This is the third (and last) in the Baroque Cycle. It took me about 4 months to read all 3, and I’m glad I’m done. When I finished Cryptonomicon, I didn’t really get it all. There was so much detail, and so many nuances, that I didn’t quite catch everything that happened. After about the third time through, I felt like I really had it all.
With The Baroque Cycle, I feel like I missed some stuff again. Not a lot, but I have questions that didn’t get answered, and I think it’s just because I couldn’t pull it all in. It didn’t help that the majority of my reading time was right before bed, when I’m always the most fuzzy headed anyway. I don’t know if I can spend 8 months reading through it two more times though.
The Baroque Cycle as a whole moves us from the birth of The Enlightenment to the birth of The Industrial Age. It covers multiple countries, kings, queens, and details a voyage by ship around the world. The Plague and the great Fire Of London have great impact on all of our characters.
The System Of The World is called so because many of the characters come to realize what’s happening with The Enlightenment and see the Industrial Age coming at them. The world is changing, money is being used more instead of barter and it’s an exciting time for them.
For the first time in any Stephenson book I’ve read, he delves into things not explainable by science. I don’t know how to tell more without spoiling it, but he gives some credibility to alchemy.
There’s so much to this book that I feel I can’t really do a good book review. Was it good? I would say yes. I think it could be better, but I couldn’t tell you how. Stephenson once again displays a truly astounding ability to understand multiple facets of intensly deep, complicated arguments about science, math, politics, and everything else thrown in. Anyone who can reasonably create an argument between 2 of the deepest thinkers of all time is good, in my book.
I’m glad I read the Baroque Cycle, I think it was good for me. I’m not sure I’ll read it again, but you never know. I’d suggest it to anyone interested in either history or science. Cryptonomicon is not a prerequisite, but it makes it more interesting. The opposite is true as well.
I leave you with one interesting picture from Stephenson’s site, the entire handwritten manuscript of the Baroque Cycle.