The System Of The World is the third and final book of Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle. The other 2 books are Quicksilver and The Confusion. I absolutely loved The Confusion and its main characters, Jack and Eliza. When I brought this book home I read the first chapter and there was no mention of Jack or Eliza. Instead it was another book about Daniel and so I feared that, like Quicksilver, it would be slow and, well, as boring as I found the Daniel parts of the other books. And so I put it down and didn’t read it for almost a year.
What a mistake! Stephenson has infused a now elderly Daniel with personality and he is now completely interesting in his own right. And despite the utter lack of The King Of Vagabonds and just a smidgeon of The Duchess of Arcachon-Qwghlm in the beginning of the book, Jack and Eliza both make significant appearances in the story. But even so, this is Daniel’s book and he really shines. I can’t emphasize enough how much he steals the show, or book as it were.
So I liked the characters and the story, but what about the writing? I’m glad you asked because I am always in awe of Stephenson’s writing. This is a man who knows his craft. Characters effuse personality by the bucket load and each scene is crafted by words in an amazing manner. The phrases and humorous insights of the character’s inner monologues had me laughing out loud in delight every few pages. Even the vocabulary and spelling are generally appropriate for a story that is set in the early 1700s. This could have been a horribly transparent gimmick if not done well, but Stephenson pulls it off with aplomb and it only reinforces the mood and theme of the story.
This is a very intelligent book. He so frequently used words I did not know that I began to feel ashamed every time I had to pull out my dictionary. But it is also a great story and the best possible way I could have expected the series to end.