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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 Oct 13, 2009
ISBN: 9780061793387
List price: $6.99
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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!read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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).read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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Reviews

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!
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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).
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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?
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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.
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