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The System of the World (The Baroque Cycle, Vol. 3) Paperback – September 6, 2005
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More About the Author
Born in Fort Meade, Maryland (home of the NSA and the National Cryptologic Museum) Stephenson came from a family comprising engineers and hard scientists he dubs "propeller heads". His father is a professor of electrical engineering whose father was a physics professor; his mother worked in a biochemistry laboratory, while her father was a biochemistry professor. Stephenson's family moved to Champaign-Urbana, Illinois in 1960 and then to Ames, Iowa in 1966 where he graduated from Ames High School in 1977. Stephenson furthered his studies at Boston University. He first specialized in physics, then switched to geography after he found that it would allow him to spend more time on the university mainframe. He graduated in 1981 with a B.A. in Geography and a minor in physics. Since 1984, Stephenson has lived mostly in the Pacific Northwest and currently resides in Seattle with his family.
Neal Stephenson is the author of the three-volume historical epic "The Baroque Cycle" (Quicksilver, The Confusion, and The System of the World) and the novels Cryptonomicon, The Diamond Age, Snow Crash, and Zodiac. He lives in Seattle, Washington.
Top Customer Reviews
Conflicts galore weave together into a complex tapestry: the power struggle between the Whigs and the Tories, the battle between Newton the Minter and Jack the Coiner, the feuding calculus inventors, and the clash between alchemy and science. In the end it all boils down to this: will the new system of the world be based on free markets and science? Or feudalism and alchemy?
The third and final book in the Baroque Cycle is just as weighty as the first two. It features a quick synopsis of Quicksilver and The Confusion for those who need a refresher. Even with the summary, I wouldn't advise starting with the third book. Each of the books in the series has its own character. Quicksilver was all about set-up, so while it was rich in detail and characters, it could be slow and a bit disjointed at times. The Confusion was full of madcap adventures and the pieces just flew around the board. The System of the World wraps all of the previous threads together, and strikes a nice balance between philosophy, intrigue, and action.
Stephenson keeps up the expected torrent of words, but as with the other two books, he keeps your attention with an iron fist of plot in a velvet glove of delightful prose.Read more ›
WHO SHOULD READ THIS:
Anyone who is reading this review has probably already invested a substantial amount of time in reading Quicksilver and The Confusion. It is unthinkable that, after reading those books, that they will not attempt System of the World. We will not deter them--they should run forth and purchase because it is refreshing to see such a work of astonishing scope come to a sort of satisfactory conclusion. The Baroque Cycle as a whole we feel will ultimately become a defining work in literature marking the early 21st century. The only thing that may hold it back is its length, which is daunting but wholly necessary.
WHO SHOULD PASS:
There may be a certain segment reading this series only for Jack Shaftoe and his exploits. While he is here in this book, he is not the focus and he seems somehow diminished in his age. We can't imagine anyone continuing to read these books only for adventure narrative but, if that was your main draw, it is largely absent in System and is much more focused on philosophy, economics, and politics.
READ THE ENTIRE REVIEW AT INCHOATUS.COM
In the acknowledgements, Stephenson refers to a mid-course correction with regards to his writing approach. He does not describe what it is, but I think I know. In the first book, there are many passages that are so oblique, tangential, and orthogonal only to style that I found it difficult to stay with the program the whole way through. This tendency lessened in The Confusion and nearly disappears here in System. Good for him, good for us.
My only real complaint for this book is Mr. Stephenson's need to provide painfully detailed driving directions of old London. I appreciate his descriptive powers (I really do!) but describing what street flows into which, where, and whether to turn left or right, &c. [ ;-) ] is a bit irritating. His map on the inside cover is not detailed enough for following along, assuming that you accept such embellishment is necessary for advancing the story. E.g., one of the two climaxes is at Tyburn, the streets around which are described for PARAGRAPHS. Go ahead and try to find it on the map.
Why am I bitching? I have no idea. I loved the characters, loved this book, enjoyed the Confusion and had faith through Quicksilver. Maybe I'm put off because he's SO CLOSE to being a true literary genius of my generation, but he's not QUITE there yet. Hey, there seems to be a 200 year gap for him to work with now...
So why is NS my favorite now? He does everything my favorite writers do--word play and dialogue like Shakespeare, philosophy like Lewis, weird distinct characters like Heinlein, truly surprising and novel ideas like PKD, wit like Chris Buckley, swashbuckling adventure like Howard, and living breathing history like Keegan.
I just finished the cycle, over 2,400 pages, and I want to read it all over again from start to finish; in fact, I did just that today, at least in bits and pieces, re-reading the first meeting of Jack and Eliza, Waterhouse's first appearance as an old man, etc. The cycle shows a rich love of continuity and depth of meaning in which I stand in awe, especially as an aspring author myself. The entire cycle begins and ends with a hanging. It begins with Waterhouse being summoned on a mission we (and he) understand not for 2,000+ pages, but, just as in life, eventually we can make out some purpose to it all once we arrive.
While some passages SEEM long-winded, it all matters. Every description of the streets of London, etc. have meaning to the entire book. Those who say the plot of the cycle could be told in 50 pages are correct. This is just one of the many things I love about the books--they are distinctly not about plot. Rather than discursively going on and on with plot, the cycle focuses on thematics, character, and development of an idea.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This trilogy is a most satisfying indulgence. It is Stephenson's masterpiece, which is saying a lot, because he has cranked out some gems. Read morePublished 11 days ago by Robert A.
Love it. Would love to see it come alive as a miniseries. Second time I've read it and didn't want it to end. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Joshua J Lucca
Neal Stephenson's ability to write in such detail, and so knowledgeably, about such an astonishing variety of period topics and happenings, is patently unbelievable. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Russell Davis
A great read. History, philosophy, science. Makes me wonder if Princess Caroline ever got Newton and Leibniz together, and sorry that Daniel Waterhouse never existedPublished 2 months ago by Michael E. Goldberg
One of the most brilliant works of historical fiction available.Published 3 months ago by Daemon A. Condie
I should probably have learned by now that Neal Stephenson and I aren't cut out for each other.
He's the kind of author that I should like, clearly smart, possessed of... Read more
I'm a Neal Stephenson fan, by way of coming clean (in other words, I'm prejudiced toward liking his work). Having said that...what's not to like? Read morePublished 4 months ago by SMC
Stephenson's my favorite author, but the first and third books in the Baroque Cycle are tortuous. Second book is worth wading through the first, but third book is disappointing.Published 4 months ago by Don Perkins
This is just part of Stephenson's Baroque Cycle. The whole work would be too big for one book and rather pricy to sell as a single audio book. Read morePublished 5 months ago by a reviewer