Benjamin Thomas's Reviews > The Confusion

The Confusion by Neal Stephenson
Rate this book
Clear rating

's review
Oct 26, 10

bookshelves: historical-fiction, historical-fiction-britain
Read in November, 2009 — I own a copy, read count: 1

This second volume of "The Baroque Cycle" can be...well...confusing in that the two novels contained therein take place simultaneously and are therefore presented at the same time as well. We read one chapter of "The Juncto" and then one of "Bonanza" and then back again. Really, it's not so confusing because the whole Volume 2 reads like one big novel. I started reading back in January and have taken my time getting through it.

Getting through it is a good way to put it actually. Had I tried to read this one start to finish I never would have made it. The story itself is engaging and the plots and subplots are intriguing. The characters are over-the-top and that makes them fun. There is some really good humor trickled throughout, mostly involving the situations the main characters get themselves in to. I would have preferred to see an index of all of the characters though. There are literally hundreds of them, many with obscure names, and I just couldn't keep track of who was who. The first volume did include such an index and I referred to it often.

The story itself revolves around two major characters (one for each novel) in and around the year 1689. Half Cocked Jack is the "King of the Vagabonds", truly a criminal mastermind in a happy-go-lucky sort of way. The other is Eliza, Countess de la Zeur, a sometime fianceer, sometime secret agent. They have adventures galore throughout 17th century Europe and all across the globe. But in the end I have to wonder if I am smart enough for this book. Mr Stephenson uses lots of words and phrases from other languages and even though the reader can usually get the gist from the context, it makes for some real effort on the part of the reader. That's OK and I don't shy away from smart reads but this book, as I found in the first volume, suffers from "too much." Too much plot, too many characters, and too much description. I felt like the author was spending as much time, and print, trying to impress me with his superior intellect as he did trying to entertain me. I love it when a novel teaches me something, be it facts or a new way of looking at things, but I have great difficulty when it becomes a chore to read a novel. I almost always finish a book that I start (even if it takes me a whole year) and I still plan to read the final volume next year.

So on the whole I would only recommend this series to those who like a more extreme reading challenge and have the time and energy to put into it. Not for the casual reader.

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read The Confusion.
sign in »

No comments have been added yet.