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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.

Topics: England, Royalty, Slavery, Pirates, Treasure Hunting, Adventurous, Enlightenment, France, Series, Trilogy, Speculative Fiction, and Picaresque

Published: HarperCollins on
ISBN: 9780061793387
List price: $13.99
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Part Two of the Baroque Cycle. It quite the trip, it circumnavigates the globe in the late seventeenth century enveloping the reader. Conversely I'm not sure if knew now what I didn't know when I started this series I would've began. But in for a penny in for a pound.more
Finally finished slogging through Neal Stephenson's 3,000-or-so-page Baroque trilogy. Took me like six months, but it was definitely worth it. Leave it to Stephenson to make history both incredibly real-seeming and utterly ridiculous at the same time. If you liked Cryptonomicon and have any interest in Enlightenment-era London, Baroque is certainly worth a read. Just make sure to leave yourself plenty of time.more
I liked this better than the first of the series, "Quicksilver". It covers a lot more geography, which makes keeping the storylines a bit difficult.more
Though technically the sequel to Quicksilver, The Confusion in some ways could be read as a standalone story of the adventures of Jack Shaftoe, as he makes his away around the world going from adventure to adventure; and of Eliza, with her story of trying to survive in a world of intrigue and machinations in late 17th century Europe.For me, this turned out to be a quicker read as opposed to when I read Quicksilver. For one thing, the story is for the most part told in chronological order, instead of being broken into three time periods. For another, it's much more interesting to read about the adventures that Jack went through as he went from one adventure (or trouble) to another, as opposed to reading Daniel's history in Stuart England.To be honest, I can't really say that all parts of the book makes sense (but then the title is called "The Confusion"), but when dealing with such interesting characters, sometimes their force of personality itself can be enough to propel a story forward.And now as the story has caught up to the storyarc/time period of Daniel leaving Massachusetts at the end, I'm hoping that everything will be explained in the next novel.more
Actually liked this a little better than Quicksilver, although it's much longer than it needs to be. Very interested to see how it all turns out.more
The Confusion is the second installment of Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle. If you chose to jump into the series with this book, you will be totally confused. You will need to either abandon you reading and start with Quicksilver or forget you read this book, read Quicksilver and then re-read The Confusion. Either way, this is an epic undertaking. So is reading the book.I slogged through this one, like some of the characters enduring long confinement and staying alive because they did not lose sight of their cause, their final destination. I admit I put it aside several time to read other books, but I always came back to it. To have that much of a hold on me has to say something about the story.Will I go on to complete the Cycle? I am not sure, but I am anxious to get to the Cryptonomicon. Will I read them in order? Probably, but I may not.Like Quicksilver, it is loosely based on history, but I hesitate to call it historical fiction. I was pleased to read in the interview included in the book, Stephenson is well aware of his linguistic anachronisms and they were intentional. In reviews of other of Stephenson’s works I said he is a geek’s author. This solidifies that comment and validates that this is not a slam against him, but a compliment. You need to be well grounded in a lot of obscure areas to appreciate what goes on in the Baroque Cycle.Because it is so ponderous, I cannot give this a full five stars. Because I found the story so captivating I kept returning to it, I can’t say this is simply mediocre. Four stars, but not everyone will agree, I’m sure.more
Another Baroque Cycle volume completed. So engrossing, so time consuming. This series is totally for history nerds with a dark cynical sense of humor. I love it, but I have spoken to a few folks who just can't get into Quicksilver. For variable reasons, this book is just too dense for the average reader. Stephenson is a superb and well researched writer who is dishing out so many nuanced details left and right that it may overwhelm. Some of the best moments in The Confusion come at unexpected times when all meaning is hinged on double or triple entendres and the reader's ability to remember a minor plot fact 300 pages prior. If you catch them, its fantastic, if not you are kind of left thinking that you missed something. Thus, I recommend reading this book in one go instead of putting down from month to month while you peruse some other book. You will be rewarded with a plot web so dense and dramatically strewn across history, the globe, religion, science, people, and economics, that by the end you will feel like you have taken 6 different seminars on 17th century world affairs. All of this is lined with such biting dark humor and intermittent bouts of swashbuckling that you will forget that you are reading a historical fiction book about the Enlightenment.more
I am entirely perplexed by this trilogy! Usually by the time I have read the first book in a trilogy - let alone the second - I know well whether I am intending to keep the series for an indulgent re-read in the future. After reading the first book, I had been intrigued enough to read the second but felt that overall I would be discarding the series.What a difference a book makes! Over the course of this second book, I found myself musing on the story even while I was not reading about the continued adventures of Eliza and Jack. This book is reward for struggling through the first, which was enormously dense and detailed.The book is shared between Eliza (Juncto) and Jack (Bonanza), their stories intertwining. We find Jack alive and well, and free from the French pox (syphilis). He has been captured by Barbary pirates and his tale involves a convoluted plot between him and other members of the Cabal - to capture a shipment of gold that will lead to their fortunes being made. His story leads him across the world - through the Far East and finally taking a dangerous trip to Acapulco. The capture of the gold has massive repercussions across the world, affecting many including Eliza, who starts her story being waylaid by Jean Bart and carried back to France, where she once again begins manipulating trade.This time both stories are equally gripping for one reason or another, and the skipping between both allows Stephenson to develop two different tones - the formal, slow burning plot of Eliza and the swashbuckling adventures of Jack Shaftoe. Many, many characters take centre stage here and become beloved to the reader over the course of 800 pages. Obviously Jack and Eliza will have the attention of the reader, but there is also Leibniz (the dignified and friendly Natural Philosopher who has befriended Eliza from the beginning); Bob Shaftoe (brother of Jack, more upright and stolid); Princess Caroline (beautiful and fiercely intelligent); and the many entertaining members of the Cabal.We also see the beginnings of Minerva - the ship that is carrying Daniel Waterhouse back to England at the start of the first book in the trilogy - and meet her captain van Hoek (a Dutch captain who feels the need to shed body parts when in gravest danger).Altogether I am being overwhelmed gradually by the trilogy of books, and can find much to love about them. On the flipside, the writing is still inpenetrable at times and leaves me feeling confused as to what is actually occuring. At times the pacing of the story is woeful - leaving spells where I actually avoid picking up the book, although curiosity in the fates of Jack and Eliza always brings me back.I would tentatively recommend this book to everyone I know - with the proviso that it is still not *easy* reading (and that they have to suffer through book one to reach the heights of book two).more
The second installment in Neal Stephenson’s massive Baroque Cycle, i.e. The Confusion, concentrates on the exploits of Jack Shaftoe and his merry band of multiculti galley slaves, as they both make plays and are played all around the known world in the late 17th century. The adventures of the series’ other two main characters – i.e. Daniel Waterhouse the natural philosopher, and Eliza the Duchess of various parts who’s also a hot babe/financial genius – are downplayed when compared to the Cycle’s first volume, Quicksilver. Given this shift of emphasis to Jack, the book is actually more coherent and easy to follow, especially since there are few new characters introduced on the European stage. But since I found the picaresque exploits of Jack Shaftoe the least interesting of this series’ main storylines, I enjoyed The Confusion perhaps a bit less than Quicksilver, even though it was easier to read.Never the less, several episodes in the adventures of Jack’s own little cabal stand out: their encounters in India and Japan are especially good fun. Much less interesting is the book’s rather interminable section in the New World; Stephenson seems to lose his narrative energy here, as if he felt he had to throw in some adventures in Spanish-colonial Mexico just to get his main characters across the western hemisphere and back over to Europe. This series isn’t for everyone, but since I’m still finding the frequent asides on subjects ranging from science and technology to shipbuilding and navigation to money and banking highly diverting and indeed instructive, I’m looking forward very much to finishing off the cycle with volume III.more
As often happens with Neal Stephenson books, I had the sneaking suspicion throughout the series that I'm not quite smart enough to really understand everything that's going on, but I still had a rip-roaring great time reading this book. The characters are typical Stephenson characters (he often has the self-deprecating, adventurous, dumb-yet-geeky male and the witty, hyper-intelligent, sexy, manipulative female - I can't help but think these are two sides of Stephenson's own personality). I love the science fiction approach to historical fiction. Really amazing stuff.more
Continuing the series, this is the most difficult volume. It gets rather slow at times, and sometimes only the memory of the high points keeps you going. But there are enough high points, especially involving the man Jack Sparrow wanted to be - Half Cocked Jack - to make it worth some minor frustration.Don't worry, the payoff and gratification makes it worth every bit. In fact, the good bits are better than any other author I can think of having read. It might take a bit of courage (yes, this whole series is monstrously large), but dig in and go for it. Where else are you going to learn all of these obscure historical tidbits, eh?more
The moment I finished Quicksilver, I felt compelled to literally run to the neighborhood bookstore to buy this book, the second volume of the Baroque Cycle. It picks up where Quicksilver left off, in media rea, as Homer would say. Some of our beloved characters have gone their separate ways by now- will they find each other again? Will they survive in a world that seems determined to kill everyone? That sounds kind of like a soap opera, and in a certain sense, it is. Only instead of pool boys and ex-wives, you have kings and mistresses. Academics at each others' throats, poisonings, insane economic gambles, pirates, and world explorations all await within these pages. Man, I'm making myself want to read this series all over again.more
The next book in the Baroque Cycle trilogy. Entertaining, the first book was more surprising, this time I felt sometimes some tiredness coming up when Jack finds himself once again in another unbelievable adventure. But nevertheless, a great read.more
The Confusion is the best of the Baroque Cycle, as the middle of series tend to be, and worth slogging through Quicksilver to get to it. The financial wrangling of Eliza can be hard to follow at time, but the exploits of Jack "L'Emmerdeur" Shaftoe are great fun. This whole series is not quite as good as Cryptonomicon, mostly because it's a bit more confusing and hard to follow (there's just a lot going on), but still better than most of what's out there.more
ok. i confess i've started this series about four times. i don't know if it's the work or just my life, but the book always ends up only a chapter or two into it, languishing on the bedside.more
A good way to describe this book is like this; I was flying somewhere and a dude next to me saw me reading this book and complemented me. He had also been slogging his way through the cycle. You have to love history, economics, and Stephenson (not in that order). Read Cryptonomicon first, please.more
Worth the Weight: "The Confusion" is the second weighty volume in Neal Stephenson's gigantic "Baroque Cycle." "Quicksilver" (2003) got the Cycle off to a solid (if slow) start, and if the concluding volume ("The System of the World," to be published in the fall of 2004) is anything like "The Confusion," it will be a story worthy of its size. Neal Stephenson comes through on this volume, and those of us who were concerned by "Quicksilver" can give a sigh of relief."The Confusion" covers the years 1689-1702 and consists of two interlocking books, "Bonanza" and "The Juncto." Since events in each book influence those in the other, they are con-fused so that the volume as a whole is less confusing; we switch back and forth between the two books, reading a few chapters in one before turning to the other. The approach works well. Instead of jumping back to 1689 in the middle of the volume, the whole story unfolds more or less chronologically. There are occasionally gaps of an entire year or two in the narrative, which is a little disconcerting, but helps to keep the plot moving.At the beginning of "Bonanza," we rejoin Jack Shaftoe, King of the Vagabonds, some four years after he was enslaved by the Barbary Corsairs. A fever has cured his pox and restored his sanity, but at the same time removed all his memories of the past four years. Jack learns that he is part of a group of galley slaves - the Cabal - plotting to steal a boatload of silver from the Spanish and use part of the proceeds to buy their freedom. There is only one problem: the silver they capture turns out to be gold. Even worse, this gold has incredible alchemical powers - or, at least, so the alchemists believe. Terrified that their alchemical gold will be spent and thus con-fused with the common metal, the Esoteric Brotherhood will pursue the Cabal to the ends of the earth to get it back - or, failing that, to get revenge.Eliza, meanwhile, has involuntarily donated her considerable fortune to the French war effort after being captured by privateer Jean Bart while fleeing to England . As she tries to recover, the European economy is thrown into confusion by a series of bad loans and bad harvests coupled with the seemingly endless wars that have sucked up all of the continent's money. Eliza, along with "The Juncto," a powerful group of English politicians, has the task of rebuilding Europe 's financial system on the basis of trade, laying the groundwork for modern economics. Her task is not made any easier by the alchemists, who know of her connection to Jack Shaftoe, and hope to get to him through her.As I hoped, I found "The Confusion" more entertaining than "Quicksilver." The pace is much quicker, and the action and actual plot development makes the volume much more engrossing. I occasionally got the feeling that more happened in particular scenes in "The Confusion" (for example, the Duc d'Arcachon's birthday party) than in the whole of "Quicksilver." There's still plenty of interesting errata (as we expect in a Stephenson book), though Daniel Waterhouse is largely missing - he doesn't appear until about 2/3rds of the way through the volume, and scampers off to Massachusetts pretty quickly after that. Finally, the conclusion does a wonderful job setting up the final volume; I can hardly wait until it's out.Those who have made their way through "Quicksilver" owe it to themselves to move onto "The Confusion" so that their efforts can be rewarded. If you were hesitant about starting "The Baroque Cycle" after reading mixed reviews of the first volume, you can rest assured that "The Confusion" makes it all worthwhile. If "The System of the World" is up to the standard set by "The Confusion" (and I suspect it will be), "The Baroque Cycle" will end up as a masterpiece of massive historical fiction.more
The term ‘confusion’ can connote many things. It usually indicates a state of bewilderment. It also denotes a jumbled and chaotic time or place, a disjointed mingling of disparate elements and events that appear to have little in relation to each other.It is, in other words, a perfect one-word summation of our world at the later end of the seventeenth century. It was a time of tremendous upheaval in numerous aspects of civilization, a period of intellect and innovation that many expected would lead to a new age of enlightenment.Leave it to American author Neal Stephenson to make a rollicking pirate novel of it all.The Confusion, Stephenson’s superlative second volume in his trilogy The Baroque Cycle, is, indeed, a confusion of high adventure, international intrigue, scientific discourse, and economic chaos. Stephenson even throws in math, cryptology, and the precursor to the modern computer, just in case he might be accused of narrative laziness.Building on events outlined in Quicksilver, Stephenson wastes no time in thrusting the reader into the thick of things. Familiarity with the preceding novel is essential, as he has too much to write about without the additional bothersome worry of exposition. When you write of people who, “in a single grammatically correct sentence, [manage] to make reference to Apolonius of Perga, the Folium of Descartes, and the Limacon of Pascalâ€?, back-story is so much wasted ink.Jack Shaftoe, King of the Vagabonds, is now a galley slave in Algiers, plotting with his fellow oarsmen (a mixed bag of Irish, Jewish, Russian, and Arabic men, plus one wayward samurai) to buy themselves free from servitude through an ingenious scheme. Hijacking a ship laden with Spanish gold, Shaftoe finds himself again in the thick of world events, sailing around the globe in search of wealth, fame, and his true love.Meanwhile, in a second tale ‘con-fused’ with the first, former slave and peerless spy Eliza continues to quietly subvert the economies of Europe, working behind the scenes as England attempts to wage war with France with no financial support. Unlike Shaftoe’s bizarre exploits in India and beyond, Eliza finds herself in a changing world “where power came of thrift and cleverness and industry, not of birthright, and certainly not of Divine Right.â€?Stephenson, a former science-fiction writer, has produced a seamless blend of historical fact and riotous fiction as vivid and imaginative as anything the great fantasists could ever dream up. His is a dazzling world of visionaries and treachery, an epoch of intellectual rebellion and cultural revolution that our planet has never again seen the like of.It’s a confusing story to be sure, but Stephenson has a sure hand at keeping the flow steady, never getting bogged down in details. His effort is stunning at times, with a poignant cliffhanger ending that provides both closure and excitement for the upcoming final volume. Eliza describes confusion as “a kind of bewitchment – a moment when what we supposed we understood loses its form and runs together and becomes one with other things that, though they might have had different outward forms, shared the same inward nature.â€? By this definition, Stephenson has produced an epic confusion of his own, a clash of styles and themes that frustrates, enchants, and ultimately astounds.more
The Confusion is where Stephenson's Baroque trilogy really reaches it's apex of mind-boggling complexity. As I've said before, his work is idea-rich, sometimes (okay, often) hard to follow because of it's intricacy. That said, this is another excellent novel of ideas and an extremely fun one to boot. Pirates? Come on, pirates are awesome.more
The Confusion feels a lot like what it actually is - the middle part of a trilogy. Stuff happens, mainly to Eliza and Jack (two of the protagonists of the first book) and keeps happening and happening. (I missed Newton and Waterhouse quite a lot, although they do have their cameos). Sometimes a tiny bit of a crescendo would have been nice. Something more driven than the never ending schemes and counter-schemes. The successes and failures became kind of predictable in the end: at first they succeed than someone is even cleverer and they fail, only to find a way out of their predicament - this goes for all the main charachters. Thus, the adventures of Jack and Eliza often seems like, well, filler. Filler for the last book.Still an entertaining read and I absolutely adore Stephenson for the amount of research he has put into the book. Knowing a little bit of your European history in the 17th and 18th century will certainly help to keep the Kings and Queens straight *g* Sadly enough, I had to look up a lot of it.I will definitely pick up the last book of the trilogy, but only after some light and short books inbetween.more
The pace picks up considerably in this continuation of the intertwined stories of Jack Shaftoe, Daniel Waterhouse, and Eliza, Countess de la Zeur. The plot set in motion in Quicksilver continues to twist into fiendishly complex patterns. Piracy and quests, political and financial intrigue, and the evolution of scientific thought; you'll find all of this and more in the hefty second volume of the Baroque Cycle. Read Quicksilver first in order to not be confused by The Confusion.Jack Shaftoe, now a galley slave in Algiers, joins a conspiracy to pirate a Spanish treasure and escape slavery. He and nine other oar-mates embark on their adventure burdened with Jack's usual mix of good and bad luck. Sea battles, land battles and general havoc follow the cabal of misfits across oceans and continents.Daniel has a smaller role in this volume, but the role of Jack's more socially integrated brother Bob waxes into a remarkable war-filled journey to free his enslaved love, Abigail. Eliza, in the meantime, has lost her fortune and her firstborn son and must tread carefully to keep her head amid the perils of the French court. Eliza works to recover her son and wreak havoc on the financial markets of Europe.Jack's adventures from South America to Japan and Eliza's maneuverings in Europe draw you along at breathtaking speed with enough momentum to propel you through the 800+ pages. The pace rarely falters and Stephenson continues to make even the secondary characters interesting. He also maintains the obvious attention to research and detail found in Quicksilver. The Confusion neatly sets the scene for the third and final book as divergent plots start to converge, and I can't wait to see where Stephenson will take us next.4 Starsmore
I've been learning a great deal of history from Stephenson, both in this series and in the Cryptonomicon. I've never been very interested in finance and the movements of money and economies, but he makes it almost interesting! Plus, glow-in-the-dark pirates!more
zoology rames guptamore
This was even better than Quicksilver. The story never bogged down. This was the first book I read on my Nook, and I flew through it in 3 weeks (Quicksilver took me 4 months).more
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Reviews

Part Two of the Baroque Cycle. It quite the trip, it circumnavigates the globe in the late seventeenth century enveloping the reader. Conversely I'm not sure if knew now what I didn't know when I started this series I would've began. But in for a penny in for a pound.more
Finally finished slogging through Neal Stephenson's 3,000-or-so-page Baroque trilogy. Took me like six months, but it was definitely worth it. Leave it to Stephenson to make history both incredibly real-seeming and utterly ridiculous at the same time. If you liked Cryptonomicon and have any interest in Enlightenment-era London, Baroque is certainly worth a read. Just make sure to leave yourself plenty of time.more
I liked this better than the first of the series, "Quicksilver". It covers a lot more geography, which makes keeping the storylines a bit difficult.more
Though technically the sequel to Quicksilver, The Confusion in some ways could be read as a standalone story of the adventures of Jack Shaftoe, as he makes his away around the world going from adventure to adventure; and of Eliza, with her story of trying to survive in a world of intrigue and machinations in late 17th century Europe.For me, this turned out to be a quicker read as opposed to when I read Quicksilver. For one thing, the story is for the most part told in chronological order, instead of being broken into three time periods. For another, it's much more interesting to read about the adventures that Jack went through as he went from one adventure (or trouble) to another, as opposed to reading Daniel's history in Stuart England.To be honest, I can't really say that all parts of the book makes sense (but then the title is called "The Confusion"), but when dealing with such interesting characters, sometimes their force of personality itself can be enough to propel a story forward.And now as the story has caught up to the storyarc/time period of Daniel leaving Massachusetts at the end, I'm hoping that everything will be explained in the next novel.more
Actually liked this a little better than Quicksilver, although it's much longer than it needs to be. Very interested to see how it all turns out.more
The Confusion is the second installment of Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle. If you chose to jump into the series with this book, you will be totally confused. You will need to either abandon you reading and start with Quicksilver or forget you read this book, read Quicksilver and then re-read The Confusion. Either way, this is an epic undertaking. So is reading the book.I slogged through this one, like some of the characters enduring long confinement and staying alive because they did not lose sight of their cause, their final destination. I admit I put it aside several time to read other books, but I always came back to it. To have that much of a hold on me has to say something about the story.Will I go on to complete the Cycle? I am not sure, but I am anxious to get to the Cryptonomicon. Will I read them in order? Probably, but I may not.Like Quicksilver, it is loosely based on history, but I hesitate to call it historical fiction. I was pleased to read in the interview included in the book, Stephenson is well aware of his linguistic anachronisms and they were intentional. In reviews of other of Stephenson’s works I said he is a geek’s author. This solidifies that comment and validates that this is not a slam against him, but a compliment. You need to be well grounded in a lot of obscure areas to appreciate what goes on in the Baroque Cycle.Because it is so ponderous, I cannot give this a full five stars. Because I found the story so captivating I kept returning to it, I can’t say this is simply mediocre. Four stars, but not everyone will agree, I’m sure.more
Another Baroque Cycle volume completed. So engrossing, so time consuming. This series is totally for history nerds with a dark cynical sense of humor. I love it, but I have spoken to a few folks who just can't get into Quicksilver. For variable reasons, this book is just too dense for the average reader. Stephenson is a superb and well researched writer who is dishing out so many nuanced details left and right that it may overwhelm. Some of the best moments in The Confusion come at unexpected times when all meaning is hinged on double or triple entendres and the reader's ability to remember a minor plot fact 300 pages prior. If you catch them, its fantastic, if not you are kind of left thinking that you missed something. Thus, I recommend reading this book in one go instead of putting down from month to month while you peruse some other book. You will be rewarded with a plot web so dense and dramatically strewn across history, the globe, religion, science, people, and economics, that by the end you will feel like you have taken 6 different seminars on 17th century world affairs. All of this is lined with such biting dark humor and intermittent bouts of swashbuckling that you will forget that you are reading a historical fiction book about the Enlightenment.more
I am entirely perplexed by this trilogy! Usually by the time I have read the first book in a trilogy - let alone the second - I know well whether I am intending to keep the series for an indulgent re-read in the future. After reading the first book, I had been intrigued enough to read the second but felt that overall I would be discarding the series.What a difference a book makes! Over the course of this second book, I found myself musing on the story even while I was not reading about the continued adventures of Eliza and Jack. This book is reward for struggling through the first, which was enormously dense and detailed.The book is shared between Eliza (Juncto) and Jack (Bonanza), their stories intertwining. We find Jack alive and well, and free from the French pox (syphilis). He has been captured by Barbary pirates and his tale involves a convoluted plot between him and other members of the Cabal - to capture a shipment of gold that will lead to their fortunes being made. His story leads him across the world - through the Far East and finally taking a dangerous trip to Acapulco. The capture of the gold has massive repercussions across the world, affecting many including Eliza, who starts her story being waylaid by Jean Bart and carried back to France, where she once again begins manipulating trade.This time both stories are equally gripping for one reason or another, and the skipping between both allows Stephenson to develop two different tones - the formal, slow burning plot of Eliza and the swashbuckling adventures of Jack Shaftoe. Many, many characters take centre stage here and become beloved to the reader over the course of 800 pages. Obviously Jack and Eliza will have the attention of the reader, but there is also Leibniz (the dignified and friendly Natural Philosopher who has befriended Eliza from the beginning); Bob Shaftoe (brother of Jack, more upright and stolid); Princess Caroline (beautiful and fiercely intelligent); and the many entertaining members of the Cabal.We also see the beginnings of Minerva - the ship that is carrying Daniel Waterhouse back to England at the start of the first book in the trilogy - and meet her captain van Hoek (a Dutch captain who feels the need to shed body parts when in gravest danger).Altogether I am being overwhelmed gradually by the trilogy of books, and can find much to love about them. On the flipside, the writing is still inpenetrable at times and leaves me feeling confused as to what is actually occuring. At times the pacing of the story is woeful - leaving spells where I actually avoid picking up the book, although curiosity in the fates of Jack and Eliza always brings me back.I would tentatively recommend this book to everyone I know - with the proviso that it is still not *easy* reading (and that they have to suffer through book one to reach the heights of book two).more
The second installment in Neal Stephenson’s massive Baroque Cycle, i.e. The Confusion, concentrates on the exploits of Jack Shaftoe and his merry band of multiculti galley slaves, as they both make plays and are played all around the known world in the late 17th century. The adventures of the series’ other two main characters – i.e. Daniel Waterhouse the natural philosopher, and Eliza the Duchess of various parts who’s also a hot babe/financial genius – are downplayed when compared to the Cycle’s first volume, Quicksilver. Given this shift of emphasis to Jack, the book is actually more coherent and easy to follow, especially since there are few new characters introduced on the European stage. But since I found the picaresque exploits of Jack Shaftoe the least interesting of this series’ main storylines, I enjoyed The Confusion perhaps a bit less than Quicksilver, even though it was easier to read.Never the less, several episodes in the adventures of Jack’s own little cabal stand out: their encounters in India and Japan are especially good fun. Much less interesting is the book’s rather interminable section in the New World; Stephenson seems to lose his narrative energy here, as if he felt he had to throw in some adventures in Spanish-colonial Mexico just to get his main characters across the western hemisphere and back over to Europe. This series isn’t for everyone, but since I’m still finding the frequent asides on subjects ranging from science and technology to shipbuilding and navigation to money and banking highly diverting and indeed instructive, I’m looking forward very much to finishing off the cycle with volume III.more
As often happens with Neal Stephenson books, I had the sneaking suspicion throughout the series that I'm not quite smart enough to really understand everything that's going on, but I still had a rip-roaring great time reading this book. The characters are typical Stephenson characters (he often has the self-deprecating, adventurous, dumb-yet-geeky male and the witty, hyper-intelligent, sexy, manipulative female - I can't help but think these are two sides of Stephenson's own personality). I love the science fiction approach to historical fiction. Really amazing stuff.more
Continuing the series, this is the most difficult volume. It gets rather slow at times, and sometimes only the memory of the high points keeps you going. But there are enough high points, especially involving the man Jack Sparrow wanted to be - Half Cocked Jack - to make it worth some minor frustration.Don't worry, the payoff and gratification makes it worth every bit. In fact, the good bits are better than any other author I can think of having read. It might take a bit of courage (yes, this whole series is monstrously large), but dig in and go for it. Where else are you going to learn all of these obscure historical tidbits, eh?more
The moment I finished Quicksilver, I felt compelled to literally run to the neighborhood bookstore to buy this book, the second volume of the Baroque Cycle. It picks up where Quicksilver left off, in media rea, as Homer would say. Some of our beloved characters have gone their separate ways by now- will they find each other again? Will they survive in a world that seems determined to kill everyone? That sounds kind of like a soap opera, and in a certain sense, it is. Only instead of pool boys and ex-wives, you have kings and mistresses. Academics at each others' throats, poisonings, insane economic gambles, pirates, and world explorations all await within these pages. Man, I'm making myself want to read this series all over again.more
The next book in the Baroque Cycle trilogy. Entertaining, the first book was more surprising, this time I felt sometimes some tiredness coming up when Jack finds himself once again in another unbelievable adventure. But nevertheless, a great read.more
The Confusion is the best of the Baroque Cycle, as the middle of series tend to be, and worth slogging through Quicksilver to get to it. The financial wrangling of Eliza can be hard to follow at time, but the exploits of Jack "L'Emmerdeur" Shaftoe are great fun. This whole series is not quite as good as Cryptonomicon, mostly because it's a bit more confusing and hard to follow (there's just a lot going on), but still better than most of what's out there.more
ok. i confess i've started this series about four times. i don't know if it's the work or just my life, but the book always ends up only a chapter or two into it, languishing on the bedside.more
A good way to describe this book is like this; I was flying somewhere and a dude next to me saw me reading this book and complemented me. He had also been slogging his way through the cycle. You have to love history, economics, and Stephenson (not in that order). Read Cryptonomicon first, please.more
Worth the Weight: "The Confusion" is the second weighty volume in Neal Stephenson's gigantic "Baroque Cycle." "Quicksilver" (2003) got the Cycle off to a solid (if slow) start, and if the concluding volume ("The System of the World," to be published in the fall of 2004) is anything like "The Confusion," it will be a story worthy of its size. Neal Stephenson comes through on this volume, and those of us who were concerned by "Quicksilver" can give a sigh of relief."The Confusion" covers the years 1689-1702 and consists of two interlocking books, "Bonanza" and "The Juncto." Since events in each book influence those in the other, they are con-fused so that the volume as a whole is less confusing; we switch back and forth between the two books, reading a few chapters in one before turning to the other. The approach works well. Instead of jumping back to 1689 in the middle of the volume, the whole story unfolds more or less chronologically. There are occasionally gaps of an entire year or two in the narrative, which is a little disconcerting, but helps to keep the plot moving.At the beginning of "Bonanza," we rejoin Jack Shaftoe, King of the Vagabonds, some four years after he was enslaved by the Barbary Corsairs. A fever has cured his pox and restored his sanity, but at the same time removed all his memories of the past four years. Jack learns that he is part of a group of galley slaves - the Cabal - plotting to steal a boatload of silver from the Spanish and use part of the proceeds to buy their freedom. There is only one problem: the silver they capture turns out to be gold. Even worse, this gold has incredible alchemical powers - or, at least, so the alchemists believe. Terrified that their alchemical gold will be spent and thus con-fused with the common metal, the Esoteric Brotherhood will pursue the Cabal to the ends of the earth to get it back - or, failing that, to get revenge.Eliza, meanwhile, has involuntarily donated her considerable fortune to the French war effort after being captured by privateer Jean Bart while fleeing to England . As she tries to recover, the European economy is thrown into confusion by a series of bad loans and bad harvests coupled with the seemingly endless wars that have sucked up all of the continent's money. Eliza, along with "The Juncto," a powerful group of English politicians, has the task of rebuilding Europe 's financial system on the basis of trade, laying the groundwork for modern economics. Her task is not made any easier by the alchemists, who know of her connection to Jack Shaftoe, and hope to get to him through her.As I hoped, I found "The Confusion" more entertaining than "Quicksilver." The pace is much quicker, and the action and actual plot development makes the volume much more engrossing. I occasionally got the feeling that more happened in particular scenes in "The Confusion" (for example, the Duc d'Arcachon's birthday party) than in the whole of "Quicksilver." There's still plenty of interesting errata (as we expect in a Stephenson book), though Daniel Waterhouse is largely missing - he doesn't appear until about 2/3rds of the way through the volume, and scampers off to Massachusetts pretty quickly after that. Finally, the conclusion does a wonderful job setting up the final volume; I can hardly wait until it's out.Those who have made their way through "Quicksilver" owe it to themselves to move onto "The Confusion" so that their efforts can be rewarded. If you were hesitant about starting "The Baroque Cycle" after reading mixed reviews of the first volume, you can rest assured that "The Confusion" makes it all worthwhile. If "The System of the World" is up to the standard set by "The Confusion" (and I suspect it will be), "The Baroque Cycle" will end up as a masterpiece of massive historical fiction.more
The term ‘confusion’ can connote many things. It usually indicates a state of bewilderment. It also denotes a jumbled and chaotic time or place, a disjointed mingling of disparate elements and events that appear to have little in relation to each other.It is, in other words, a perfect one-word summation of our world at the later end of the seventeenth century. It was a time of tremendous upheaval in numerous aspects of civilization, a period of intellect and innovation that many expected would lead to a new age of enlightenment.Leave it to American author Neal Stephenson to make a rollicking pirate novel of it all.The Confusion, Stephenson’s superlative second volume in his trilogy The Baroque Cycle, is, indeed, a confusion of high adventure, international intrigue, scientific discourse, and economic chaos. Stephenson even throws in math, cryptology, and the precursor to the modern computer, just in case he might be accused of narrative laziness.Building on events outlined in Quicksilver, Stephenson wastes no time in thrusting the reader into the thick of things. Familiarity with the preceding novel is essential, as he has too much to write about without the additional bothersome worry of exposition. When you write of people who, “in a single grammatically correct sentence, [manage] to make reference to Apolonius of Perga, the Folium of Descartes, and the Limacon of Pascalâ€?, back-story is so much wasted ink.Jack Shaftoe, King of the Vagabonds, is now a galley slave in Algiers, plotting with his fellow oarsmen (a mixed bag of Irish, Jewish, Russian, and Arabic men, plus one wayward samurai) to buy themselves free from servitude through an ingenious scheme. Hijacking a ship laden with Spanish gold, Shaftoe finds himself again in the thick of world events, sailing around the globe in search of wealth, fame, and his true love.Meanwhile, in a second tale ‘con-fused’ with the first, former slave and peerless spy Eliza continues to quietly subvert the economies of Europe, working behind the scenes as England attempts to wage war with France with no financial support. Unlike Shaftoe’s bizarre exploits in India and beyond, Eliza finds herself in a changing world “where power came of thrift and cleverness and industry, not of birthright, and certainly not of Divine Right.â€?Stephenson, a former science-fiction writer, has produced a seamless blend of historical fact and riotous fiction as vivid and imaginative as anything the great fantasists could ever dream up. His is a dazzling world of visionaries and treachery, an epoch of intellectual rebellion and cultural revolution that our planet has never again seen the like of.It’s a confusing story to be sure, but Stephenson has a sure hand at keeping the flow steady, never getting bogged down in details. His effort is stunning at times, with a poignant cliffhanger ending that provides both closure and excitement for the upcoming final volume. Eliza describes confusion as “a kind of bewitchment – a moment when what we supposed we understood loses its form and runs together and becomes one with other things that, though they might have had different outward forms, shared the same inward nature.â€? By this definition, Stephenson has produced an epic confusion of his own, a clash of styles and themes that frustrates, enchants, and ultimately astounds.more
The Confusion is where Stephenson's Baroque trilogy really reaches it's apex of mind-boggling complexity. As I've said before, his work is idea-rich, sometimes (okay, often) hard to follow because of it's intricacy. That said, this is another excellent novel of ideas and an extremely fun one to boot. Pirates? Come on, pirates are awesome.more
The Confusion feels a lot like what it actually is - the middle part of a trilogy. Stuff happens, mainly to Eliza and Jack (two of the protagonists of the first book) and keeps happening and happening. (I missed Newton and Waterhouse quite a lot, although they do have their cameos). Sometimes a tiny bit of a crescendo would have been nice. Something more driven than the never ending schemes and counter-schemes. The successes and failures became kind of predictable in the end: at first they succeed than someone is even cleverer and they fail, only to find a way out of their predicament - this goes for all the main charachters. Thus, the adventures of Jack and Eliza often seems like, well, filler. Filler for the last book.Still an entertaining read and I absolutely adore Stephenson for the amount of research he has put into the book. Knowing a little bit of your European history in the 17th and 18th century will certainly help to keep the Kings and Queens straight *g* Sadly enough, I had to look up a lot of it.I will definitely pick up the last book of the trilogy, but only after some light and short books inbetween.more
The pace picks up considerably in this continuation of the intertwined stories of Jack Shaftoe, Daniel Waterhouse, and Eliza, Countess de la Zeur. The plot set in motion in Quicksilver continues to twist into fiendishly complex patterns. Piracy and quests, political and financial intrigue, and the evolution of scientific thought; you'll find all of this and more in the hefty second volume of the Baroque Cycle. Read Quicksilver first in order to not be confused by The Confusion.Jack Shaftoe, now a galley slave in Algiers, joins a conspiracy to pirate a Spanish treasure and escape slavery. He and nine other oar-mates embark on their adventure burdened with Jack's usual mix of good and bad luck. Sea battles, land battles and general havoc follow the cabal of misfits across oceans and continents.Daniel has a smaller role in this volume, but the role of Jack's more socially integrated brother Bob waxes into a remarkable war-filled journey to free his enslaved love, Abigail. Eliza, in the meantime, has lost her fortune and her firstborn son and must tread carefully to keep her head amid the perils of the French court. Eliza works to recover her son and wreak havoc on the financial markets of Europe.Jack's adventures from South America to Japan and Eliza's maneuverings in Europe draw you along at breathtaking speed with enough momentum to propel you through the 800+ pages. The pace rarely falters and Stephenson continues to make even the secondary characters interesting. He also maintains the obvious attention to research and detail found in Quicksilver. The Confusion neatly sets the scene for the third and final book as divergent plots start to converge, and I can't wait to see where Stephenson will take us next.4 Starsmore
I've been learning a great deal of history from Stephenson, both in this series and in the Cryptonomicon. I've never been very interested in finance and the movements of money and economies, but he makes it almost interesting! Plus, glow-in-the-dark pirates!more
zoology rames guptamore
This was even better than Quicksilver. The story never bogged down. This was the first book I read on my Nook, and I flew through it in 3 weeks (Quicksilver took me 4 months).more
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