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 adversarial geniuses at a princess's behest. But while much has changed outwardly, the duplicity and danger that once drove Daniel to the American Colonies is still coin of the British realm.
No sooner has Daniel set foot on his homeland when he is embroiled in a dark conflict that has been raging in the shadows for decades. It is a secret war between the brilliant, enigmatic Master of the Mint and closet alchemist Isaac Newton and his archnemesis, the insidious counterfeiter Jack the Coiner, a.k.a. Jack Shaftoe, King of the Vagabonds. Hostilities are suddenly moving to a new and more volatile level, as Half-Cocked Jack plots a daring assault on the Tower itself, aiming for nothing less than the total corruption of Britain's newborn monetary system.
Unbeknownst to all, it is love that set the Coiner on his traitorous course; the desperate need to protect the woman of his heart -- the remarkable Eliza, Duchess of Arcachon-Qwghlm -- from those who would destroy her should he fail. Meanwhile, Daniel Waterhouse and his Clubb of unlikely cronies comb city and country for clues to the identity of the blackguard who is attempting to blow up Natural Philosophers with Infernal Devices -- as political factions jockey for position while awaiting the impending death of the ailing queen; as the "holy grail" of alchemy, the key to life eternal, tantalizes and continues to elude Isaac Newton, yet is closer than he ever imagined; as the greatest technological innovation in history slowly takes shape in Waterhouse's manufactory.
Everything that was will be changed forever ... The System of the World is the concluding volume in Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle, begun with Quicksilver and continued in The Confusion....Continua
The conclusion to the fantastic Baroque Cycle. Science, politics, economics, intrigue, adventure, alchemy, Isaac Newton, counterfeit currency, the Bank of England, an anti-hero with half a penis - what more could you want? Awesome - this series is an incredible achievement....Continua
... and this has always been Stephenson's problem, being a genius at setting up incredible situations, complex characters, weird genius and almost-historical crises, perhaps a good solution is never to come to a close: or to borrow the closing from history.
And this is more or less what happens in this third book of the Baroque Cycle....Continua
A long time coming finally finished the 3000 page historical fiction monstrosity that is the Baroque Cycle.
I quite enjoyed the riffs on history, economy, contemporary politics, philosophy either as philosophy or disguised as science (the natural kind), 17th century social customs and other tidbits strewn throughout.
London as a decor for this volume served it well and for me brought home for the first time the enormity and the enormous history of that place.
Somehow it feels as if this ending does not carry the weight of the start of this story and of the events that have come to pass but how could it possibly?...Continua
1714. Daniel Waterhouse, natural philosopher, is back in London after a long absence. Among eminent scientists (or alchemists?), conspiring noblemen, legendary thieves and clumsy guards, he gets involved in all sort of obscure plots with the only, inevitable result of bringing into being the new System of the World.
Warning: it is surely not an easy read. Yet, after some 900 pages of witty dialogues, thrilling action and insane details on the most diverse matters (ranging from descriptions of places, streets and history of London to the ingredients to obtain phosphorus - i.e. urine), Stephenson somehow manages to let the reader want for more.. That's what you may call an achievement....Continua
Again, see comments for "Quicksilver" and "The Confusion," as this is the last book in a series of three. Meanwhile... someone should convert Neal's novels into action movies, comedy/drama films (maybe starring Johnny Depp and cast members from "Pirates...") and videogames!! Maybe someone WILL....Continua