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The System of the World (The Baroque Cycle, Vol. 3) Paperback – September 6, 2005
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Please note that I read Quicksilver in hardback, The Confusion I started in hardback then started over after I quit halfway and read it on my iPad along with the Audible audiobook and the same with The System of the World. I HIGHLY recommend downloading and listening to the audiobook while you read along. I know it costs more money and you might think, why bother, but it truly makes a difference. For me, it was a matter of time. I simply did not have the time to get through 2,700 pages and 1.3 million words. So I'd read when I could, then I'd listen to the audiobook when I was running, etc. You'll get through it much faster this way.
The System of the World is my favorite in the series. For the first time throughout the whole series we see all of the main characters in the same country and all dealing with each other in person, instead of by letters, which Quicksilver and The Confusion had plenty. Try reading a 10 page letter from Eliza to Daniel and you'll understand why it can get tedious at times. The chapters go quickly and the book builds on itself until the very end. Something that the two previous books did not do. They just added more plot, more story and above all, more characters to remember.
I had heard that there were many people disappointed with the way The System and The Cycle on a whole ended. I don't know what they're talking about. I loved it!! Without giving away any spoilers I can just say that it ended, in what I believe to be, the perfect way. The Cycle is wrapped up. There's nothing more to be said.
The System of the World and The Baroque Cycle was a close friend of mine for a few years. I loved this series. I was difficult, I had to look up many words in the dictionary and look up many historical people and places on Wikipedia, but in the end, I feel like I have a PhD in Baroque history and I am all the better for sticking with these books and finishing them.
If you've read the other two, there really is no reason why you shouldn't read this. Hang in there. All the lengthy dialogue and erudite discourse on coin making, monads, engines, boats, currency, fashion, language and culture is worth it.
I promise you!
Now, just finished full, careful 2nd reading of all three volumes, complete with extensive look-ups of historical characters and events--wow! Even better than I remembered: great characters, wonderful adventures, both funny and intelligent.
Highly recommended for everyone who likes speculative fiction.
Firstly, do not buy this book if you haven't read the other two. Considering each of the three books has well over 1,000 pages, it's a pretty serious investment, but fans of historical novels get far more than their money's worth.
Before I wrote the review to this last book, I went through my other two reviews of book 1 and 2, and observed how I wasn't a fan of the first one, then started to really like the second one, and then loved the third one. The Baroque Cycle is so stupendously huge and yet so cleverly written, I found the effect it had on me very much like that of a TV show that started a little slow but then as I began to get to know the characters and settings, began to greet with the warm feelings of old friends having come around for a visit.
The third book doesn't miss a step in the plot: it's now Jack the Coiner against Daniel Waterhouse, who can barely hold an ever-more-disgruntled Isaac Newton at bay. The various schemes Jack comes up with are clever, but Daniel has also gotten a lot wiser (he's now in his early 70s, and in that time, that's seriously old). There are still lots of twists and turns, just like in the other two books, but what this last one delivers more than any of the others is laughs! Stephenson's research of London in the early 18th century is impeccable as ever, but now he talks about it like a fond observer, often tongue-in-cheek, and with a heavy sense of irony and surprising cynicism, always at the right time loosened up just enough that readers understand how bad it was to live in that time, but at the same time pointing out the ridiculousness of it all. I was strongly reminded of Terry Pratchett describing the fictional city Ankh-Morpork (which in turn was based on the London of old) in his comedic style.
Once again, Stephenson has an eye for both meticulous detail (in his descriptions of the London of old) and the big picture (his excellent analysis of the impact of the late 17th and early 18th century on our economic and social structures today). I learned so much while reading this book, it was almost like a thoroughly enjoyable history lesson.
The ending is much better and much less soppy than most of the other Stephenson books, and up until the very end, he surprises with twists and thoughtful plot lines. I was very sad when it ended and I knew there wasn't anything else in this trilogy. I had similar feelings when I finished Patrick O'Brian's excellent adventures that were set about 100 years later, it's the same clever mix of wit, historic knowledge and a great plot line spanning thousands of pages.
Overall, this is now amongst my top book series: it starts a little weak, but patience is rewarded, and having read the whole thing I can only recommend it to anybody who likes period novels, a ripping yarn, and lots and lots of reading material!