Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,
Nicholas
nwhyte

October Books 1) The System of the World

1) The Syſtem of the World, by Neal Stephenſon

Any Man, when he shall have completed a Taſk, be it one which he has aſsigned to Himſelf, or an Impoſition from ſome external Party, may experience a certain Euphoria. I write here of two such Taſks which have been completed, videlicet, primo, the Exertions of Master STEPHENSON in writing the Series of Romances, commencing with Cryptonomicon and continued in Quickſilver, The Confuſion, and the Volume here under Conſideration; and secundo, my own Expenditure of Time, Money, Energy and Loſt Sleep in reading them.

It has oft been obſerved that I am a Swift Reader. It is my Wont or Habit to complete the Peruſal of a Volume, whoſe Pages may number Ten-Score or thereabouts, in two Nights of Reading in my Bed; or if it be Saturday or the Lord's Day, to read two or three ſuch over the Week-End. Even The Brothers Karamazov, that Renowned Tale penned by the Ruſsian Savant DOSTOIEFFSKY, detained me only a Week, though its Pages number more than a Thouſand. Completing my Study of The Syſtem of the World has required near a Fort'night; yet it is more than an Hundred Pages ſhorter than the Ruſsian Work. I confeſs, I would fain have left the Book untouched upon my Book-Shelf ſome months longer, but was Stirred to read it by my Compariſon of the unread Volumes in my Library with thoſe marked as "unread" by the Clients of Master SPALDING's Electronick Catalog.

Even the ſympathetic Reader of Master STEPHENSON's works muſt ſurely wiſh that ſome-body in the Publiſhing-Houſe, responſible for the Preparation of his Novels, might have urged him to diſtil the Text to a more concentrated Quality. The Story is an Engaging Tale: the Culmination of the Journeys through Life of the three chief Perſonæ of previous Volumes, videlicet, Dr DANIEL WATERHOUSE, the Rogue JACK SHAFTOE, and the Ducheſs ELIZA of ARCACHON-QWLGHM. The Situation of theſe three, and many Others, is in the Year of Grace 1714, and encompaſses the Paſsing of Her Late Majeſty, Queen ANNE, and the Acceſsion to the Throne of Great-Britain and Ireland of the Electoral Prince GEORGE of Hanover. The Chief Strand of the Narrative concerns the Integrity of the Currency of England, as adminiſtered by the Maſter of the Royal Mint, Sir ISAAC NEWTON; we see much of him, and of other Perſonalities, including Baron VON LEIBNITZ, with whom NEWTON engages in lengthy and unexciting Philoſophick Debate, and (more briefly) the Musician Mr HANDEL, who aſsists in the Slaughter of a Rogue, by Uſe of a Violon-Cello as Fatal Inſtrument, in a Thrilling Paſsage. The Atmoſphere of London, Hanover, and other Locations of the Era is conveyed to the Reader with Conviction. But I wiſhed it had not been ſo long.

It is no doubt the Caſe, that this Book will be bought - indeed, has already been bought - by thoſe Readers whoſe Habit it is, to peruſe Works of that Genre known to ſome as Scientifick-Phantaſy. Yet (ſaving one Perſonality, barely mentioned in this Volume, who may be an Immortal, though moſt unlike the Struldbrugs encountered by GULLIVER in Dr SWIFT's Tale of his Voyage from Laputa to Japan) there is naught here that is Phantastickal, or reliant on counter-factual Advances in the Technologickal Arts. My own Belief is that the late Mr KNIGHT hit the Nail upon the Head, when he ſurmiſ'd, that the Scientifick-Phantaſy Genre is "what we point to, when we ſay it". I point to this Book, and its two Fellows in the Baroque-Trilogy, and Cryptonomicon which though written earlier is ſet two and a half Centuries later, and I ſay that I include them in that Genre. Does any-body diſagree?
Tags: bookblog 2006, unread books project, writer: neal stephenson
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