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The System Of The World: Volume Three of the Baroque Cycle (original 2004; edition 2005)

by Neal Stephenson

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4,627451,030 (4.27)40
Member:caitlinlizzy
Title:The System Of The World: Volume Three of the Baroque Cycle
Authors:Neal Stephenson
Info:Avon (2005), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 928 pages
Collections:E-books, 2012
Rating:****
Tags:fiction, historical fiction, adventure, science fiction, alchemy, mathematics, politics, religion, Baroque Cycle, 18th century, London, England, Hanover, Isaac Newton, Liebniz, Daniel Waterhouse, Jack Shaftoe, Eliza, Enoch Root

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The System of the World by Neal Stephenson (2004)

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Showing 1-5 of 44 (next | show all)
The System of the World is Volume III of the author’s Baroque Cycle. Volume I contains the first three “books” of the cycle, while The Confusion contains Book 4 (Juncto) and Book 5 (Bonanza). The System of the World contains the final three books of the Cycle, Solomon’s Gold, Currency and The System of the World.

If you read Volumes I and II, then you are familiar with the characters and the historical landscape (late 17th, early 18th century). While the historical fiction contained in these works is highly educational and at times fascinating (at others, somewhat confusing), this is not my favorite Stephenson effort. Nevertheless, as in his cyberpunk and sci-fi stories, a certain level of attention and effort is required in order fully grasp the author’s work. Some may not want to put forth the effort, but I appreciate it.

By its conclusion, the Cycle will have consumed between 2,500-3,000 pages; quite an undertaking, especially for a work that demands the reader’s attention and commitment. Having read it in its entirety, I can definitely say that I have a far better feel for the history and events of the period and geographical landscape. While the story certainly includes historical figures of significance (several English monarchs, English and French nobility, Continental rulers, Sir Isaac Newton and others) it also contains an assortment of fictional characters, some of whom are fascinating. Eliza, Jack Shaftoe and Daniel Waterhouse alternate as primary characters, though Eliza fades into the background through the final two books.

Most of the action in this final volume takes place in and around London. If the author’s writing can be believed, London of the period must have been one of the most miserable places ever on the face of the earth. Abominably crowded, absolutely filthy, disease and pest ridden, it would seem that a majority of the inhabitants walked around covered in sewage or industrial waste at all times. While overall, it is very entertaining and educational reading, at times it bogs down into relatively deep philosophical discussions between the characters. However, the final 200 pages are absolutely engrossing. If you have the time and are willing to put in the effort required, it is definitely worth it. ( )
  santhony | Dec 12, 2014 |
The third installment of the Baroque Cycle, this book does not disappoint. As with all Neil Stephenson books, however, you need to be prepared for detailed narrative and lofty dialogue, but if you let the confusion you occasionally suffer wash over you, it turns out to be an exceptional read. Thoroughly researched and highly detailed, Stephenson successfully recreates a fascinating time in history. Also of note is that he wrote the entire trilogy with ink-point felt pens, and parts of the original manuscript is on display in a museum that the publisher details at the end of the novel. ( )
  Meghanista | Dec 1, 2014 |
A wonderful wrap up of this 3,000 page saga. Eliza and Jack are reunited after 10 years apart as Jack worked against Isaac Newton trying to infuse the British currency with the alchimist's gold. In the style of Dunnett and Dumas, all the bad guys get their due and the good guys survive if not prosper. Slow reading at time, but very enjoyable. ( )
  stuart10er | Nov 5, 2013 |
If one has read the nearly 2000 pages of the *Baroque Cycle* that have preceded this final volume, it is unlikely that I need to sell you on the quality of this work. It is a complex and masterfully plotted tale that covers everything from the intellectual climate around the calculus dispute between Leibniz and Newton to the adventures of a vagabond turned pirate turned king turned counterfeiter. Stephenson's clever use of anachronism gives the novels a real sense of humor that makes these a joy to read.

The final volume fulfills all of the promise of the prior installments. It principally concerns Daniel Waterhouse (with Jack and Eliza playing smaller roles, though they are ever-present in the plot) and his adventures in London. It is driven by mystery, and as with the prior novels, each strand of the plot comes together in a wonderful way.

The same strengths are evident - Stephenson does a nice job providing a simple explanation of complex ideas, especially the exceedingly difficult views of Leibniz. Some of the same weaknesses appear here (occasionally clunky dialogue and repetitive use of a similar chapter structure in which we are not told the identities of the characters involved and are instead slowly clued in to who they are). If one has enjoyed the prior volumes, than one can proceed with full confidence into the grand finale. It's an epic that deserves a noteworthy ending, and Stephenson fully delivers.
  jeff.maynes | Jul 5, 2013 |
Well, I finally finished it.
It was probably my least favorite of this trilogy--too much Waterhouse and not enough Shaftoe.
It sure took a long time to get going, but when things finally started to happen it was good times. Who would have thought--Daniel Waterhouse, action hero?
( )
  JenneB | Apr 2, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 44 (next | show all)
Neal Stephenson spent nearly 2,000 pages setting his convergent plots into motion in The System of the World, and they all collide brilliantly in the third and final installment of his Baroque Cycle.
 

» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Neal Stephensonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Springer, NickCartographersecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Aquan, RichardCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Maestro, Laura HartmanGlobe illustrationsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sarkar, ShubhaniDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
But first whom shall we send
In search of this new world, whom shall we find
Sufficient? Who shall tempt with wandring feet
The dark unbottom'd infinite Abyss
And through the palpable obscure find out
His uncouth way, or spread his aerie flight
Upborn with indefatigable wings
Over the vast abrupt, ere he arrive
The happy Ile...
— Milton, Paradise Lost
There was the usual amount of corruption, intimidation, and rioting.

— Sir Charles Petrie, describing a Parliamentary election of the era.
It remains that, from the same principles, I now demonstrate the frame of the System of the World.

— Newton, Principia Mathematica
Dedication
To Mildred
First words
"Men half your age and double your weight have been slain on these wastes by Extremity of Cold," said the Earl of Lostwithiel, Lord Warden of the Stannaries, and Rider of the Forest and Chase of Dartmoor, to one of his two fellow-travelers.
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This is the third volume of the three-volume edition. Please don't combine with the eighth volume of the eight-volume edition with the same title.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060750863, Paperback)

England, 1714. London has long been home to a secret war between the brilliant, enigmatic Master of the Mint and closet alchemist, Isaac Newton, and his archnemesis, the insidious counterfeiter Jack the Coiner. Hostilities are suddenly moving to a new and more volatile level as Half-Cocked Jack hatches a daring plan, aiming for the total corruption of Britain's newborn monetary system.

Enter Daniel Waterhouse: Aging Puritan and Natural Philosopher, Daniel has been on a long and harrowing quest to help mend the rift between adversarial geniuses. As Daniel combs city and country for clues to the identity of the blackguard who is attempting to blow up Natural Philosophers, political factions jockey for position while awaiting the impending death of the ailing queen, and the "holy grail" of alchemy, the key to life eternal, tantalizes and continues to elude Isaac Newton.

As Newton, Waterhouse, and Shaftoe each circle closer to the object of Daniel's quest, everything that was will be changed forever ...

This P.S. edition features an extra 16 pages of insights into the book, including author interviews, recommended reading, and more.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:28:29 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

In the wake of a power struggle between the throne-seeking Tories and Whigs in early eighteenth-century England, Daniel Waterhouse teams up with Isaac Newton to hunt down a shadowy group that uses time bombs to kill Natural Philosophers.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 3 descriptions

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