Saturday, December 1, 2007

And it makes an excellent paperweight, too!

I'm in the midst of reading Neal Stephenson's The System of the World right now. I'm on page 385.

Sounds pretty good, huh?

It's Eight Hundred and eighty-six FREAKING pages long! It's due back at the library in two days. I think I'm going to have to renew it AGAIN. This is my second attempt to read this book so, even though it was several years ago, parts of it are familiar. It's the third installment of The Baroque Cycle and the other two books, Quicksilver and The Confusion, were just as weighty.

I'll have read almost 3,000 pages of this story by the time I'm finished. Quicksilver I got through pretty well, but started skimming a bit during The Confusion. But the time I got to The System of the World the first time around, as much as I loved the stories and the characters, I was pooped. So I never did get to find out what happened to Eliza and Daniel and possibly the best fictional character EVER--Jack Shaftoe (aka "Half-cocked Jack," which is a literal not figurative nickname. You'll have to read Quicksilver to find out why...), the Gypsy King. Rogue, vagabond, pirate, counterfeiter--the charismatic Jack Shaftoe jumps off the page and captures you. Or at least he captured me. I was devastated when Stephenson apparently killed him off in volume one only to find to my great relief that he had in fact been spared and was back in volume two.

The Cycle spans the years 1660 through 1714 and is populated with real life figures such as Isaac Newton, Gottfried Leibniz (featuring their famous rivalry over who invented calculus), Louis XIV, Peter the Great, and the future King George and Queen Caroline of England (via Hanover). The "system" in the title is a combination of things--politics, economics (currency and coinage) and science (calculus, computers, engineering). Stephenson has a knack for not only bringing his characters alive, but the history as well. He's absolutely brilliant and this is definitely his master work. It's completely fascinating and engrossing reading--and I really should get back to it now!

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