Saturday, July 26, 2008

Book Review: "The Confusion"

The second massive volume in Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle is The Confusion (Morrow, 2004) (my review for the first volume, Quicksilver, is here). Only slightly less voluminous than its predecessor (815 pages compared to 927), The Confusion is, I promise, just as complicated and just as bizarre.

There are two major plot-lines in this volume (amid millions of smaller ones): in the first, Jack Shaftoe (whose resemblance to Disney's Jack Sparrow continues here) and his Cabal - a motley crew of misfits if ever there was one - manage to escape from slavery, capture a treasure, lose said treasure, recapture said treasure, lose said treasure again, get captured again, &c. as they meander their way around the world. In the second plot-line (Stephenson has designed the volume with alternating sections - con-fusing them, as it were - so the reader bounces back and forth between the two with some regularity) we find our old friends Leibniz and Waterhouse, Eliza (now a duchess twice over, with a few children under her skirts), Sophie the Electress of Hanover, and all their assorted associates and hangers-on. They're mucking about with the politics and finances of Europe, par usual.

I mostly enjoyed the book, but it's hard not to get bogged down in Stephenson's minutiae, and I found myself frustrated at times, not particularly caring what happened to any of the characters. But I slogged through, and in fact the last few chapters did make the book well worth reading. I'll get to the third volume ... someday.

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