Liviu's Reviews > The Confusion

The Confusion by Neal Stephenson
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Jul 29, 15

bookshelves: genre-sf, read_2015, t_n_bks_2007_earlier, all_time_favorites
Read in July, 2015

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 Europe from Eliza's pov with a few interludes from Daniel - under the heading Juncto - and action across the world (from Algiers and Cairo to India, Japan and much more) from Jack and his Cabal of Barbary Coast galley slaves with a (desperate) plan to get free and rich - under the heading Bonanza

the action starts immediately at the end of Odalisque (third part of Quicksilver) just after the Glorious Revolution in 1689 and ends in 1702 at the start of the second round of the war of Leroy (as the Sun King is colloquially known to Jack especially since their memorable personal encounter at a Paris party of 1685) against the rest of the (European) world (this round known as the Spanish Succession war)

large scale, full of dramatic action, incredible escapes, double crosses, continual reversals of fortunes (in Mogul India, Jack even becomes a temporary king which makes him a sort of cousin of Leroy himself while Eliza, ennobled by both Leroy - ennobling involving a fake sexual encounter masking the king's hemorrhoid surgery - and his nemesis William of Orange - ennobling involving this time a real intimate encounter though of the kind doable with either men or women as William is impartial there and even invites his handsome personal squire to watch and "take notes" as it were - needs to consolidate her position as her enemies are still of higher rank and ready to pounce) and all around fun, with some of the best secondary characters in fiction - some of which we actually have encountered in the future/present (1713-4) part that starts the trilogy in Quicksilver (novel and part 1 of the same name) not realizing who they are

So after a book starting in Boston 1713 and alternating between that and the personal story of Daniel Waterhouse (and Isaac Newton) from the 1650's to 1673, jumping to 1683, the Siege of Vienna and Jack saving a harem slave of the Grand Vizier and then having her quickly take charge of their joint fortunes and traveling Europe together and then apart until 1685 and Jack's ill considered decision to enter the slave trade (and Eliza's emphatic response to that) and then a third book following Eliza's ascent in Europe and Daniel's conspiring to bring a newfangled revolution in England until 1689, tales which connect but also jump sometimes in disconcerting ways - especially on first read - Confusion by its chapter split between its two tales brings a different and more coherent feel to the book while offering the most spectacular action of the trilogy

These two volumes (Quicksilver and The Confusion) in 5 parts and 3 tales offer together a fairly coherent story with a clear (temporary) ending (though again we know from the beginning that we will have action in 1713-1714) and are as spectacular and exciting as anything I've read


(2008 review on first read)

Superb sequel to Quicksilver. Continues the (mis) adventures of Jack Shaftoe and an assorted odd group of Pirate slaves that conceive a crazy plan to get freedom and a treasure, plan that develops a hitch when one of Jack's noble sworn enemies turns out to be involved deeply in.

In the other main thread Elisa is still looking to establish herself in high society and revenge on the unknown noble that led to her and her mother's enslavement.

On the way we have tragedy, joy, action and lots of digressions of the creation of money and the modern banking system, with the natural philosophy more in the background than in the first volume.

Excellent.
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