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The System of the World (The Baroque Cycle #3)

4.28 of 5 stars 4.28  ·  rating details  ·  13,858 ratings  ·  468 reviews
The Barnes & Noble Review
The System of the World, the third and concluding volume of Neal Stephenson's shelf-bending Baroque Cycle (Quicksilver and The Confusion), brings the epic historical saga to its thrilling -- and truly awe-inspiring -- conclusion.


Set in the early 18th century and featuring a diverse cast of characters that includes alchemists, philosophers, mat

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Paperback, 908 pages
Published September 6th 2005 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published September 21st 2004)
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Community Reviews

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Kemper
(Excerpt from the journal of Neal Stephenson.)

So here I am, trying to wrap up the last book of the The Baroque Cycle. This thing has gotten completely out of control. I knew it’d be huge when I planned it, but this story has sprawled everywhere. What the hell was I thinking? Any one of the story threads I’ve had going could be a fair sized novel in itself. Now I gotta gather them all up and try to come up with some kind of coherent ending. I’m not going to have a fan left if I don’t wrap this up
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Thomas
Whew. About 2,700 pages later, and thank heavens it wraps up beautifully, making the long trek well worth the effort. Now that I've reached the end, I realize fully how enjoyable the journey itself was.

People often asked me what these books are about. Er. It's a story of alchemy (human more than chemical), economics, word origins, English history, history of science, philosophy, bravado, character and a little love. Like all of Stephenson's work thus far, it is large and contains multitudes — co
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Ben
Sep 18, 2007 Ben rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: People who have read Cryptonomicon
I am doing this as a review for the Baroque cycle altogether, so don't bother reading the reviews for the other two if you are reading this one.

The Baroque cycle is a massive, epic, depressingly wide reaching body of creative work which, I believe, has made several well respected fantasy/sci-fi novelists give up and go home. If it hasn't, it definitely should. It's just so.... big. And while there are a lot of authors who have written large things (the Lord of the Rings, the Wheel of Time, a Son
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Karl
I don't even know how to begin to review this trilogy. It's really all one novel, and so it might then be the longest novel I've read.

It has everything. An around the world sea voyage. The Barbary corsairs. Love triumphing over death. Women trimuphing over men. The beginnings of the Enlightenment. Battles. The formation of the monetary system. A duel with unconventional firearms. Blackbeard. Peter the Great. And a gaggle of mathematicians.

Extensively researched historical fiction, I've been hard
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Melissa Rudder
The final book in Neal Stephenson's The Baroque Cycle, The System of the World, did exactly what the conclusion of a long complex tale, inhabited by a lively cast of characters across five continents, should do: it dazzled its reader with a seemingly unending parade of dramatic climaxes, facilitated by the carefully interwoven tales of seemingly disparate individuals.

My usual complaint about Stephenson's detail-driven writing does not apply to The System of the World. Perhaps the first two insta
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Amy
This series was an ambitious project on Stephenson's part, but I think he tried to do too much. I liked the characters he created and found the plot interesting, however, the books are uneven in their pacing and sort of unfocused. Sometimes it's a love story, sometimes it's an adventure, sometimes it's a mystery. He does the love and adventure well, but really falls down on the mystery aspect. It's as though he randomly decided to make things obscure for no real reason. He also just takes too da ...more
Bookmarks Magazine

The conclusion to The Baroque Cycle is a veritable doorstop, but a doorstop perhaps worth its weight in 18th-century gold coins

Ryan
The Baroque Cycle as a whole takes a great deal of time to read, and I think I've come to somehow identify with the series as a result. Now I find myself torn between an urge to share this series with everyone and to keep it to myself so that it's not cheapened by becoming a 30 second talk piece on The View (apologies to The View). I would also be pleased if these books were never turned into a film or television series, though I would of course have to see it if they were. Although I am normall ...more
Alec
well, I like Neal, but like most of his stuff, all three books in this cycle could have used a better editor. The mere fact that I read all 2736 pages is a testament to his story telling, but I mean come on at least 1432 pages detailed 18th century architecture and fashion. That level of detail is endearing when he is talking code-breaking or operating systems, but the discussion of periwigs lacks glamor.

His characters on many levels are extremely profound and complex, except when it comes to th
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Josh
Baroque Summer 2011 finally ends! In February 2012!

It's probably best not to think of these books as three huge tomes, but instead like a longer series of eight normal-sized novels (which the three are divided up into, with the complication that nos. 4 and 5 are told in parallel) or like eight seasons of some well-produced TV show. I wish it had been eight volumes, actually. I never would have been stupid enough to try reading an octology straight through.

Like anything that long, there were gre
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Kristine
In Quicksilver, the first book of the Baroque cycle, it isn't obvious where Stephenson is going. That book is an enjoyable read, to be sure, but I never would have guessed Stephenson's ambition with these novels is to explain how the world we live today came about, where the scientific method rules rather than alchemy, and where money is completely interchangeable, and where finance...well, perhaps that hasn't changed so much, but anyway, where the world we live in came from. More than a simple ...more
Steve
Well, I'm now officially depressed. I finished reading the Baroque Cycle. To say that I enjoyed reading the series would be to stretch the word "enjoyed" to the breaking point. It would be rolling the word "enjoyed" off to the juicing room. It would be hanging the word "enjoyed" until half dead, and then drawing and quartering the word "enjoyed" by four sturdy teams of horses, in the hopes that somewhere in the process "enjoyed" would choose to reveal the location of its ringleader, a much more ...more
Benjamin Thomas
After nearly three long years of reading these books by Neal Stephenson I have finally completed the final volume. The System of the World contains the final three novels in his huge Baroque Cycle, a “project” read that I began back in 2008. This volume contains these three novels: Solomon's Gold, Currency, and The System of the World. All told there are nearly 3000 pages of historical fiction, historical fact, irreverent humor, and a bit of science fiction thrown in.

I don't have too much to say
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Amanda
This is the third book in Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle - well, the last three books, since Stephenson actually wrote eight books that made up the cycle which were then published to form a trilogy. Here the majority of the action takes place in London, where virtually all of the protagonists we have been following end up bringing the story to a mighty conclusion.

The basic plot is that of a murder mystery, but comprises many other components. Daniel Waterhouse has completed his epic trip back a
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Nicholas Whyte
http://nhw.livejournal.com/737376.html

Any Man, when he shall have completed a Taſk, be it one which he has aſsigned to Himſelf, or an Impoſition from ſome external Party, may experience a certain Euphoria. I write here of two such Taſks which have been completed, videlicet, primo, the Exertions of Master STEPHENSON in writing the Series of Romances, commencing with Cryptonomicon and continued in Quickſilver, The Confuſion, and the Volume here under Conſideration; and secundo, my own Expenditure
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Pete Marchetto
The temptation to two-star this work out of spite was immense, but let's accept it for what it is. A well-written book by a brilliant writer which proves, nonetheless, disappointing.

Stephenson as an excellent but disappointing writer has been the theme of my reviews since - oh, so long ago, my darlings - I began reading him first with the Cryptonomicon and then, in its immediate wake, (or 'aftermath' may here be a better word), headed down the difficult road of reading all three volumes of his B
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Miles
Of the many reasons I do not play chess, the main one is that I’m lousy at strategy. I struggle to think more than one or two moves ahead, can’t easily reposition pieces in my mind’s eye, and am hapless when it comes to sniffing out and thwarting my opponent’s battle plan. I’ve had similar troubles trying to follow and parse the machinations of Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle, the first two volumes of which I found to be dense, sprawling, and restrained in their capacity for illumination. The Sy ...more
Grzegorz
Po prawie 3000 stron przyszedł niestety czas na rozstanie się z bohaterami Cyklu Barokowego, co jak po każdej dobrej książce nie przychodzi lekko, szczególnie gdy bohaterowie są tak genialni jak u Stephensona.

Ustrój świata podzielony jest na trzy części, każda skonstruowana w bardzo podobny sposób, ze stopniowo rozpędzającą się akcją aż do momentu wielkiego finału. A jak przystało na ostatnią część trylogii, dzieje się naprawdę dużo i to z wielkim rozmachem.

Zakończenie jest cyklu satysfakcjonuj
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Bernie Charbonneau
A couple of years of on and off reading and it is finally over! Over 2700 pages and sometimes back and forth to refresh the mind of the characters and their belonging in the novel, I’m sure made the series longer. This last book in the trilogy of course ties everything together. This last book is approximately 900 pages so the only way for me to summarize in a paragraph is that it is as good as the previous books and maybe a little better as it answers questions that you may have from the story ...more
Robby
I finally finished the Baroque Cycle (after what felt like several decades). Throughout my struggle to finish the 2000+ page trilogy I found myself continually wondering why I was still plowing through. Yes, there were great characters, and yes, Stephenson has an amazing way with dialogue (IMHO one of the best), and he has really captured a time period -- when natural philosophers and pirates were kings. But his long-winded passages often made me begin to skim (not something I am proud of). The ...more
Lindsay
Apr 06, 2013 Lindsay rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone, provided they've read the other books in the series
With this enormous volume, the Baroque Cycle comes to a close. While there is the same kind of speeding up, adding new plot threads and jumping from one set-piece action scene to another that is typical of Stephenson's endings, I thought he actually succeeded at tying everything up in this one. I guess he can do that when he's got an entire epic-length novel in which to end things, as opposed to the fifty pages or so he tends to devote to endings in his stand-alone novels.

In this volume, unlike
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Jim
ZOUNDS!!!!!

A 3rd Mountain of a Book to Read. I have just Accomplished the Summit of the 2nd Mountain and I start with this 3rd Trek! Am I Barking Mad? If so, Put a Dog Collar on me, and I'll get a Rabies Shot!! I'm off!!!

Ye Gods! The things this man knows! History, Philosophy, Alchemy Science, Currency,(and the interweaving of these), just to name a few! I fear the man has swallowed an Enclopedia, nay, a Library (Hopefully this is the orifice through which it has been ingested!!!) for the knowle
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Steve Lew
I'm writing one quick review for the whole baroque cycle and pasting it on all three books. My five star reviews reflect the fact that I had a blast reading this stuff and was very sorry that it eventually ended. I'm going to mention a couple of flaws, but what I have to tell you is that these are great books and you should drop everything and read them. Anyway, NS did a cubic shit-ton of research to pull this off, and as you know he is a capable and thorough researcher. I'm sorry to say that he ...more
Dan
Nov 04, 2008 Dan rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Hanoverians, Respected Whigs, Savants, Masters of the Mint, Coiners, Tsarists, and Alchemists
This is the final book in the Baroque Cycle. The Historical Fiction Epic about how the modern world was formed out of the 17th (and early 18th) century. The stories weave together accounts of fictional characters with historical figures. The narrative threads through historical events and provides interesting points of view.

Certainly the epic is not the most historically accurate account of what happened. But it gets the big idea of it all right, and it is terribly entertaining.

This book tells t
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Mark
After approximately 3,000 pages, it's hard to say whether the warm feelings one has for the Baroque Cycle are better attributed to the merit of the work or to Stockholm Syndrome.

In this final volume, Stephenson's characters (Waterhouse, Shaftoe, Eliza) and the near-automatons-modeled-after-historical-figures they interact with (Leibniz, Newton, Caroline of Hanover, et al) are once again on hand, this time to bid adieu to the Enlightenment and to usher in Modernity. Along the way there's the usu
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Phil James

I was tricked into reading this, but I'm glad because why else would I have started in on this 2700 page trilogy? Years ago Neal Stephenson intrigued and thrilled me with his cyber-punk classic "Snowcrash" so that I could see where he was going with "Diamond Age" a neo-victorian culture in an incredibly futuristic world. By the time I read "Cryptonomicon" I had enough trust in him as an author to take me through a lot of reading involving multiple characters and time periods and to know it was g

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Clouds
Solid enough, but sadly rather disappointing after the two different flavours of book-loving joy that were Quicksilver and The Confusion. A strong melancholy tone, it felt a bit stretched and thin in places, where the preceding tomes always had this depth and solidity too them. Hard to put my finger on exactly what let it down, but it just didn't give me the same buzz.

I have 40+ books sitting on my 'review-soon' shelf that I just don't have time to write proper reviews for, so I'm going to bash
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Marc
Finished the last book in this series. Wow, was it long. Don't knwo that it needed to be that long. Lots of diverse wanderings through the plot line that eventually all come together but didn't seem altogether necessary. Instead of invoking the typical "Years later", and giving a summary of what happened in between, he goes into depth for each characters travels (in somewhat episodic form, i.e. lots of detail about a few events, fast forward in between). Still, I enjoy his concepts and voice. I ...more
Liviu

Superb ending - in all senses of the word - to the Baroque trilogy and a must for people who love historical fiction a la Dumas or D. Dunnett. The light sf-nal elements of the trilogy disappointed purists, but so what - the modern world which Mr. Stephenson accurately in my opinion claims that started with Newton and Leibniz is as sf-nal and improbable as any sf novel, so this extraordinary description in 3000 pages of that beginning is a masterpiece.

And of course we get to say farewell to Jac
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Duncan Mandel
EDITORIAL REVIEW: 'Tis done. The world is a most confused and unsteady place -- especially London, center of finance, innovation, and conspiracy -- in the year 1714, when Daniel Waterhouse makes his less-than-triumphant return to England's shores. Aging Puritan and Natural Philosopher, confidant of the high and mighty and contemporary of the most brilliant minds of the age, he has braved the merciless sea and an assault by the infamous pirate Blackbeard to help mend the rift between two adversar ...more
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Neal Town Stephenson is an American writer known primarily for his science fiction works in the postcyberpunk genre with a penchant for explorations of society, mathematics, cryptography, currency, and the history of science. He also writes non-fiction articles about technology in publications such as Wired Magazine, and has worked part-time as an advisor for Blue Origin, a company (funded by Jeff ...more
More about Neal Stephenson...

Other Books in the Series

The Baroque Cycle (3 books)
  • Quicksilver (The Baroque Cycle, #1)
  • The Confusion (The Baroque Cycle, #2)
Snow Crash Cryptonomicon The Diamond Age: or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer Anathem Reamde

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“For most of the day and night, time oppresses me. It is only when I am at work on the innards of a clock-or a lock-that time stops."

"The clock stops, you mean."

"No. Time stops, or so it seems. I do not sense its passage. Then something interrupts me-I become aware that my bladder is full, my mouth dry, my stomach rumbling, the fire’s gone out, and the sun’s gone down. But there before me on the table is a finished clock-" now suddenly a snicker from the mechanism, and a deft movement of his hands. "Or an opened lock.”
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