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5.0 out of 5 starsONE HELL OF A NOVEL
Reviewed in the United States on May 16, 2020
An extraordinary work,a three thousand pages novel in three volumes. It covers events during the second half of the 17th century (first two volumens) and year 1714 in the third volume. There's everything on this novel, intrigues inside the royal court of France, England and Hanover; battles, romance, philosophical discussions, a good portrait of London during that period, and famous character's, like Sir Isaac Newton.The character of Newton in the book is put on into question, he's portrait as a sick, mentally unstable individual, obsessed with alchemy and convinced that the story of King Solomon good was true and the key to finding the philosophical stone. Difficult to imagine that he is the same Newton that wrote Pricipia Mathematica. As usual with all Stephenson books, the reader needs patient at the beginning of each book, you need to read at least 15% to grasp what is going on. You would learn a lot by reading these books.
Hi friends, it’s easy to think of the author has a science-fiction writer but this book is not science fiction. It is historical fiction so densely laden with references facts, details trivia et cetera that’s to be nothing short of astonishing. This is my second reading of the full baroque cycle and I enjoyed it more this time around. It’s staggers the imagination to consider what learning the author must have absorbed in order to pack virtually every page with some fascinating bit of information while carrying through an amazing story, based on the facts of the time. It certainly ranks as one of the top five books I have ever read and I’ve read a ton of stuff. Buy it, read it, read it again you won’t be disappointed.
I found the whole series fantastically good. I had read Cryptonomicon already, recommended to me by my daughter, and these books are really prequels (though much better than some prequels you may be familiar with from movies) but don't need to be read before Cryptonomicon. That said, now that I've finished the Baroque Cycle I am reading Cryptonomicon. again, with a different understanding of the characters who are descendants of some characters from the Baroque Cycle.
Most of the characters are well developed and deep, and all with different backgrounds and abilities. They change through the books as years go by, and like flesh & blood they do occasionally rise to (or fall to) occasions as they occur. It is a little jarring when a character is off to someplace and changes while they are gone, but that happens to us too with people we knew and meet again later in life.
The historic time frame is well researched and written, even some details that seemed jarring I found were true once I had done some research. There is an interesting mix of real historical figures and completely fictional characters. Some characters are involved with real historical events, like the Great Plague of London, followed by the Great Fire., and battles around Europe. The locations of the action changes to include much of the world.
5.0 out of 5 starsA clean wrap-up of a long and complex story
Reviewed in the United States on October 20, 2017
It took me forever to finish this series, but man, I'm glad I finally did. I bought the first book when it came out as a hardcover edition. I read about 40 pages and got wrapped up in other things and never finished it. Fast forward some 15 years and I reread Cryptonomicon and just needed more Neal Stephenson in my life. It took quite a while to read all of this series - it's a good 3000 pages and not for the faint at heart. But the reward ended up being worth it.
The first two books were a great back story. System of the World picks up the story in the present (as "present" as 1714 is). Many things have changed, but many have stayed the same. Seeing the relationships that were built in the last 2000 pages come to a peak was satisfying. I will not debate that there were some end stories that were just a little too convenient, nor will I argue that there were some standard Stephenson "Wha...?" moments, but the story ends well and has enough twists and turns that I had no clue where it was going to go. In fact, I thought things more or less wrapped up about 60% in and wondered if the remaining 40% was an index or something. So go through all 3000 pages. It was worth the time and money.
Reviewed in the United States on February 27, 2020
What can you say about this one? The last of the series, it tied everything up all the loose ends into a pretty nice conclusion, but I'm not sure it was one that I found especially satisfying. Stephenson is my favorite author and this series was just jam packed with the information and historical perspective that he does so well. I think I enjoyed Vols 1 and two a bit more, but taken as a whole they are a masterfully guided immersion into a very significant period of European history and western thought.
5.0 out of 5 starsHugely enjoyable multi-dimensional masterpiece - if you like long, discursive adventures
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 1, 2015
This is the conclusion of a very remarkable trilogy. Neal Stephenson has obviously done a heroic amount of research into an enormous number of arcane subjects relating to the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries; he tells a very interesting tale (or in fact, many tales); his characters are rounded and believable and undergo a lot of development; he can be very funny; his digressions on all sorts of themes are very interesting in themselves and outstandingly well written - the explanation of Leibnitz's monad theory for example; he shows a very wide range of emotions very convincingly, so his writing is far more humane than much speculative fiction; his prose style seems impeccably English - quite different from the style of his US-based stories, and even with the (often very witty) anachronisms is believably that of the period - in my experience the only other writer who makes such a good job of period feeling in his prose is Patrick O'Brian. Of course the book is long and discursive, so if you want a short sharp story, don't bother. But I think it's a masterpiece.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 11, 2016
“Quicksilver” wanders round much of Europe and has a timespan of decades. “The Confusion” takes us around the world, and covers several years. Both have three or four main viewers (Jack, Bob and Eliza plus Daniel). “The System…” in contrast has a much narrower focus. Beyond a brief excursion to Hanover, the action is entirely in England (and almost entirely in or near London). The viewer is mostly Daniel until near the end when he shares the role with Jack. And the timescale is months. But this literary transition from picaresque to formalism acts as a counterpoint to what was happening in the arts at the time when the book is set – the transition from Baroque formalism to Rococo playfulness, and I can’t imagine this is accidental.
The move from entropy to order also “informs” an important theme in the book – the beginnings of Information Theory. And I loved the conceit of bringing Newcomen into the story. The idea of a steam powered computer is surely a nod to Sterling and Gibson’s “The Difference Engine”.
The whole trilogy is a triumph, and I hope Stephenson revisits his world at various times between the Baroque and the Second World War/Turing parts of “Cryptonomicon”
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 25, 2016
I cannot do justice to the baroque cycle books in this review, suffice to say I have been kept thoroughly entertained, stimulated, piqued, and tickled for the past 3 months. The books are hard work but rewarding, equal parts brilliant quicksilver and tempered steel, sometimes slow but never tedious, and always beautifully crafted. On a par in scope and scale as Tolkien's ring trilogy, with the focal point being the creation of the modern system of the world we still experience today, born from the ashes of late mediaeval Europe. Awesome read, look forward to rereading at some future juncture.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 19, 2006
I've almost finished this book, only a few precious pages remain. In truth I'm dreading the moment that I do. Stephenson's characters have lived in my mind for many a month now, since I first picked up Quicksilver in April last year, and I'll miss them terribly. During that time I've come to know the streets of London in the last part of the 17th century almost as well as I know the London of today, and I've travelled across Europe, the Middle East, India, and the American colonies. I have come to know Isaac Newton and Louis XIV as real people. I have been made to think, and to laugh out loud, and to cry. Stephenson's skill with language is such that one constantly notices the beauty, power, and skill of the writing, and yet it never draws attention away from what he is describing, which comes across in almost cinematically atmospheric scenes. If you liked the war scenes in Cryptonomicon the best, this is the book for you; only start with Quicksilver!
5.0 out of 5 starsMasterpiece fun: Newton, The Royal Society, Pirates, Politics, Money - you name it; it's got it
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 6, 2013
This trilogy is one of those rarest of things, an entertaining masterpiece. It combines a story which is rich and strange with characters who are fun to follow around and incorporates information about a key moment of history which is enriching to absorb useful to have and fun to play with forever. It looks at lots of big issues such as the nature of knowledge, it's development into science, its relationship to religion morality & truth, the bullying manipulations of politics, the nature and consequences of mortality. And yet, it's STILL fun to read! Amazing.