The System of the World Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of The System of the World

The final volume, 891 pages, of Stephenson's Baroque Trilogy centers almost entirely on the year 1714, when the many threads from "Quicksilver" and "The Confusion" come together. Middling scientist Daniel Waterhouse returns to England from his "Technologickal College" project in Boston to try to patch up the vicious feud between Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz about who invented calculus. But a bomb nearly kills Dan upon his arrival. Greater powers are in play, because Queen Anne is near death, and royal relations of the Hanoverian line (in Germany) are poised to take over the English throne.
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What ties Waterhouse and Newton (head of the Mint) to Jack Shaftoe, King of the Vagabonds, is the Solomonic Gold, which is heavier than normal, perhaps because it is a peculiar alloy, and perhaps (as Newton believes) because it has magical qualities. Retrieved from Pacific Islands in "The Confusion" and brought back across North America and the Atlantic to England aboard the good ship "Minerva," it is now being slipped into the coin circulation by "Jack Coiner" (one of Shaftoe's many guises) to screw up England's economy, and sought by Newton for its potential alchemical properties. Jack ends up a prisoner in the Tower of London, destined for hanging, drawing, and quartering. Of course, Jack's great love Eliza, a former slave of the Turks now ennobled as a duchess (and told Jack some 20 years before that he would only see her again on the day he died), works behind the scenes.

As with the preceding two volumes, there are many famous historic walk-ons, from Peter the Great of Russia to Christopher Wren, and plenty of action: betrayals, knifings, swordplay, a miraculous resurrection from death, even a duel with Hobbits (or Haubitzes -- very crude cannons) within the Tower of London prison complex. The sharp-eyed reader may spot references to everything from Macbeth to Monty Python.
The review of this Book prepared by David Loftus

Morrow, Sep 2004, 27.95
ISBN: 0060523875

In 1714 Daniel Waterhouse arbitrates the irrational dispute between the aging mathematical giants Sir Isaac Newton and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, both angrily insisting they invented calculus. However as the two greats brawl like street kids, Queen Anne nears death. The Jacobyte supporters fight with the Hanoverian sympathizers over the succession. Waterhouse fears that the dispute could harm intellectual pursuits in the kingdom.

As the world seems heading towards madness, Waterhouse tries to keep the rising chaos from turning the world back into another dark age. His hope lies in technology and his beliefe that rational people will seek a reasonable solution irregardless of the Newton-Leibniz war.

The story line is packed with insight into the early eighteenth century especially a deep glimpse at some the most influential people of the age.

Harriet Klausner

The review of this Book prepared by Harriet Klausner

Chapter Analysis of The System of the World

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Plot & Themes

Tone of book?    -   thoughtful Time/era of story    -   1600-1899 Life of a profession:    -   scientist/scholar Is this an adult or child's book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book Job/Profession/Status story    -   Yes

Main Character

Gender    -   Male Profession/status:    -   scientist Age:    -   40's-50's    -   60's-90's Ethnicity/Nationality    -   British


How much descriptions of surroundings?    -   2 () Europe    -   Yes European country:    -   England/UK City?    -   Yes City:    -   London Misc setting    -   prison

Writing Style

Sex in book?    -   Yes What kind of sex:    -   actual description of hetero sex Amount of dialog    -   significantly more dialog than descript    -   roughly even amounts of descript and dialog

Books with storylines, themes & endings like The System of the World

Neal Stephenson Books Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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