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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
    39
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    12
    12
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    3
    0
    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.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
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  • 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
  • Julie W. Capell
    Milwaukee, WI USA
    03/01/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "So good, I want to start the whole series over"

    It’s not often that I like a book so much I want to read it over again. With trilogies, it has only happened once before (Lord of the Rings, of course). With really long books, once is always enough (2666). But this Baroque Cycle was simply so astonishingly good, the characters so real, the story so compelling, that I would begin it again tomorrow if I didn’t have two book club books waiting for me and 50 others on my nightstand.

    I don’t know how Stephenson managed to sustain the great writing across the nearly 3,000 pages in this series, but he did, right through to the very end. I will mention just two passages that struck me as the best ever in their category: the best sex scene ever, and the best duel ever.

    The seduction of Daniel Waterhouse on the Roman chariot in the shadow of the fake volcano is surely the best sex scene ever written. Here is a short excerpt:

    “Tilt your pelvis the other way, if you please, sir. There, much better, you’ll admit! Now, leave the rest to me, sir. The balance of this chariot can be a bit tricky. The ride a bit rough.” Indeed, the axle bearings of the chariot of Vulcan presently began to creak as it got to rocking forward and back, forward and back on its wheels. Daniel was old and the ride was correspondingly long but the primo mobile—the body of Miss Barton—was young and as everyone in London agreed, in the most superb condition, and more than equal to the work.

    The duel using cannons between Charles White and Dappa, written in Stephenson’s typical hyper-detailed mode, poked a hole the size of a howitzer in the swashbuckling genre and drove right through it. I have seldom laughed so hard while reading. Sheer genius!!

    I cannot fail to once again note the SUPERB narration provided by Simon Prebble on the audio book. He gave each character a distinct voice and allowed all the humor to shine through. Listening to Mr. Prebble’s performance is undoubtedly the best way to experience the Baroque Cycle.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • 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 4 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
  • jon
    17/08/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Sad to finish it. Maybe I'll read it again."

    They did a great job with the reading except for the voice of the 30ish letter writing Eliza. Etienne would have cut out her tongue for the offensive tone of her voice (being the politest man in France) . Probably reading the series again soon!!!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Ariadne
    04/08/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Narration uneven"

    I truly enjoyed this series--have listened to it twice through. Simon Preeble is great as usual, but the pithy quotes introductory to chapters & segments are so tedious & ill-parsed that I have to force myself to continue. Perhaps the other narrator feels that Bunyan, Milton, et al. deserve such short shrift, but his rendering of the verses is annoying in the extreme. I assume that Pariseau does other voices & they are all good, so....I might be just out of sync.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Kevin
    Herndon, VA, United States
    20/01/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "The Final Chapter"

    This is a fitting end to this series. Its a well told story tracing parts of the true Baroque period in the guise of SCI-FI. This series was okay. Some of the books are great, others are a bit slow. Overall, its a fun few of our history told through some interesting characters. Over the course of the books, the fun heros do get somewhat lost in the story. The are very compelling in the first few books and not so compelling in the last.

    But I am glad I read the series.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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