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The Confusion (The Baroque Cycle #2)

4.23  ·  Rating Details ·  18,420 Ratings  ·  605 Reviews
In the year 1689, a cabal of Barbary galley slaves—including one Jack Shaftoe, a.k.a. King of the Vagabonds, a.k.a. Half-Cocked Jack, lately and miraculously cured of the pox—devises a daring plan to win freedom and fortune. A great adventure ensues, rife with battles, chases, hairbreadth escapes, swashbuckling, bloodletting, and danger—a perilous race for an enormous priz ...more
Hardcover, 815 pages
Published April 13th 2004 by William Morrow
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Excerpt from the journal of Neal Stephenson.

What have I done? I must have been out of my mind to think that I could write a trilogy set in the late 17th and early 18th century that used three main fictional characters to explore the political and religious intrigue of the time as well as the development of the first stages of modern science and economics. If that wasn’t enough of a challenge, I had to incorporate a bit of science fiction by including my ageless character Enoch Root and hints tha
Jul 09, 2008 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: deadtree, fiction, all
Wow, I can't even remember when I started this book, 800+ pages as the second book in the 2400+ page The Baroque Cycle trilogy. I feel like a water-skier being pulled by a boat--sections have pulled me along thrillingly with wake-jumping stunts and all. The last couple of hundred pages moved like this. Other parts could not hold my interest, as if the boat didn't have enough power to pull me up out of the water--I have put this one down for months at a time and had to consciously make efforts to ...more
Aug 24, 2016 Marijan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
knjiga je mrvicu slabija od prethodne, ali i dalje urnebesna, nevjerojatna, sumanuta i na trenutke mučna, kao vožnja na rollercoasteru. 4.5
finished the reread of Confusion and while the short review I wrote on the original read is still relevant, the book like the whole Baroque cycle benefits so much on the reread as now I can appreciate the little details too;

this being said, The Confusion (the title word itself having quite a few apparitions in the text as the "transition" word from the old to the new) is the most epic adventure/intrigue/picaresque novel of the three, told in chronological order alternating between action in Eur
Jun 04, 2008 Brad rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: speculative
The Confusion is a typical second book of an atypical trilogy, and that is not at all a criticism. The second book of trilogies always bridge the gap between the first and the last with a focus on character, plot development and building the framework for the payoff. When this is done well, as with The Two Towers, the second installment can hold its own with any installment in the trilogy; when this is done very well, as with Empire Strikes Back (I apologize for the movie reference), it can outs ...more
Oct 02, 2008 Mia rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2008, unfinished
I couldn't finish this, and I am not one who is daunted by the size of a
book. I should have been warned when I picked it up the first time after having finished reading a novel written by somebody with a more poetic sense of language and thinking, "Wow, this is ugly writing." I was continually frustrated by the long passages where plot points are explained by the characters to each other (and clunky dialog for that matter), where characters seem to have no inner life (for all the alleged intell
Aug 22, 2008 John rated it it was amazing
Fantastic book! As long as _Quicksilver_, this book feels shorter. There is less natural philosophy and more swashbuckling (including a complete circumnavigation of the globe). There's a bit about the alchemical properties of King Solomon's gold and some pre-Enlightenment chemical engineering. Additionally, there is a significant amount of banking, as many of the events in the book orbit the disintegration of the traditional feudal land economy of Europe and the rise to dominance of a market eco ...more
As the Author’s Note informs the reader, The Confusion is really two novels, merged (or, in a pun this novel rather over-uses, con-fused) into one by interlacing their chapters, Bonanza and Juncto, with respectively Jack and Eliza as main characters (Daniel remains somewhat in the background for this volume). Events begin some time (years for Jack, months for Eliza) after we left them in Quicksilver, and that proves to be something of a problem – after enjoying the previous novel more than I had ...more
Sep 28, 2012 Jim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Zounds, and Zounds and Zounds yet again! This tis truly a Brick of a Book, as was Quicksilver. Tis not a quick read, but tis a joy to read! Alternating between the stories of Eliza, in the court of Louis the XIV, and English Royalty alike, and the story of Jack Shaftoe, AKA King of the Vagabonds, AKA Half-Cocked Jack, AKA Quicksilver, and his tale of Stolen gold. Jack goes 'round the globe with his Cabal which is ever dwindling. We also meet his sons this go around, along with his Brother Bob (w ...more
Sep 17, 2008 Dan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who read and liked Quicksilver
Recommended to Dan by: John Banes
This is the second volume in Stephenson's Baroque cycle.

At the end of the last book, Half Cocked Jack was a Galley Slave off the Barbary Coast, Eliza was making a run with her baby from the continent to London, and Daniel Waterhouse had Joined the Royal Court and taken a Mistress.

This book picks up several years later. Eliza is captured and brought back to France, Daniel's Mistress died of small pox, and Jack has been cured of the Syph by some sort of extraordinarily high fever, although it has
Mar 11, 2009 Bensmomma rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I sometimes think Neal Stephenson novels are fit only for college professors, especially business professors, with a need for astronomic levels of excitement, but since this category includes *me* I love this series. The form of the novels reminds me of a baroque and convoluted Candide - a picaresque in which philosophical speculation trades places back and forth with big-time all-star adventure - burning ships, mistaken identities, kidnappings, mounds and piles of gold, murderous Jesuits, etc. ...more
The Confusion is Captain Jack to Quicksilver's Old Jack. This is adventure, much more in the mould of Wilbur Smith - heaps of fun (as my Aussie relatives say!). It's still got that twisty-turny rambling-Stephenson plot, that's as much of a world-tour as it is a narrative arc, but where I thought Quicksilver was utterly fascinating, I thought The Confusion was truly enjoyable - both get 5-stars, but surprisingly different books!

I have 40+ books sitting on my 'review-soon' shelf that I just don't
Jul 25, 2014 Miles rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Deeper into the wordy quagmire that is Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle. As with Quicksilver , this volume contains a considerable dose of magical moments dissolved in a nearly impenetrable sea of overdone gibberish. It’s brilliant gibberish, but not brilliant enough to make this book shine the way I typically expect from Stephenson. While enhancing the Baroque Cycle’s thematic strengths and moving the saga forward in promising ways, The Confusion is ultimately every bit as languorous as Quicksi ...more
Melissa Rudder
Aug 13, 2010 Melissa Rudder rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Melissa by: Steve Rhoades
I'm writing this review of Neal Stephenson's The Confusion after finishing it and the final book in his The Baroque Cycle. So you can be sure that this review is going to be full of the sort of specifics and vivid details that make book reviews interesting. And you can be sure that, if I didn't think the entire concept took away from the art of reading and writing, that last sentence would have an upside down exclamation mark at the end of it, style.

My main problem with The Confu
Mar 05, 2013 Jonathan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A necessary result of the con-fusion of Bonanza and The Juncto (the two component novels that comprise this volume) is that the narrative meanders back and forth between the dealings of erudite Eliza (in Europe) and daring Jack Shaftoe (pretty much everywhere else). Both stories are equally compelling but in totally different ways: the swashbuckling adventures of a maritime cabal of pirates and slaves couldn't be more different from the sensitive and precise financial, political and scientific i ...more
May 13, 2013 Dylan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
No diversion goes too far afield, no tangent is too barock or philosophickal, and no intrigue is too ornately improbable for me in this yarn. If it were written on a roll of Turing machine tape, extending infinitely into the horizon, I have no doubt I would continue reading as long as I breathe. Alas but there is only one tome remaining in the trilogy for me.
Jul 12, 2012 Katie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Oh my god if I read any more tedious exposition I'm going to find you and throw this book at you. And it's big, it'll hurt. It'd be a lot smaller if you just told the story. Oh, and now you skip the part of the story with the action just so you can tell me what happened in more tedious exposition? Fuck You Neal Stephenson, I used to like you!
Aug 31, 2009 Steve rated it really liked it
Why not blog this one too?


In a discussion of being political/diplomatic:
"It is precisely because it is true, that you must not come out and state it."
"Very well then, monsieur, I vow not to say anything true for the remainder of this conversation" (p. 69).

Simple little joke, but it cracked me up. The coversation goes on for some time afterwords, and I haven't yet decided if the second character broke the vow...


Ok, so apparently I didn't end up blogging this one live as I read it. Apolo
I remember like it was yesterday when I first read Neal Stephenson. I learned about him from a lit blog in 2004 when I had started reading blogs but had not yet started my own. I read Snow Crash (1992) and was blown away. He opened up a whole new world of reading for me called "cyber punk" and led me to William Gibson and on from there.

I have read Stephenson's books in the order he wrote them: The Diamond Age, Cryptonomicon, Quicksilver. The only glitch is that his books are so long and take me
Jun 27, 2014 Terry rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf
There are four appeals [of the novel] to which I am especially responsive.
The appeal of play. . . . novels conceived as grand games.
The appeal of dream. . . . the fusion of dream and reality.
The appeal of thought. . . . to marshal around the story all the means ― rational and irrational, narrative and contemplative ― that could illuminate man’s being.
The appeal of time. . . . to broaden the time issue beyond the Proustian problem of personal memory to the enigma of collective time.
― Milan Kunder
Feb 03, 2015 Grzegorz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Zamęt to kolejny przejaw geniuszu Stephensona. Po raz kolejny czytając powieść tego autora delektowałem się każdą kolejna stroną, a ostatnią przywitałem ze smutkiem, że to już koniec tego niesamowitego dzieła.

Tym razem autor skupia się na dwóch postaciach - Jacku Shaftoe i Elizie. W przypadku Jacka mamy do czynienia z powieścią przygodową, pełną rozmachu, podróży, niesamowitych wydarzeń, oraz planu, który zawstydziłby ekpię Dannego Oceana.
W przypadku Elizy więcej jest dworskich intryg, polityki
Douglas Gorney
I was hoping to be able to dispense with The Baroque Cycle in one go—to be honest I can't remember greatly liking one book in the trilogy over another, and I really want to put some distance between myself and those 2700+ pages.

It's not that the story's not entertaining—it is. It's amusingly written, too, with an omniscient narrator who breaks the authorial third wall with snarky commentary on fashion choices in the 1600s. And as always, you'll learn a great deal with Stephenson. The birth of m
Michael Nash
Sep 10, 2015 Michael Nash rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
*2nd Reading*

I took a star off from my previous reading, because while I still enjoyed it, it seemed like the novel had a lot of dead space. I really enjoyed Stephenson's description of the world outside northern Europe at the turn of the 18th century, and the main characters are all compelling, but it is REALLY long, and a lot of the minor incidents seemed unnecessarily drawn out. And it has that same weirdly disjointed narrative that is obviously intentional but doesn't seem to serve a purpose
Jesse Easley
Dec 05, 2016 Jesse Easley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Slaves turned Pirates turned Bucaneers, Courtesans turned Duchess' turned World Monetary Manipulators, and Natural Philosophers turned Mathematicians turned Alchemists?!

It's Baroque Cycle 2! Leaping thirty years into the past from Baroque Cycle 1 we find a whole new slew of characters involved with western world changes that set in motion the events of the first novel. And like most Stephenson novels, he has done his research.

Filled with all sorts of over my head math and flip flop politics of t
Jan 31, 2013 Sean rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked up and put down Quicksilver over the course of a few years... Books of that physical size tend to intimidate me, so I was in no hurry to start The Confusion.. But once I got an ebook reader the physical size was no longer a factor. While I ostensibly started this book a few years ago, I really started it mid Jan 2013. Once I got into it I couldn't stop, finishing it two weeks later (though with a massive assist from a beach vacation).

It took me way too long, as so much time had passed
May 27, 2007 javier rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who likes really long books with intricate plots
Shelves: fiction
I actually wasn't going to pick up this book after finishing quicksilver, but I enjoyed the ending of quicksilver, so I thought I would give this one a try. The Confusion was OK. It was a slow read, that wasn't always the best escape for me from my world of studying. The end of The Confusion was well worth the read, but I can't say that I really enjoyed every step of the way. It's more... if I hadn't read the middle of the book, there would be no way to enjoy the ending. Now, I am not ready to ...more
Dec 22, 2008 Jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jennifer by: John Kendzierski
This book actually didn't take as long to read as the first book (Quicksilver). Perhaps it was because I already knew the characters well and didn't have to "ramp up" each time the book switched focus to a different set of characters. Really, though, I think it's because The Confusion is more of a swashbuckling adventure story, which large parts of Quicksilver were not (even though I really enjoyed the long first part of Quicksilver, involving Puritanism and science, it was a slow read). The Con ...more
Bill Gawne
Jul 05, 2016 Bill Gawne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I absolutely love this book and the whole Baroque Cycle. The only reason I'm not giving it five stars is because it's far too deep and detailed for most readers. Unless you happen to be a scientist AND have a serious interest in cryptography AND an interest in the deep minutiae of international finance AND you're a serious history geek, large portions of this book are going to bore you to the point of wondering why you're bothering to still read it.

But if you happen to be the sort of reader who
Bernie Charbonneau
Nov 24, 2012 Bernie Charbonneau rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who appreciates a masterful writer.
Et voila! Finished! The second tomb in this so far fascinating trilogy that has begun with the first volume in the year 1670 and has so far concluded in 1702 with this, The Confusion. What incredible research these two books have encompassed. I have been absolutely enthralled with Mr. Stephenson's story telling and writing. I do admit that I usually have another lighter reading novel on the go in combination with these novels and that is merrily so I can savor all passages of these bricks. If yo ...more
Aug 16, 2016 Monica rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I didn't realize that I had been waiting my entire life for a pirate-adventure-feminist-comedy of manners-court intrigue--historical novel of ideas about banking until I read one. My favorite out of the Baroque Cycle, because

1) Galley slaves-Ocean's Eleven mashup
2) Sword fights
3) Alchemy
4) Samurai
5) Characters with names like Moseh de la Cruz
6) More sword fights
7) Elopement
8) Leibniz, yes the mathematician and philosopher
9) Newton, yes the mathematician and alchemist
10 ) A Court Masque
11) Samuel
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Confused 2 43 Jun 29, 2012 10:51PM  
  • Zero History (Blue Ant, #3)
  • The Life of the World to Come (The Company, #5)
  • The Ringed Castle (The Lymond Chronicles, #5)
  • The Commodore (Aubrey/Maturin, #17)
  • Look to Windward
  • Iron Council (New Crobuzon, #3)
  • The Years of Rice and Salt
  • The Collected Stories of Philip K. Dick, Volume 1: Beyond Lies the Wub
  • Zeitgeist
  • Tales of Nevèrÿon (Return to Nevèrÿon, #1)
  • Sword & Citadel (The Book of the New Sun #3-4)
Neal Stephenson is the author of Reamde, Anathem, and the three-volume historical epic the Baroque Cycle (Quicksilver, The Confusion, and The System of the World), as well as Cryptonomicon, The Diamond Age, Snow Crash, and Zodiac. He lives in Seattle, Washington.
More about Neal Stephenson...

Other Books in the Series

The Baroque Cycle (3 books)
  • Quicksilver (The Baroque Cycle, #1)
  • The System of the World (The Baroque Cycle, #3)

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“The problem of the librarian is that books are multi-dimensional in their subject matter but must be ordered on one-dimensional shelves.” 10 likes
“My men think you are dead now, and won’t waste balls on you,” Jack said. “In fact I have let you live, but for one purpose only: so that you can make your way back to Paris and tell them the following: that the deed you are about to witness was done for a woman, whose name I will not say, for she knows who she is; and that it was done by ‘Half-Cocked’ Jack Shaftoe, L’Emmerdeur, the King of the Vagabonds, Ali Zaybak: Quicksilver!” 10 likes
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