Customer Review

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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