by Gavin GrantMay, 2004
Neal Stephenson's grand vision
The Confusion is the second 900-page volume in Neal Stephenson's huge Baroque Cycle trilogy. Readers, and there will no doubt be many given how strong Stephenson's following is, will be fascinated to find that inside these covers there are actually two novels: Bonanza and Juncto. These two novels take place concurrently between 1689 and 1702 and mainly follow two characters: Jack Shaftoe, a galley slave with plans to become much more, and secret agent Eliza, Countess de la Zeur, who is trying to get to London with her baby. Pirates, a treasure quest, the Inquisition, the court of Louis XIV, and the rivalry between Isaac Newton and Wilhelm Leibnitz all make appearances in a complex plot that effortlessly, elegantly and energetically goes back and forth between the two tales and leaves the reader looking forward to the third volume.
With its vivid retelling of the roots of science, The Confusion and the whole Baroque Cycle is one of the most interesting pieces of current fiction in any genre. The combined trilogy (not including the earlier, somewhat linked Cryptonomicon) will be the equivalent of a series of at least half-a-dozen novels published in less than a year. Stephenson's vision is grand indeed, and lucky are the readers who choose to follow along.