This morning, I finally, finally finished Neal Stephenson‘s The System of the World, the concluding book in The Baroque Cycle. All up, it’s a mammoth read, set in the 17th and 18th centuries, largely in Europe, and the concluding volume largely in London.

The first book, Quicksilver, promises an overwhelming, brain-engagingly satisfying read; the second drags at times, and has caused some to give up. Indeed, even the third book was hard going; it took me a long, long time to finish. Somehow this last 12 months hasn’t had enough Reading Of Books. Lots of Reading Of Blogs, lots of Learning Second Life, lots of Playing Xbox 360. It felt great to actually devote time to reading something utterly compelling. Cory Doctorow feels similarly.

First, though, you have to read Cryptonomicon. One volume, a more modern setting, a common character to The Baroque Cycle, and absolutely stunning storytelling. One of the most compelling books I can remember reading. Finally, for anyone interested in virtual worlds, his much shorter novel Snow Crash basically predicted and inspired Second Life, so it’s a must too. I haven’t even read The Diamond Age yet. Enjoy!