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The Confusion: Volume Two of The Baroque Cycle [Paperback]

Neal Stephenson
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
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Book Description

June 2 2005 Baroque Cycle (Book 2)

In the year 1689, a cabal of Barbary galley slaves -- including one Jack Shaftoe, aka King of the Vagabonds, aka Half-Cocked Jack -- devises a daring plan to win freedom and fortune. A great adventure ensues -- a perilous race for an enormous prize of silver ... nay, gold ... nay, legendary gold.

In Europe, the exquisite and resourceful Eliza, Countess de la Zeur, is stripped of her immense personal fortune by France's most dashing privateer. Penniless and at risk from those who desire either her or her head (or both), she is caught up in a web of international intrigue, even as she desperately seeks the return of her most precious possession.

Meanwhile, Newton and Leibniz continue to propound their grand theories as their infamous rivalry intensifies, stubborn alchemy does battle with the natural sciences, dastardly plots are set in motion ... and Daniel Waterhouse seeks passage to the Massachusetts colony in hopes of escaping the madness into which his world has descended.

This P.S. edition features an extra 16 pages of insights into the book, including author interviews, recommended reading, and more.

Frequently Bought Together

The Confusion: Volume Two of The Baroque Cycle + The System Of The World: Volume Three of the Baroque Cycle + Quicksilver: Volume One of the Baroque Cycle
Price For All Three: CDN$ 47.64

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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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

*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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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HE WAS NOT MERELY AWAKENED, but detonated out of an uncommonly long and repetitive dream. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Sweet confusion, so entertaining! Oct. 9 2013
By Max
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars erudite fiction June 8 2004
Format:Hardcover
This is a slow-paced narrative, without a clear straightforward plot, which requires more reading patience that your average historical novel. But the style is rich and the characters are engaging and very well-developed. The reader will be swept away by an adventurous tale of slavery, freedom, and fortune-hunting, among other storylines interwoven in this ambitious work. Indeed, this literary tale might not satisfy readers of more lightweight commercial fiction, but Neal Stephenson is a great stylist whose writing will appeal to the scholar in you.
David Rehak
author of "Love and Madness"
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5.0 out of 5 stars "The Two Towers" of The Baroque Cycle Jan. 2 2012
By OpenMind TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Stephenson follows up his marvelously detailed and entertaining "Quicksilver" with a continuation worthy of its predecessor. Jack Shaftoe, one of the three protagonists, drives his portion of the plot forward with swashbuckling abandon, travelling from his enslavement in Africa, to his daring heist of Solomonic Gold from a Spanish ship at Bonanza, to the markets in Egypt to try to sell this gold, to India where he begins as a near untouchable, working as a "feeder" of bloodsucking insects and ends up with a minor peerage. Finally, on to Japan to trade and then to the Americas, where he is double-crossed and imprisoned because of the treachorous Jesuit, Edouard de Gex. Scores are settled, new ones are tallied, and Jack takes it all with his deadpan humour, aplomb, and fatalism. Will he ever see England or his fair Eliza again?

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.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely Briliant July 19 2004
Format:Hardcover
This is a beast of a book, wild, ferocious and full of mystery. One of those mysteries is the origin of the modern world. Using the medium of fiction, Stephanson strips away layer after layer of recieved wisdom and shows us how a few extrodinary people, and a great deal of ordinary ones, invented the modern notions of finance, banking, credit, trade, stock markets, globalization and the little matter of science. Yes, these people invented science as we know it. And Stephanson will show you the world they inhabited, page after page, untill you feel that you are amongst the greatest minds Europe ever produced.
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.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Much Better Than Cryptonomicon July 17 2004
By John Kwok TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Neal Stephenson's second volume in The Baroque Cycle, "The Confusion", is the best work of fiction I've seen from him in years. It is an intriguing, swashbuckling tale that is part of a three volume prequel to his celebrated "Cryptonomicon", of which this novel can be regarded as a historical fiction prequel. However, unlike "Cryptonomicon", Stephenson has offered an exciting tale of adventure, describing the advent of the information age during the end of the Baroque period and the beginning of the Age of Enlightenment. Here Stephenson continues his dual saga featuring the "King of the Vagabonds" - adventurer and former slave - Jack Shaftoe as he travels through the Muslim world, India, Southeast Asia and the Americas with a motley crew comprised of Northern Europeans, Arabs and a Japanese Roman Catholic priest and Eliza, the Countess de la Zeur, his former lover. Stephenson has wrought daring sea battles reminiscent of Patrick O'Brian's best in the acclaimed Aubrey/Maturin series. And like O'Brian, he excels in writing dense, descriptive prose with some rathering modern twists thrown in. Until I read "The Confusion", I thought Stephenson's best novel was "The Diamond Age", but this is not a "confusion" but instead, a splendid celebration of Stephenson at his best, crafting lengthy, but exciting tales of adventure.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Act II -- Amazing.
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 more
Published on July 12 2004 by Sam Saunders
5.0 out of 5 stars I'm not confused anymore
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 more
Published on July 10 2004 by W. Reid
4.0 out of 5 stars Better than quicksilver
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 more
Published on July 1 2004 by Mr E
5.0 out of 5 stars Better than Quicksilver, but the jury remains out
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 more
Published on July 1 2004 by Michael Battaglia
4.0 out of 5 stars A Stephenson Fan
I just love reading the words Neal Stephenson writes. I love the swashbucking. I love the intrigue. I especially love his many digressions into subjects banal to esoteric. Read more
Published on July 1 2004 by M. Benefield
5.0 out of 5 stars Another triumph for Stephenson
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
Published on June 29 2004 by Inchoatus.com
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth the Weight
"The Confusion" is the second weighty volume in Neal Stephenson's gigantic "Baroque Cycle. Read more
Published on June 24 2004 by David Schaich
5.0 out of 5 stars Confusion Rules
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 more
Published on June 17 2004 by Charles J. Rector
2.0 out of 5 stars One step above a history textbook
I have journeyed through this Confusion for a month thinking I should be reading something else. The book is a piece of baroque in need of major editing. Read more
Published on June 15 2004
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