Many years ago I started reading the Baroque series by Neal Stephenson. I really hated it and abandoned it without finishing, but I was intrigued by his enigmatic character of Root, who was long-lived and seemed to have interesting powers. I saw this character again in another book (Cryptonomicon?), so I knew he was significant in some way.

Then I read Fall, or Dodge in Hell, in which the consciousness of Dodge and subsequent characters are uploaded to a computer for a digital afterlife. Root also appears in this novel. Toward the end of the novel,

when nearly the entire human race has been uploaded to the digital afterlife, a character asks Root, "This has happened before, hasn't it?" which he affirms, suggesting that the entire world is a simulation, and the new digital afterlife is a simulation within a simulation.

My question is, was this a known fact about Root earlier, or was this only revealed at the end of Fall? Was it theorized amongst Stephenson aficionados, given the clues -- his immortality, and the name "Root," which is both related to the German word for "Red" (he has red hair) and the system administrator designation (he appears long before the advent of the digital computer).

2 Answers 2


Spoilers for the Baroque Cycle and Cryptonomicon.

Enoch Root is a member of the Societas Eruditorum, which seems to be a very restricted group of people who have knowledge of and access to the Philosopher’s Stone, which they can use to keep both themselves (Enoch’s longevity, and his recovery from apparent death in Cryptonomicon) and others (Daniel Waterhouse’s resurrection of Isaac Newton, and Enoch’s healing of Amy Shaftoe) alive. There’s no indication I’m aware of that he’s a supernatural being from a higher level of reality — all of his powers seem to come from the Philosopher’s Stone.

  • Agree. I'm rereading System of the World and just reread The Confusion, and I don't see or recall any hints about anything other than what you mention here.
    – Pixel
    Commented Feb 27, 2020 at 16:59

I cannot confirm with exact reference but I believe in one of the books Root himself says something along the lines that "Philosopher’s Stone just expands his longevity almost infinitely yet does not making him close to full understanding of the system of the world/truth" which hints that this character is a "normal human being" of extreme longevity belonging to one existence plane/universe/simulation and he just saw some things repeating themselves within one plane of existence throughout the time continuum :)

  • 3
    Welcome to SFF! Finding a source would help your answer a great deal. We tend to prefer direct quotes after anecdotal ones.
    – Machavity
    Commented Feb 27, 2020 at 13:46

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