on real life, and this is more of a colourful text book than a novel. The detail in his science fiction books is interesting because he is making it up - creating a fantasy world, whereas here he is merely reproducing what he found fascinating. He should have left this as one book instead of a trilogy.
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The System Of The World (Baroque Cycle 3)
The System Of The World (Baroque Cycle 3) by Neal Stephenson (Paperback - 6 Oct 2005)
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