The Confusion (Baroque Cycle Series #2)

The Confusion (Baroque Cycle Series #2)

4.3 73
by Neal Stephenson

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"In the year 1689, a cabal of Barbary galley slaves - including one Jack Shaftoe, a.k.a. King of the Vagabonds, a.k.a. Half-Cocked Jack, lately and miraculously cured of the pox - devises a daring plan to win freedom and fortune. A great adventure ensues, rife with battles, chases, hairbreadth escapes, swashbuckling, bloodletting, and danger - a perilous race for an… See more details below


"In the year 1689, a cabal of Barbary galley slaves - including one Jack Shaftoe, a.k.a. King of the Vagabonds, a.k.a. Half-Cocked Jack, lately and miraculously cured of the pox - devises a daring plan to win freedom and fortune. A great adventure ensues, rife with battles, chases, hairbreadth escapes, swashbuckling, bloodletting, and danger - a perilous race for an enormous prize of silver - nay, gold - nay, legendary gold that will place the intrepid band at odds with the mighty and the mad, with alchemists, Jesuits, great navies, pirate queens, and vengeful despots across vast oceans and around the globe." "Meanwhile, back in Europe, the exquisite and resourceful Eliza, Countess de la Zeur, master of markets, pawn and confidante of enemy kings, onetime Turkish harem virgin, 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 - her child." Newton and Leibniz continue to propound their grand theories as their infamous rivalry intensifies, stubborn alchemy does battle with the natural sciences, nobles are beheaded, dastardly plots are set in motion, coins are newly minted (or not) in enemy strongholds, father and sons reunite in faraway lands, priests rise from the dead...and Daniel Waterhouse seeks passage to the Massachusetts colony in hopes of escaping the madness into which his world has descended.

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Editorial Reviews

Entertainment Weekly
“[T]he definitive historical-sci-fi-epic-pirate-comedy-punk-love story. No easy feat, that. A-.”
The New York Times
With barely time to exhale, Stephenson has returned with Volume 2 of the Baroque Cycle, The Confusion, and it is every bit as rollicking and overstuffed as its predecessor … The Baroque Cycle is like the Nerf-style jousts one sometimes passes on campus quads: creatively anachronistic, oddly unembarrassed and emphatically not for everyone. But it's also brimming with a hail-fellow-well-met good cheer, at the heart of which lies a genuinely fun pirate romance. — Stephen Metcalf
Publishers Weekly
The title of Stephenson's vast, splendid and absorbing sequel to Quicksilver (2003) suggests the state of mind that even devoted fans may face on occasion as they follow the glorious and exceedingly complex parallel stories of Jack Shaftoe, amiable criminal mastermind, and Eliza, Countess de la Zeur, courageous secret agent and former prisoner in a Turkish harem. In 1689, Jack recovers his memory in Algiers, evades galley slavery and joins a quest for the lost treasure of a Spanish pirate named Carlos Olancho Macho y Macho. This leads to adventures at sea worthy of Patrick O'Brian, and hairbreadth escapes from the jaws of the Inquisition. Meanwhile, Eliza is captured by the historical (and distinguished) French privateer Jean Bart while trying to escape to England with her baby. She must then navigate the intrigues of the court of Louis XIV, which are less lethal than those of the Inquisition by a small margin, but still make for uneasy sleep for a friendless female spy. Her correspondence with such scientific minds as Wilhelm Leibniz helps propel the saga's chronicling of the roots of modern science at a respectable clip. Of course, one can't call anything about the Baroque Cycle "brisk," but the richness of detail and language lending verisimilitude to the setting and depth to the characters should be reward enough for most readers. Agent, Liz Darhansoff at Darhansoff, Verrill, Feldman Literary Agents. (One-day laydown Apr. 13) Forecast: The third volume of the trilogy, The System of the World, is due in September (and it may take readers till then to finish volume two). Though fatigue might winnow out a few fans, most should stay the course. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In this sequel to Quicksilver, Jack Shaftoe, who is recovering from partial memory loss, finds himself one of a group of ten galley slaves aboard a Turkish warship and, along with his oarmates, immerses himself in a daring plan to escape, steal a ship, and acquire a shipment of precious metals. In France, Eliza, Countess de la Zeur, continues her clandestine work as an agent for England but becomes trapped on the continent by both her enemies and her many suitors. Narrated in Stephenson's exuberant prose, the tales of Jack and Eliza intertwine with the great events and historical figures of the Baroque era, an age of tremendous change and innovation. Brimming with period detail and spiced with literate humor reminiscent of the works of John Barth, this prequel to Stephenson's sf thriller Cryptonomicon demonstrates his masterly storytelling. Highly recommended. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 12/03; the final volume, The System of the World, will be published in October 2004.-Ed.]-Jackie Cassada, Asheville-Buncombe Lib. Syst., NC Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Stephenson's Baroque Cycle grows streamlined in a hefty but propulsive second volume. Building on the solid foundation that he's already laid (Quicksilver, 2003), Stephenson provides us here with what's actually two novels, interwoven with each other and carrying us forward from 1689 to 1702. In "The Juncto," we follow Eliza's ever-scheming efforts to keep her head attached to her neck while playing royal politics at Versailles, but "Bonanza" is the real treat, a rousing continuation of the adventures of the Vagabond King, the ever-stupid yet quite resourceful Jack Shaftoe. When we last left the luscious Eliza, she had nicely recovered from being rescued (by Jack) from an Ottoman harem, being named to French royalty (for services rendered). Now, she's not only trying to raise her three children, but also operates as a crafty spy, brokering a byzantine deal involving the minting of monies in London to pay the massed French-Irish army soon to cross the Channel-to take London. The Juncto itself, a learned group that includes Leibniz and Newton, pops in from time to time to debate alchemy, theology, and abstract financial theorems-sessions that, though fascinating, are blessedly shorter than in the prior volume. Meanwhile, Jack starts out as a Mediterranean galley slave, but it's obvious that the calling won't last. It isn't long before he and his impossibly diverse band of slaves (the motley band in ridiculously tough situations being a Stephenson trope) have stolen a boatload of gold and are on the run. A few rough patches aside, when the book is firing on all cylinders, as in a relentlessly funny running battle through the streets of Cairo, there's little else out there that could hope tomatch it. Packed with more derring-do than a dozen pirate films and with smarter, sparklier dialogue than a handful of Pulitzer winners, this is run-and-gun adventure fiction of the most literate kind.

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Baroque Cycle Series, #2
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.35(d)

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