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The Confusion (The Baroque Cycle, Vol. 2) Hardcover – April 13, 2004

4.5 out of 5 stars 139 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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.

From Bookmarks Magazine

This “con-fusion” of two distinct novels (Juncto and Bonanza), alternating between Jack and Eliza’s stories, is a must-read for Stephenson fans. Though neither entry in the Baroque Cycle has impressed the critics as much as some of Stephenson’s previous work, The Confusion proves his narrative skills are still in fine shape. Casual readers beware: many critics feel the lengthy scientific and historical digressions, however well researched and explicated, tend to hold up the story. If the book suffers from an information glut or stylistic terseness, then it is the cracking plot and rich milieu of the Baroque world that set the ship right.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.


Product Details

  • Series: Baroque Cycle (Book 2)
  • Hardcover: 832 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow (April 13, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060523867
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060523862
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (139 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #804,972 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Neal Town Stephenson (born October 31, 1959) is an American writer, known for his speculative fiction works, which have been variously categorized science fiction, historical fiction, maximalism, cyberpunk, and postcyberpunk. Stephenson explores areas such as mathematics, cryptography, philosophy, currency, and the history of science. He also writes non-fiction articles about technology in publications such as Wired Magazine, and has worked part-time as an advisor for Blue Origin, a company (funded by Jeff Bezos) developing a manned sub-orbital launch system.
Born in Fort Meade, Maryland (home of the NSA and the National Cryptologic Museum) Stephenson came from a family comprising engineers and hard scientists he dubs "propeller heads". His father is a professor of electrical engineering whose father was a physics professor; his mother worked in a biochemistry laboratory, while her father was a biochemistry professor. Stephenson's family moved to Champaign-Urbana, Illinois in 1960 and then to Ames, Iowa in 1966 where he graduated from Ames High School in 1977. Stephenson furthered his studies at Boston University. He first specialized in physics, then switched to geography after he found that it would allow him to spend more time on the university mainframe. He graduated in 1981 with a B.A. in Geography and a minor in physics. Since 1984, Stephenson has lived mostly in the Pacific Northwest and currently resides in Seattle with his family.
Neal Stephenson is the author of the three-volume historical epic "The Baroque Cycle" (Quicksilver, The Confusion, and The System of the World) and the novels Cryptonomicon, The Diamond Age, Snow Crash, and Zodiac. He lives in Seattle, Washington.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I am a huge fan of Neal Stephenson's book "Cryptonomicon", which now serves as a sort of introduction to the Baroque Cycle. That being said, I was a bit disappointed in Quicksilver, Volume One of the Baroque Cycle. The tome resembled Cryptonomicon so closely (same author, same size, same character families) that I could not help but get my hopes up for another such read. Instead I found it dry and difficult to finish, where Cryptonomicon had been a fantastic page turner.
Then I read The Confusion. Now I think I understand. Quicksilver is not to be compared to Cryptonomicon, but to the first third of Cryptonomicon, which (I seem to remember) was a little hard to get through. It is the beginning of the story where the author is planting the seeds for later developments.
The Baroque Cycle is twelve books, or three volumes (of which The Confusion is the second), or countless stories, but it is one read. The Confusion is the part of the read where things start getting really, really good, and if I know Neal Stephenson, the satisfaction will only continue to escalate in volume three.
If you have already made it through Quicksilver, then you have arrived. Treat yourself and read this book... er.. volume.
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Format: Hardcover
If Daniel Boorstin, Tom Clancy and C. S. Forester had decided to collaborate on an epic novel, this would have been it, except they wouldn't have written one as racy as this one is.
As made clear in "Cryptonomicon," Stephenson loves parallelism. This volume of "The Baroque Cycle" is two parallel but intertwined tales:
- one of The Cabal, a polyglot group of a group of one-time galley slaves who risk everything as they transport a cargo of gold literally around the world
- the other of The Junto, a pan-European collection of royalty, savants and merchants who accidentally devise the modern banking system in order to transport money without moving metal.
Don't read these books if you're looking for subtle character studies (though there are some subtle and witty conversations to decode). However, if you've the kind of mind that's interested in everything and how it got that way, if you enjoy a hell-for-leather tale (or two) set in exotic locales and times, or if you like to watch a brilliant literary stylist construct a story as carefully structured as a well-done sonnet, then buy this book and set aside enough time to savor it.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
After reading Quicksilver, though I already had my copy of The Confusion, I had to take a bit of a breather and I read The Bourne Supremacy, though once I was a few pages into it I couldn't help myself looking forward to The Confusion. That's not to say that Ludlum is not enjoyable to read, but there's so much lacking in his work compared to Stephenson's.

The Confusion, as many have mentioned, is a combination of two books, one following Jack Shaftoe in his literally round-the-world exploits, the other following Eliza, Duchess of Qwhglm, etc., as she continues to rise in Europe's aristocracy. It's an ingenious device to combine the two novels in one, as the reader is left with a cliffhanger in one chapter of the first novel and spurred on in reading the other so he can learn the outcome of the first.

At it's heart, so far, the Baroque Cycle is a love story. Jack and Eliza are a classic couple, torn apart by forces (for the most part) beyond their control. Around them the world of the 16th century continues to swirl, a storm of political, economic and social change, which in reality left no life untouched. Jack and Eliza seem to somehow be caught in many of the pivotal locations and events of the age, and as readers, we get swept along with them. Along the way, of course, we get a dose of the science that Stephenson loves to explain, as well as a good chunk of geography, social satire, and humor.

Stephenson, while he may be getting more long winded, is getting better and better. I hate to pick favorites, because there are so many incredible authors out there, but he is certainly near the top in my book. Can't wait for The System of the World!
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Format: Hardcover
The revolution of the western mind continues in Stephenson's second volume of his Baroque Cycle.

By "con-fusing" (this is a Stephensonism, not mine) the fictitious lives & passions of the epic's main characters, Jack Shaftoe & Eliza, with real events and equally real/colorful characters of the late 17th century, Stephenson has accomplished something which no teacher before him has...

THE CONFUSION con-currently conquers the following subjects (among many, many others):

- the dawn of a truly global economy

- the pre-teen years of the commodities & futures markets

- the minting of hard currency

- the injection of fiat

- the role of the New World in revitalizing and further confusing international relations

- the pioneering minds of the Utilitarian Enlightenment (not of the artistic sort that has come to dominate discussions of the Enlightenment).

- the conflicting motives of the Roman Catholic Church, the various Protestant denominations, and the Oligarchy of the European nations/principalities of the latter 17th Century

- the boundless nature of the human spirit

- the nature of love itself

Needless to say, in order to envelop all the above while con-fusing it with a story of such enthralling intrigue, the Confusion is a megolith of a novel... but it is truly as awe-full (full of awe) as it is awesome!

Can't hardly wait for the third volume.
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