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Reviews of Confusion, the (2004)

Review by polarisdib (2009-03-12)

Whoof! Two down, one to go, and it's beginning to weigh on me. Frankly, at the moments I can gaze through my fatigue of the voluminousness of the story to the intricacies of the detail on display, I can appreciate that the Baroque Cycle is simply unmatched in scale and depth. There's no arguing that Stephenson has done more than "his research", but has an unfathomable imagination. Still, by and large, as much as I regret to admit it--and I hate arguments of these types, but I cannot help but agree--I can only handle so many descriptions of 17th century commerce.

We're not only in full-blown epic mode, but even the years are starting to slip by like quicksilver. Sea voyages, children had, changing roles, changing governments, wars ending and beginning, restarting and fizzling out... This volume alone goes beyond the borders of the last and pretty much visits every continent in the world except Australia and Antarctica, and both of those are given study and mention at the very least by the characters if not the plot. And now that the characters are so old, they have many more thoughts tumbling about their minds, and various stories to tell and re-tell. What keeps me going are those moments, about every twenty pages or so, when Stephenson inserts a delightful pun or points to the genesis of a particular word. It's the idea of development itself that really runs the interest in this book for me, and so I have to admit a bit of impatience with the characters when nothing is happening--and surprise when something really history altering like a death actually occurs. I'm not saying this book is absent any adventure, there's plenty of that, but really I'm saying that I definitely am eager to get this thing over with ASAP.

On the other hand, this volume DID, technically, read more fluidly and briskly than the first. The con-fusion of the two books back and forth was a much better structure for keeping up anticipation, more akin to Cryptonomicon than Quicksilver. If anything, structure really is the key, here, as the revealing of it as a whole is definitely making all those pesky details worth it.

On to The System of the World, and may I still be able to read fine print by the time I'm done with it.


Review by voralfred (2007-02-03)
Well, as I said in my review of "Quicksilver", "Confusion" is not a novel, but just the second part of a single, albeit 2700 pages long, novel: "The Baroque Cycle". It really does not make sense to read it unless you read "Quicksilver" just before, and not to read "System of the World" just after. Would you read Tolkien's "The Two Towers" in isolation?
I have commented on the entire "series" or rather, novel, "The Baroque cycle". The synopsis given about Confusion is so precise that I can't do any better. So if I want to review "Confusion" what I can tell is that is where the most action takes place. Not that "Quicksilver" or "System of the World" lack action, but "Confusion" is in a sense the very heart of the plot, the quest for and the finding of the Holy Grail of Alchemy.

©Steven Jeffery /, 2017
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