The Confusion: Volume Two of The Baroque Cycle Paperback – May 26 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
The title of Stephenson's vast, splendid and absorbing sequel to Quicksilver (2003) suggests the state of mind that even devoted fans may face on occasion as they follow the glorious and exceedingly complex parallel stories of Jack Shaftoe, amiable criminal mastermind, and Eliza, Countess de la Zeur, courageous secret agent and former prisoner in a Turkish harem. In 1689, Jack recovers his memory in Algiers, evades galley slavery and joins a quest for the lost treasure of a Spanish pirate named Carlos Olancho Macho y Macho. This leads to adventures at sea worthy of Patrick O'Brian, and hairbreadth escapes from the jaws of the Inquisition. Meanwhile, Eliza is captured by the historical (and distinguished) French privateer Jean Bart while trying to escape to England with her baby. She must then navigate the intrigues of the court of Louis XIV, which are less lethal than those of the Inquisition by a small margin, but still make for uneasy sleep for a friendless female spy. Her correspondence with such scientific minds as Wilhelm Leibniz helps propel the saga's chronicling of the roots of modern science at a respectable clip. Of course, one can't call anything about the Baroque Cycle "brisk," but the richness of detail and language lending verisimilitude t? the setting and depth to the characters should be reward enough for most readers.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
*Starred Review* This guy really likes to write long books. Cyptonomicon, his 1999 epic, was roughly the same length as the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy. Quicksilver (2003), the first volume of his Baroque Cycle, was well over 900 pages, and this second installment is in the same ballpark. It picks up the story in 1689. Jack Shaftoe, self-proclaimed king of the vagabonds, is a galley slave, but that's soon going to change: he and nine of his fellow slaves engineer an escape. Their plan, to steal a cache of Spanish silver, turns out better (and also worse) than they could have imagined. Meanwhile, Eliza, a notorious spy whom Jack once rescued from a Turkish harem, is trying to get to London with her newborn baby. Set during one of history's most exciting times, from 1600 to 1750, this series brilliantly captures the intellectual excitement and cultural revolution of the era. With real-life supporting characters such as Isaac Newton and Wilhelm Leibnitz, the series blends fact and fiction so cleverly that it is virtually impossible to separate one from the other. Stephenson is a graceful writer, never getting bogged down in detail, keeping the story moving, dazzling us with his technique. The concluding volume of the trilogy is scheduled to appear in October 2004, and it's fair to say anyone who reads this one will spend the intervening months waiting with breathless anticipation. David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
author of "Love and Madness"
When people ask me about Stephenson, I am never sure how to describe his work. If you define science fiction VERY broadly then it fits there, because it is fiction and science or technology plays a role. Snow Crash and Diamond Age were clearly scifi, Zodiac was more detective fiction, Cryptonomicon was techno-thriller/historical thriller. This trilogy is historical novel / swashbuckler / within a scifi or technothriller framework?!? In addition to the storyline which other reviewers have summarized nicely, the books deal with a variety of interesting themes like: comparitive social classes and structure in england, france, the german states, india, and a few others; the evolution of jargon; cryptology; the birth of modern science; and the birth of modern economics. And all this with a healthy dose action, how can you go wrong?
Meanwhile, Daniel Waterhouse attempts to save Isaac Newton from the influence of Fatio, a Swiss sycophant and minor savant, who has encouraged Newton's descent into madness and continued obsession with Alchemy, to the detriment of Natural Philosophy. Waterhouse, torn between the doctrine his father left him with and the chance to change the course of history through politics (yikes!), economics (say it ain't so!), and science (egad!), hopes to reconcile his life of intrigue with his Puritanical upbringing.
Eliza continues to dabble in matters financial, using her oeconomic skills to gain favour in various courts. She befriends Caroline, a German princess, and Caroline's mother--not knowing that they will be in line for the crown of England.
Stephenson's detail, wit, and ability to craft a captivating story (albeit a long one!) shine once again in this novel, which adequately sets up Volume 3 ("The System of the World") and makes for a promising conclusion indeed.
Which is not to say that The Confusion is all about dry academic discourse. The first page of the book finds Jack Shafto miraculusly cured of syphilis, wandering confusedly on a beach while a fifteen hundred gun salute is fired in the honor of the Caliph. From there, we are engaged in one of the best travelouges, adventure stories and general assembiledges of all out mayhem ever collected in one volume.
In the spirit of equal oppertunities, this is not strictly a lads book. Equal time is given to Eliza, a former Harem virgin,and by her own wits and courage created a duchess in two nations. Also, by the end of the book, a mother of three.
Now, this is a long book, and jam packed with details. Like the art which insipred it's name, the book contains ever increasing levels of ornimentation and detail, built on mathimatically and geometricly pure lines. Well, curves actually. Quite often, the reader can become lost in the welth of images and imagry. Not to worry. Stephanson provides both Newton and Liebinitz to explain the nature of those curves and ornimentation. Even if the titans occasionally disagree.
Most recent customer reviews
A rambling tale filed with amazing stories and even more amazing characters. Jack Shaftoe takes us around the world in search of wealth and freedom.Published on Oct. 9 2013 by Max
Neal Stephenson's second volume in The Baroque Cycle, "The Confusion", is the best work of fiction I've seen from him in years. Read morePublished on July 17 2004 by John Kwok
Put simply: this book blows Quicksilver out of the water. All of the potential that the opening act showed really did come to fruition in this opus. Read morePublished on July 12 2004 by Sam Saunders
I was one of the ones that loved Quicksilver, but only gave it four stars. As other reviews pointed out, and as was immediately apparent when reading it, "The Confusion"... Read morePublished on July 10 2004 by W. Reid
I enjoy Stephenson's writing, when he's hot he's hot, but he's still working hard to learn how to piece together his inspired moments. Read morePublished on July 1 2004 by Mr E
I think just as many people were bored with Quicksilver as excited by it and for those in the former catagory, I can only say that it does get better. Read morePublished on July 1 2004 by Michael Battaglia
Why you should read this:
Stephenson remains one of the most thrilling of authors. His wit, his prose, his dialogue, his drawing of characters, they really are almost... Read more
"The Confusion" is the second weighty volume in Neal Stephenson's gigantic "Baroque Cycle. Read morePublished on June 24 2004 by David Schaich
Confusion is both the second volume in Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle and also the best. It takes off right where its predecessor volume, Quicksilver, ended. Read morePublished on June 17 2004 by Charles J. Rector