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The System of the World: Book Eight of The Baroque Cycle | [Neal Stephenson]

The System of the World: Book Eight of The Baroque Cycle

In this concluding volume of Neal Stephenson's epic work, "Half-Cocked Jack" Shaftoe must escape the noose of Jack Ketch; the rivalry between Newton and Leibniz comes to a head; and Daniel Waterhouse pursues his dream to build the Logic Mill
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Publisher's Summary

In this concluding volume of Neal Stephenson's epic work, "Half-Cocked Jack" Shaftoe must escape the noose of Jack Ketch; the rivalry between Newton and Leibniz comes to a head; and Daniel Waterhouse pursues his dream to build the Logic Mill.

The Baroque Cycle, Neal Stephenson's award-winning series, spans the late 17th and early 18th centuries, combining history, adventure, science, invention, piracy, and alchemy into one sweeping tale. It is a gloriously rich, entertaining, and endlessly inventive historical epic populated by the likes of Isaac Newton, William of Orange, Benjamin Franklin, and King Louis XIV, along with some of the most inventive literary characters in modern fiction.

Audible's complete and unabridged presentation of The Baroque Cycle was produced in cooperation with Neal Stephenson. Each volume includes an exclusive introduction read by the author.

©2004 Neal Stephenson (P)2010 Audible, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"Learned, violent, sarcastic and profound: a glorious finish to one of the most ambitious epics of recent years." (Kirkus Reviews)

The sort of work that quickly becomes an obsession." (Toronto Star)

What Members Say

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    Christopher 17/01/2011
    Christopher 17/01/2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
    25
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    12
    12
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    3
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    Overall
    "The road to Tyburn"

    This final part is a satisfying completion of the Baroque Cycle and a fitting climax to its ingenious narrative. The last three parts stand together and are I think the best parts of the book for the unrelenting pace of narration and depth of historical detail; but the final part is darker- much of it set in prisons, madhouses or sewers. Jack, our much loved hero, is caught, tried for treason and condemned to the ultimate penalty of being hanged, drawn and quartered. We take a final guided tour of the streets of London with the condemned on the route to Tyburn Hill and the gallows tree. There seems to be no hope of escape as time runs out and every possibility is exhausted. Stephenson turns the screw and keeps us guessing to the very end.
    I bid a sad farewell to Jack, to Eliza, Daniel, and all the others who now seem so real to me. After this magnificent feast for the mind, where do I go now to feed my imagination? Perhaps I will assay Stephenson?s Cryptonomicon, another suitably roomy tome in which I can expect to renew my acquaintance with an old friend.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-1 of 1 results
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  • Tim
    United States
    07/03/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Last Nibble"

    After spending about a month with all three volumes that consist of 115 hours, I have accomplished something that I wanted to do for years. I have to thank my friend for reminding me to purchase these books. I'm not a hoarder of books. Just because an audiobook is on sale, I don't get them and save them for later. I don't like having stockpile of books that I might not ever read. I tend to buy them as I go. Having a backlog of reading material is a chore and not a pleasure.

    As for the last book in the "Baroque Cycle", I have the up most respect for Neal Stephenson and how well he can tell a story and stay on topic. It is remarkable how focus he was to write almost 2700 pages and publish them within a few years time. Unlike his predecessor George R.R. Martin in "A Song of Ice and Fire", Neal Stephenson completed the "Baroque Cycle" in favor for his audience. I don't like to compare the two authors together, but it seems like Martin is being selfish by not completing his series in a timely fashion. Even his loyal followers, including myself, have their doubts that he will ever finish them.

    Coming to the end to "The System of the World" is a bitter sweet. I am relief that it has ended and with the result that I was expecting. I kind of wish that there was a fourth volume because it is that awesome. Besides the "Dark Tower" by Stephen King, "Baroque Cycle" has to be one of my favorites. Neal Stephenson wrote this one for his readers and chose not to extend the tale any further. In that respect, he is a decorative author that enjoys his readers.

    I have no regrets at getting to know Jack, Newton, Eliza and Daniel.

    In my review of "Quicksilver", I have compared it to starting an eight course meal.

    I have come to the last nibble and I'm satisfied.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Matthew A. Razzano
    27/12/11
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Great conclusion"
    Where does The System of the World rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    Among the top 5. It's really that good.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    I love so many of the, but most of all I love Jack. Even when facing certain doom he has a ridiculously unfeasible plan.


    Have you listened to any of the narrators’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    Yes in the other Baroque Cycle novels, and this one is right up there.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    There were several but I'm not spoiling ANYTHING in this review so read it yourself!


    Any additional comments?

    This book isn't really a book all its own, but a conclusion to a long series that is actually three volumes of the same book. DO NOT START WITH THIS ONE! These books really need to be read in order or you won't have a clue as to what's going on.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • K. Hall
    Central Texas
    28/03/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "An epic tale of the world on the brink"
    What made the experience of listening to The System of the World the most enjoyable?

    I made it through all eight parts of this most intriguing tale. Stephenson creates characters that seem to jump through the mists of time to be real and alive.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Where to start. All the characters were intriguing. The main - Half-Cocked Jack, Drs. Waterhouse, Leibnitz and Newton, Lady Eliza, and Enoch the Red. Plus the minors of Jack's brother Bob and Jack's sons, Father Ed, Fraze, Dapper, Princess Caroline, Roger Comstock, Hook, Wren, and the rest of the lot.


    Which character – as performed by the narrators – was your favorite?

    Simon Prebble has as gifted a voice as Jim Dale. Each character was fully realized, different, and distinctive. Even the ladies. I'd recommend this for him alone if the story were half as good as it is. They were all great.


    Any additional comments?

    This is an epic tale of the birth of modernism of the baroque period. It is fiction, Stephenson refers to it as science-fiction due to it centering around Isaac Newton and many other contemporaries of the Royal Society; I'd go a bit further with historical science fiction. It's a great long yarn told with names of dead white guys with big wigs you heard in school, but didn't know anything about them. All eight parts of the tale probably total over 75 hours, but what a ride.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Cody
    Austin, TX, United States
    17/09/12
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Great Ending to the Series"

    No one thing stands out when it comes to this audiobook because everything is done so well. The story is the perfect finale to the series and it is excellently performed. Although, like other Neal Stephenson tomes, it was a bit slow to get going as he set up the characters and the situations that would drive the story forward, I enjoyed the Baroque Cycle - and this reading of it in particular - from beginning to end.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Kelly
    Durham, NC, United States
    28/07/12
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "An epic story about the turn of the 18th century."

    I enjoyed this last bit of the story almost more than any previous volume (other than the first). Here we're at last allowed to glimpse the whole point of it all. Our characters have almost completed their work, they are devising (mostly without understanding, or even knowing that they're doing it) a new system of the world. And of course, everyone we've come to know and love has a happy ending.

    Highly detailed, and sometimes slow moving, the entire story will span over 50 years, the reign of many different kings and queens across europe, several trips to America and back, pirates, african queens, and the Philosopher's Stone. Well worth slogging through the slow points to find out what happens in the end.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Melvin
    PALMDALE, CA, United States
    18/06/11
    Overall
    "Outstanding Author, Reader, and Story"

    I am sad the I finished one of the best series I have listened to...Baroque Society...but what a great ride! I rank it with Steig Larsson's, Dragon Tattoo series, the Uplift War series by David Brin, the Aubrey/Maturn series by Patrick o'Brian, and the Black Tower Series, by Stephen King.

    I cannot recommend it highly enough.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Doug D. Eigsti
    Colorado Springs, Colorado United States
    28/10/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Imp of the Perverse Embodied in Brilliant Fiction"

    This series must be contemplated as a unified whole. This review is for the entire BAROQUE CYCLE.

    Sorry Neal, I was wrong. For me Neal Stephenson was a bit of an acquired taste. My first Stephenson exposure was with SNOWCRASH, a zany over-the-top Sci-Fi farce with quirky characters, tight plotting and fascinating ideas—try an ancient software virus in the human brain. My next Neal Stephenson encounter was THE DIAMOND AGE and this was for years my last. It was not until revisiting SNOWCRASH now as an audiobook (narrated by the superb Jonathan Davis) that I realized that anyone able to reach such dizzying fictional heights once deserves more than one strike. It was after this that I listened to ANATHEM; strike two. But there was one more title that had received acclaim that I first had to tackle before relegating Stephenson to one-hit-wonder status: CRYPTONOMICON. This was a home run; different from SNOWCRASH in almost every way but still wonderful, and really long. From this I learned three things: (1) Stephenson was not easy to pigeon-hole; and (2) He could handle fictional works in the long form; and (3) If you are not preoccupied with plot advancement, the rabbit trails can be quite scenic. So, once I learned that many of the characters in CRYPTONOMICON had ancestors in THE BAROQUE CYCLE, I determined to tackle the whole lot back-to-back, as if it were one giant novel. QUICKSILVER is the first audio installment of THE BAROQUE CYCLE, which is here divided into seven installments. In print form it is broken into eight books published in three hefty volumes.

    I could tell from the comments of other listeners that this huge tome is not for everyone. If you require fast tight plotting, this may not be for you. If you enjoy witty repartee between vagabonds, kings, courtiers and thieves then this may be the mother lode. I liken Neal Stephenson to Gene Wolfe; another writer who can keep my interest just by the brilliance of his prose. It was in the middle of ODALISQUE, book three in the cycle, that I realized I didn’t much care that the plot was just creeping along, and that side trips to follow the numerous cast of characters kept taking me away from the one I liked best. I was enjoying the show and didn’t want it to end. This is truly not seven different novels, but one huge novel tied together by recurring characters and one vast and very satisfying story arc.

    This accomplishment by Neal Stevenson is just the thing that the term magnum opus was coined for. Mr. Stevenson demonstrates his ability to manage a vast narrative alternate history and retains his focus over two-thousand six-hundred eighty-eight hardcover pages, through one-hundred fourteen hours of audiobook narration; yet the feel and texture and pacing is consistent throughout the entire work. Amazing. If you decide to tackle this tome you will be rewarded. It may cause you to rethink the whole audiobook medium.

    I really enjoyed Stephenson’s insights into the politics of the scientific community, revolving around Isaac Newton. The fusing of Natural Philosophy (science), Alchemy, commodity-based monetary theory, rags-to-riches character transformations, and court intrigue make for a fascinating experience. Listening to this series is like taking a time-travel vacation to the eighteenth century. The shabby, muddy, miasmic grunge of the period’s living conditions sometimes remind me of Monty Python and the Holy Grail or Jabberwocky, with associated punch-lines. This is a very different world from the one we live in but I began to think I might understand it a little better and found that, in some ways, it might not be so bad.

    If you are at all interested in free-market economics, and commodity-based monetary theory then one of the long-term story arcs will be of intense interest to you. Stevenson explores the impact of the foundation of the central Bank of England upon the flow of gold. And his deft insertion of an Alchemical component into the mix creates an enjoyable element of mystery. This is the storyline that required one-hundred hours to tell.

    This is a Science Fiction work because the alternate-history angle with Alchemy infecting the realm of science will appeal to the SF fan. If you were provided with a plot outline or given some character sketches you may think this an historical novel, and it could be read from that perspective. But Science Fiction readers don’t as a rule read historical novels, but they will read this, therefore, whatever qualities it possesses, justify the SF label.

    —PERSISTENT THEMES OF THE BAROQUE CYCLE—
    Predestination versus Free-Will is on everyone’s mind
    The debate between Protestantism versus Catholicism had a huge political impact
    Geocentrism versus Heliocentrism is the only thing everyone can agree upon
    Commodity-based Monetary theory makes the world work
    Court Intrigue and witty conversations provide joy in every circumstance
    Meritocracy rags-to-riches stories abound
    People can endure much if they have hope
    Vagabond underworld versus Persons of Quality show we have much in common
    Alchemy counterpoised with Natural Philosophy revel the nature of science
    Encryption and secret writing have long been employed
    True love makes life worth living
    Courtly liaisons show the shallowness of the ruling class to whom society is entrusted

    Simon Prebble does yeoman’s work on this production. To my ear he nailed every single pronunciation of every word in the course of over one-hundred hours of narration—no mean feat. His character voicings are subtle but immediately recognizable. His talent allows him to even give convincing alternate pronunciations of words to the different characters that are appropriate to their individual personalities. The more foppish English characters habitually emphasize different syllables than the lower class characters. Despite the deep quality of his voice Simon Prebble handles both male and female character voices convincingly. His voice has a limited range but I was constantly amazed at how he could make subtle alterations in inflection, diction and pacing to effectively distinguish the various characters in a conversation. Simon Prebble achieves the desirable state of occupying the place in your head usually reserved for your own internal sub-vocalizations when you are reading a print book to yourself. This is a high achievement indeed and makes this a soothing book experience.

    Narrated by Simon Prebble (Main text)
    Kevin Pariseau (Chapter epigraphs)
    Neal Stephenson (Introduction)

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Tex E.
    07/01/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Exceptional Book"
    Where does The System of the World rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    Best fiction book I've listened to. One of my very favorite books in general.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The System of the World?

    There are many. Jack and Gex getting reacquainted was good.


    What about the narrators’s performance did you like?

    He did a fantastic job with complex material. Often different voices can be distracting be he did an amazing job with some complex material.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    This is the last part of an eight book epic. All of the books are broken into two or three parts. There is nothing about this that could be done in a single sitting.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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