Author(s): Neal StephensonDownload
In the year 1689, a cabal of Barbary galley slaves — including one Jack Shaftoe, aka King of the Vagabonds, aka Half-Cocked Jack — devises a daring plan to win freedom and fortune. A great adventure ensues — a perilous race for an enormous prize of silver … nay, gold … nay, legendary gold.In Europe, the exquisite and resourceful Eliza, Countess de la Zeur, is stripped of her immense personal fortune by France’s most dashing privateer. Penniless and at risk from those who desire either her or her head (or both), she is caught up in a web of international intrigue, even as she desperately seeks the return of her most precious possession.Meanwhile, Newton and Leibniz continue to propound their grand theories as their infamous rivalry intensifies, stubborn alchemy does battle with the natural sciences, dastardly plots are set in motion … and Daniel Waterhouse seeks passage to the Massachusetts colony in hopes of escaping the madness into which his world has descended.This P.S. edition features an extra 16 pages of insights into the book, including author interviews, recommended reading, and more.
Some Reviews: 710 in Goodreads.com
Just like the first volume, this one was immensely enjoyable, but suffered from similar faults. It’s a true marvel to read the whole thing though – especially the way it adumbrates the trade and politics of the time are superb, and really does send us back. It’s historical fiction with a heavy stress on the ‘fiction’, or perhaps better, historical fantasy. In my humble opinion Stephenson often takes too many liberties with the historical personas and inserts too many fictitious characters – but perhaps the latter is more forgivable than making real historical characters do things that they did not. But of course he does that too, and he is a bit too familiar with some of them (like Leibniz and Newton, where the latter is delineated as quite the camp character). Some characters which I happen to admire, he makes into villains. But at the same time, Stephenson really does bring history to life, and pushes history with all its complexities into our faces. That is the quality which Stephenson’s works should be admired most for – his ability to make us see how complex and subtle society actually was in bygone days. We often sneer at things which appear trivial, barbaric, or simplistic to us today – and we are indeed usually mistaken when doing so. Stephenson shows us the how and the why.
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 that plagues the rest of the Baroque Cycle. That said, it was still great and I mostly recommend it, as described in my previous review.
The Confusion is a perfect storm of everything that’s awesome about the baroque cycle and Stephenson’s writing, and is completely delightful. The greater scope of having two novels (one a swashbuckling epic that moves around the world, the other a political intrigue story that Stephenson refers to as a “bodice ripper”) mushed together makes Stephenson’s disjointed narrative seem more like a sweeping mosaic. Additionally, these two wrap up almost all of the hanging threads from the previous three novels, but still in the last couple of chapters sets up a conflict for the last three books.
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 the late 17th Century, Neil Stephenson knows how to balance a novel with actual History while supplying a welcome plot of fantastic fiction. And like all his books, you catch yourself wishing it was all real. Maybe it is. How much of it is? I don’t know. I want to know.
Which got me thinking this,
introducing children to Historical Fiction in school could lead to an actual interest in History?
I know I now want to know about the Whigs and the Torries of the 1690’s, the war between France and England and Holland, Piracy as a military tactic, The great atomic free will rift between Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz
and most importantly;
what happened in this time period to change the worlds currency from hard (Silver/Gold) to soft (numbers in a bank)?!!!
Holy crap I would give this more than 5 stars if I could. Better than Quicksilver, this book just takes off from page one, describing Jack Shaftoe as being detonated into waking up, and ending with Shaftoe looking at Isaac Newton and planning something destructive. It jumps back and forth between the best action scenes ever in literature and intricate plotting, intrigue, back-stabbing, black mail, code-breaking, etc., in Europe. With topics raning from crazy ass Indian religions to Leibniz’s monads to the birth of world-finance, with a huge cast of characters, some good and and some bad but all ridiculously entertaining, this book of over 800 pages was only put aside for bowel movements, eating, and sleeping, and even that with the utmost reluctance. I’ve got a huge boner now that can’t be dealt with until I track down the last book of the trilogy in this god-forsaken literary desert I live in.
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 since I had read it, to recall the events of Quicksilver, even with a Wikipedia assist. Other than that I found the book to be interesting and engaging, and I honestly cared about the characters.
On one hand it could be (easily) argued that this book could use some editing, the length really did allow for some serious pondering on the characters and their story.. That said, this book s certainly not for everyone..
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