The Confusion

Yes, that is the title of the next Neal Stephenson novel that I consumed. This is also part of the Baroque Cycle of which Quicksilver is the overture. There is nothing confusing about the book as the title is drawn from the metallurgical meaning of the word, con-fused – for the process of mingling two metals into an alloy.

Like the previous novel, this one is made up of two books: Bonanza and Juncto. One tells the story of our band of pirates sailing around the world while the other traces the events happening on continental europe. However, the two books are interleaved with each other as they proceed through the same time line. So, readers would not be forced to constantly flip back and forth between the two. Thus it is con-fused.

While Quicksilver was slow to begin and takes a while to build up the action, this one starts off exactly where the previous book ended and does not let up, even right up to the end. The ending is like a mid-season cliffhanger of Battlestar Galactica. It makes me wonder what is going to come next.

Unlike some other authors, Stephenson has elected not to repeat much of what had already been said in Quicksilver. Some authors I know Terry Goodkind spend half the book merely repeating the things that they have already mentioned in previous books. Therefore, one should definitely read Quicksilver before reading this book unless one is blessed with a wanton sense of imagination.

Just like everyone other Stephenson book, there is a lot of knowledge to be gleaned from within its pages. While Quicksilver was steeped in computer science, this book is knee deep in finance and commerce. Sometimes, it makes me wonder how many people he hires as staff researchers. He cannot possibly have done all the research himself as they are all tremendously detailed. The contents of the two books focus on the events happening between 1689-1702, which were exciting times in Europe.

I particularly liked the way that he progressed the story through letter writing. While in Quicksilver he experimented with short plays and flirted with letter writing, he used it a lot in The Confusion. Large swaths of the book were dedicated to letters being exchanged between several key characters. This plays well with the book because these characters were prolific letter writers and cryptographers.

Anyway, it makes a good read for anyone who likes Quicksilver and desires to see the adventures of Daniel Waterhouse, Jack Shaftoe and Eliza through to the end. An additional reason that it makes good reading for me is because many of these characters are ancestors of the characters in Cryptonomicon.

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Shawn Tan

Chip Doctor, Chartered Engineer, Entrepreneur, Law Graduate.

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