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

4.29  ·  Rating Details  ·  16,491 Ratings  ·  538 Reviews
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, mathematicians, spies, thieves, pir
Paperback, 908 pages
Published September 6th 2005 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published September 21st 2004)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jul 30, 2011 Kemper rated it really liked it
(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
Apr 27, 2008 Thomas rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 18, 2007 Ben rated it really liked it
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
Sep 27, 2009 Steve rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 08, 2008 Karl rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Melissa Rudder
Aug 13, 2010 Melissa Rudder rated it really liked it
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
Nov 16, 2015 Liviu rated it it was amazing
finished the reread of System of the World and I won't add too much beyond what i wrote in 2008 when i first read the series; less flamboyant and mostly following a 67-68 year old Daniel back in England for the momentous year 1714, but with lots of twists and turns and great appearances from Jack and Eliza

(review on first read 2008) 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 elem
Max Nemtsov
Mar 03, 2016 Max Nemtsov rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Все же вера персонажей в постижимость мира у Стивенсона поразительна — пусть хоть через сто лет, но все наладится, не раз говорят его ученые герои. Автор, конечно, отчасти лукавит, приписывая им такой модус мышления, ибо сам прекрасно знает, что случится потом и куда заведет пытливое человечество эта самая тяга даже не столько постигать, сколько стремиться исчерпывающе описать мироздание в понятных для себя терминах. То есть — по необходимости эту поначалу вполне умозрительную и сложную Систему ...more
My favourite way of describing Neal Stephenson as an author is that his ambition vastly outstrips his talent; and the Baroque Cycle is a good point in case, I think. It is fairly obvious what he wanted to do here (mainly because Pynchon already did it before him) and it is even more blatantly obvious that this is not the chef-d’oeuvre describing the emergence of an age and short-circuiting that age with our present time that Stephenson wants it to be.

The first novel, Quicksilver had three protag
Nicholas Whyte

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
Feb 05, 2008 Amy rated it it was ok
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

Aug 23, 2010 Ryan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 07, 2009 Alec rated it liked it
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
Feb 23, 2012 Josh rated it liked it
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
Sep 03, 2009 Kristine rated it it was amazing
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
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
Jul 16, 2010 Amanda rated it really liked it
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
Pete Marchetto
Jan 19, 2015 Pete Marchetto rated it liked it
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
Aug 13, 2014 Miles rated it really liked it
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
Feb 03, 2015 Grzegorz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Bernie Charbonneau
May 26, 2014 Bernie Charbonneau rated it really liked it
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
Jul 15, 2009 Robby rated it liked it
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
Apr 06, 2013 Lindsay rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 01, 2013 Jim rated it it was amazing

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
Steve Lew
Dec 13, 2011 Steve Lew rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 04, 2008 Dan rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Jun 06, 2011 Mark rated it it was amazing
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
Phil James
Aug 16, 2009 Phil James rated it it was amazing

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

Aug 18, 2016 Rustlem rated it it was amazing
Absolutely loved this book. Its historic detail is just amazing, awe-inspiring even. I have no idea how one man could accomplish this much in so short a time. If you like London and want to know some more of its history, don't read Peter Ackroyd's biography of the place, read the Baroque Cycle, it's far more entertaining.
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Neal Stephenson is the author of Reamde, Anathem, and the three-volume historical epic the Baroque Cycle (Quicksilver, The Confusion, and The System of the World), as well as Cryptonomicon, The Diamond Age, Snow Crash, and Zodiac. He lives in Seattle, Washington.
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)

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“Daniel understood the complaint. For Daniel, too, had once designed a building, and savored the thrill of seeing it built, only to endure the long indignity of watching the owner clutter it up with knick-knacks and furniture.” 4 likes
“Many a ship's officer, caught in a storm or battle, and seized by a natural tendency to freeze up in terror, was moved to action by the vivid helplessness of his crew.” 3 likes
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