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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.