The Confusion (The Baroque Cycle #2)
In Europe, the exquisite and resourceful Eliza, Countess de la Zeur, is stripp...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
Definitely door-stoppers, and reading this is a bit of an ambitious project. Sort of a homework assignment for the serious Stephenson fan. The history and economics lessons are all interesting, but there's just SO MUCH of it, it may start to strain the attention span at times. The action and humor are all still there, just a bit spread out. At one point, it had started to have a certain "eat your vegetables"...more
Happily, Stephenson's sequel, The Confusion, is a completely different bag of badgers. The pace is lightning fast, the plot is convoluted and epic and yet easy to follow, the twists are completely hidden until they happen, and the prose is superb.
The book has two threads, one follows Jack Shaftoe; vagabond, pirate, explorer and even king and i...more
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 conti...more
The title The Confusion was well chosen, which Stephenson partly explains in a brief author's note at the start. Many elements are indeed con-fused together to make this volume, from the two separate novels (Bonanza and Juncto) that are interwoven in alternating chapters across 800 pages and the years 1689-1702, to...more
So what we have here is a folio of boulevard for the real history of the university, belle époque before the révolution fr...more
The characters of "Quicksilver" carry over to this extravaganza. Half-Cock Jack Shafoe and Eliza have gone separate ways, each represented by a sub-novel: "The Bonanza" follows Jack and "The Juncto" follows Eliza. The overarching theme is the development of 17th century trade and monetary standards, in the context of the economi...more
I'm quite glad that Mr. Stephenson decided to alternate the two sections, rather than separating the book into two halves; the "Bonanz...more
First, it's not just a single novel but two novels, Bonanza and The Juncto which are books 4 and 5, respectively, of the Cycle. Second, the title itself works on a few levels: complicated plot points might be "confusing," some of these concern "con-fusing" or "commingling" of metals (e.g., in the recoinage projects of both France and England), and the two compo...more
Political intrigue, monetary theory, ships, pirates, romance, chemistry, extramarital affairs, kidnapping, murder, battles, theories of library organization, impossible escapes, black rights, secret codes, small pox - even the Spanish Inquisition makes an appearance (unexpectedly, of course!) What's not to like...more
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...more
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 su...more
I thought it would be difficult to beat Quicksilver, but Stephenson pulls it off yet again with The Confusion.
The frenetic pace set by Jack Shaftoe and his pirate band through their voyages in the Mediterranean, or in Hindustan, or in the Pacific is some of the most enjoyable didactic literature I've ever read. I'm also slightly partisan when Stephenson describes the outlandish designs created by the South Asian edged-weapons indus...more