The Baroque Cycle

I finally finished it. FINALLY. It was like a freaking marathon.

Review c&p’d from Goodreads (and look, a link to my profile!)

The System of the World (The Baroque Cycle, Vol. 3, Book 3) The System of the World (The Baroque Cycle, Vol. 3, Book 3) by Neal Stephenson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This review isn’t just about System of the World, but about the whole Baroque Cycle. The short version of the review is… I think he could have accomplished everything he set out to accomplish with these books in a third as much space. Finishing them felt like a test of endurance. I always have trouble keeping track of Stephenson’s characters and plotlines but, again, this time there were simply too many for me to have half a chance. I felt like I needed a flowchart and a timeline.

All of this sounds like I didn’t enjoy the books. I did. There were certainly characters I found very engaging (I loved Jack Shaftoe and Eliza; for the first two books I was downright bored by Daniel) and the historical context was compelling.

But… there was just. too. much.

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It’s not that I haven’t been reading and watching…

… I just haven’t been writing about it.

I read devoured Stieg Larsson‘s Millenium Trilogy over the summer and loved it.  Twists and turns worthy of Neal Stephenson, but without the multitude of interlocking plotlines.  I can’t even really review it adequately for fear of spoiling it for people who haven’t read it yet.  My one piece of advice is this: don’t start reading The Girl Who Played with Fire until you have a copy of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest handy, because you will want to proceed directly from one to the other without passing go or collecting $200.  I’m sad every time I think about the fact that Larsson died before he could write any more books about Lisbeth and Mikael.

Lucky for us, our local Red Box had the movie version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo right around the time I finished the trilogy.  It’s a powerful, powerful movie, upsetting and engrossing in all the same ways that the book is.  Matthew and I disagreed a bit about the casting.  I thought Noomi Rapace was perfect as Lisbeth; he thought she looked too old.

Then I moved on to Neal Stephenson‘s Anathem, which I loved.  It’s different than most of his previous fiction in that it doesn’t feature 5 or more plot lines intertwining and then ending up tied in a relatively pretty bow at the end of the book.  It completely blew my mind about 75% of the way through (the perils of readin e-books: page numbers, chapter numbers… all become meaningless) by exposing assumptions that I had made without even being aware that I was making them.  I thought the ending was too abrupt and tidy for how the rest of the book went.

Now I’m finally reading the Baroque Cycle.  Thus far I don’t love it nearly as much as Stephenson’s other fiction, but I do love the re-appearance of Enoch Root.  Perhaps I’ll make an effort to retrieve our copy of Cryptonomicon (or just replace it with an ebook version) to re-read next.