I have just finished reading Neal Stephenson's The Baroque Cycle. And I have to admit that I am amazed that the author managed to pull this off in such a fashion. The System of the World is as complex, fascinating, surprising and fun as its predecessors.
I have said before that the scope of Stephenson's undertaking was immensely ambitious. Hence, I was quite eager to see how it would all come together in the final volume of what has been an exceptionally brilliant series. And let me tell you that the author does not disappoint. This is a series that lives up to the hype!
When I finished the book, I could do little more than shake my head in wonder. This trilogy, to put it simply, is the work of a genius. I think that I'm now a fan for life!;-)
As was the case with the previous two volumes, Quicksilver and The Confusion, the amount of research that must have gone into the creation of this novel is staggering. Stephenson has an eye for details that brings the world and the characters to life. Once again, this book gives you a panoramic view of a European era that saw countless changes being brought into effect.
Like its predecessors, The System of the World is written in the same exhuberant, witty and irreverent prose that makes this series such an entertaining read. But simultaneously, it's a dense and erudite yarn, and the balance created within those pages makes this trilogy an incredibly impressive literary endeavor. I am persuaded that The Baroque Cycle will continue to defy any category and genre. Indeed, there is a little bit of everything. Which, in the end, is what makes this series so unique.
This colossal trilogy (anything that weighs in at more than 3000 pages can be nothing but colossal!) is a melting pot of several things; all of them good, however. It is part romance, because love always finds a way to sneak in when you least expect it. In part, it is also one grand and dazzling adventure. In a way, it is also some sort of scientific treatise containing so many facts and theories that it will keep your head spinning. Religion is an underlying theme, as Catholicism and Protestantism were at the root of so many conflicts in Europe during those eventful times. It is also a sweeping political saga. That series is all those things and then some!
As always, I have no intention of including spoilers in this review. I would not deprive readers of the pleasure of discovering those secrets for themselves!
Daniel Waterhouse returns from the American Colonies. And upon his arrival in London, he is immediately thrust into a secret war between Sir Isaac Newton and Jack Shaftoe. Jack the Coiner has become the Master of the Mint's nemesis. But unbeknownst to most is the fact that Jack is acting thus in order to protect the love of his life, Eliza. It is yet again uncertain times in England, with factions preparing to face one another and put its key player on the throne. And the rest of Europe watches or participates in what will ultimately be the triumph or demise of Great Britain. The conflict between Newton and Leibniz comes to a head in this volume. In addition, Father de Gex's machinations are exposed, with grave repercussions. Alchemy, often an underlying theme, plays a much bigger role in this book. Needless to say, I won't reveal more on the subject. But I will tell you that we do learn a little more about the mysterious Enoch Root.
All in all, this trilogy is an enthralling read. And The System of the World brings it to a very satisfying end.
Deserves the highest possible recommendation.
Final verdict: 9/10