Fiction 20 Dec 2004 09:44

The System of the World

coverThe System of the World (The Baroque Cycle, Vol. 3)
Neal Stephenson

Attention: if you haven’t read Quicksilver or The Confusion yet, you may find a few spoilers in the text below.

Despite being a direct sequel from The Confusion, The System of the World feels very different from the first two books of the series. It has much more action, to begin with. Less “theory” as well, I might add. But it’s just as long as the other two.

The main character this time is Daniel Waterhouse, who arrives in Europe after a very interesting trip from America (described in the previous book) and goes forth to shape the system of the world. In a way, he does in this book pretty much what Eliza did in the first two (mainly in the second one). Jack is also back in England, carrying out the instructions he received from “Leroy”, but with some twists of his own. And, behind all this, the backdrop for the story is the uncertainty surrounding the throne sucession in England after the death of Queen Anne.

It’s not a bad book, but it did not capture me the way the first one did. There is a fair share of incredibly elaborate plans all around, but the last few chapters seem “hurried along”; things resolve much faster than they should, and some issues are just left hanging. I think that the first book brought with it a sense of “discovery” not that different from what the natural philosophers themselves felt at the time.

If you’ve read the first two books, then by all means read this one as well. Despite the comments above, I really enjoyed the whole trilogy and would recommend it to any Neal Stephenson fan.

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