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“The Confusion ”


written by Harriet Klausner on 03/04/2004

The Confusion
Neal Stephenson
Morrow, Apr 2004, $27.95, 815 pp.
ISBN: 0060523867

In 1689 off the Barbary Coast, a slightly insane Jack Shaftoe is one of a crew of slaves rowing a pirate's ship when a plan to escape surface. The ten pull off their stunt and take with them some Spanish loot that turns out to be special gold that alchemists mixed with "divine" qualities.

At the same time that the "King of the Vagabonds" and cohorts make their escape with the gold, the woman he once rescued from a harem, Eliza looks forward to one day living peacefully raising her child while also planning to retaliate against the rogue who "sold" her to the Ottomans. However sailing the Mediterranean can prove dangerous and Eliza is too skilled an operator for the French to allow her to rusticate or urbanize in London. Instead she is drafted to help the Sun King and crafts an intricate deal to obtain money so that the French-Irish army can invade England.

THE CONFUSION is actually two Baroque tales interwoven (literally as the perspective predominantly shifts between Eliza and Jack and to a lesser degree the Juncto (Leibniz, Newton, etc.). The twin story lines are very amusing action-adventure tales in which both are superb, but Jack's swashbuckling is incredible. There is no doubt that this epic historical action thriller provides a wonderful witty winner as Neal Stephenson paints a masterly look back as he did in QUICKSILVER.

Harriet Klausner

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