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The System of the World

(The Baroque Cycle #3)

4.31  ·  Rating details ·  19,315 ratings  ·  624 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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4.31  · 
Rating details
 ·  19,315 ratings  ·  624 reviews

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Jul 02, 2008 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
Mar 27, 2008 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
“It has been my view for some years that a new System of the World is being created around us. I used to suppose that it would drive out and annihilate any older Systems. But things I have seen recently, in the subterranean places beneath the Bank, have convinced me that new Systems never replace old ones, but only surround and encapsulate them, even as, under a microscope, we may see that living within our bodies are animalcules, smaller and simpler than us, and yet thriving even as we thrive." ...more
Sep 18, 2007 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 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
Sve što je započeto dvije (ili pet) knjiga unazad, ovdje je zaokruženo i privedeno kraju. malo je više filozofije i metafizike, malo je ograničenija geografija, pa zato dajem četvorku. Ali cijeli ciklus mi je petica, toliko detalja, toliko likova, toliko udubljivanja u duh vremena...fantastično
Aug 31, 2009 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
Laura LVD
Después de 6 años, terminé de leer esta trilogía complejísima e inclasificable donde hay personajes y sucesos de toda laya. Por momentos se fue por las ramas, y no entendí mucho hacia donde apuntaban todas esas tramas y subtramas.
Finalmente, después de lo que me parece una vida, llegó la conclusión, más que satisfactoria, de la saga. Este último tramo me pareció el mejor de los tres volúmenes. La lectura se me hizo lenta porque la verdad no es una obra que se pueda leer de un tirón. Requirió de
Aug 15, 2008 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
Jul 08, 2008 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
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
Melissa Rudder
Aug 13, 2010 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
Dec 04, 2007 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
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
Max Nemtsov
Feb 08, 2016 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
Sep 03, 2009 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
Phil James
Jun 22, 2009 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

Feb 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well, it only took me nine years, but I finished the Baroque Cycle! And what a wild, crazy, breathtaking ride it has been, with Daniel Waterhouse at my side.

This concluding book in the trilogy focused mostly on England and Daniel's relationship with Isaac Newton, counterfeit coins, politics, explosions, Infernal Machines, gold, science and Systems Of The World. Not quite as crazy as the previous two, with a much tighter story, but still a wonderful ride in the past.
Bookmarks Magazine

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

Gintautas Ivanickas
Mar 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Sakykit, ką norit, bet Stephensonas - monstras. Skaitydami rizikuojat, kad smegenys ištaškys kaukolę, nebeišsitekdamos joje nuo to milžiniško informacijos kiekio.
Barokinis ciklas - XVII ir XVIII amžių sandūros enciklopedija. Norit daugiau sužinoti apie to meto politinę situaciją Europoje? Apie ekonomiką? Apie monetų gamybą? Apie vis dar legendomis apipintą mažai pažįstamą pasaulį už tos Europos ribų? Apie Leibnico ir Niutono pažiūrų vienodumus ir skirtumus? Skaitykit Barokinį ciklą. O jei likima
Ari von Nordenskjöld
Unfortunately, the last volume of the series was also the most tedious and least interesting one. It was a drudge to get through this one. It also surpasses the other volumes in its tendentious interpretation of the historical struggles in England, and the liberties taken with certain characters. Still, the writing is all right and the subjects interesting and inspiring enough, so my time wasn't entirely wasted.
Jul 16, 2010 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
Apr 14, 2010 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
Jul 06, 2011 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
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
Jan 26, 2009 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
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
Pete Marchetto
Jan 19, 2015 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
Apr 06, 2013 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
Will Peterson
Oct 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I honestly feel sort of shell shocked (in a good way).

It took me 6 months to work my way through these three thousand-page tomes (Quicksilver, The Confusion, The System of the World), but I feel like I've lived a lifetime of experience in that time.

Go into these books by treating them as historical fiction (even if they have elements of other genres). I learned 10x more about the late 1600's by reading these books than all the history classes I've ever taken. Through these books, you will see (o
Shall I Download A Black Hole And Offer It To You
this review is for all 3 books, and i'll keep it short... Neal Stephenson is fascinating and erudite and well-educated and absolutely insane... this trilogy is just a not-so-subtle way to get people to read and learn history! hah! the fictional parts of the books are rather dull, but the walk through history was interesting... problem being i already ready history, as non-fiction, and these books aren't much from a fiction/fantasy/science fiction/historical fiction standpoint when the goings on ...more
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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.

Other books in the series

The Baroque Cycle (3 books)
  • Quicksilver (The Baroque Cycle, #1)
  • The Confusion (The Baroque Cycle, #2)
“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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