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Confusion Paperback – April 7, 2005
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Breathtakingly awesome in their scope and length.
I'm only part way through 'Confusion', but it flows on smoothly from 'Quicksilver' (volume 1 of 3 in the Barogue Cycle) and becomes even more enjoyable as the characters list gets longer but ever more entwined, the plot develops and slowly works its way to a satisfying climax (as in all his books).
Word of warning: if you only like 200 page quickie reads where very forgettable plots come and go like a breath of hot air stirring in the tropics, Stephenson is NOT for you. Ya gotta have 'balls' to read what is like a summer storm developing into a full-blown Cat. 5 hurricane twisting and destroying preconceived ideas along the way, and then reconfiguring reality into something more satisfying and wonderful than you could ever have imagined possible. I'm a fast reader on a Kindle, but I continue to be amazed when (as right now) I see messages such as the book is 17% complete - but with 21 hours left to complete the book.
I recommend Stephenson's books in general and this 3 book Baroque Cycle series to all readers - especially if you appreciate continuity stemming from historical characters blended smoothly with accommodating reality based fiction replete with intrigue, violence and sex (at times erotically intermingled).
But otherwise The Confusion is more of what makes this series great, brilliant storytelling and intrigue, lots of laugh out loud dry humor, Stephenson teaching as usual about so many different topics, and a wonderful and detailed look at the lives and loves of prominent and common people living in France, England and The Netherlands. Oh, and the dialogue. I have never been captured and held by dialogue before, and as with the first volume, even without the action in this volume, I would come back solely for the dialogue.
I have concluded that Neal Stephenson is the most entertaining author I have read.
Juncto is set in northern Europe and features Eliza, Duchess of Arcachon and Qwhglm, and Daniel Waterhouse. Bonanza follows the adventures of Half-Cocked Jack Shaftoe from his days as a galley slave along the Barbary Coast through Egypt, the Indian sub-continent (Hindoostan), the Far East, New Spain (Mexico) and ultimately back to England.
If you read Volume I, Quicksilver, or the three books that were encompassed therein, then you are familiar with the characters and the historical landscape (late 17th, early 18th century). While the historical fiction contained in these works is highly educational and at times fascinating (at others, somewhat confusing), this is not my favorite Stephenson effort. Nevertheless, as in his cyberpunk and sci-fi stories, a certain level of attention and effort is required in order fully grasp the author’s work. Some may not want to put forth the effort, but I appreciate it.
The overarching plot is engaging, and there are many points in the dialogue where I found myself laughing out loud. For the most part, the book is very enjoyable. There are some parts of the writing that become tedious, however, particularly when long, graphic descriptions are given to various settings or long lists of things are spilled out - something which when reading could be skipped, but in audiobook form grows tiresome rapidly. The constantly changing narrative style is a direction that I don't particularly care for - the narration changes at times between third person, first person letters, screenplays, meeting notes, and a number of techniques. I found these changes to be a distraction rather than adding to the feel of the work.
The audiobook performance is excellent - the voices vary between characters and have good emotion and great pronunciation. I would prefer it if the audiobook tracks had some correspondance to the physical book so it were more possible to jump between the two, but you can't have everything, I guess.
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Enough - I'm coming across like a trailer for The Princess Bride.
This volume is made up of two parallel novels, fused, or confused, by alternating chapters between the two. One volume follows (mostly) Jack Shaftoe, and his attempts to return to England from slavery in the East. That he accomplishes this as the only predictable part of his journey. The other tells Eliza's story, through palaces and... well, mostly through palaces.
I hope you read it, and enjoy it's elegance, intelligence and occasional low wit as much as I did.
Just fyi - no particular need to read book 1 first in order to understand book 2.
This book is of a similar nature in that it tries to combine several books in one and each book contains many additional stories and characters with their full family life histories, in many cases. I am reading it in installments with other more terse and exciting books in between to keep my interest and renew my enjoyment of reading.