The Confusion

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US hardcover, 1st edition.

The Confusion is a historic fiction novel by Neal Stephenson, published in 2004, and the second of three volumes of The Baroque Cycle. The book follows three made up characters as they travel around Europe in the late 1600s and interact with an otherwise historical England during the days of Isaac Newton, Gottfried Leibniz, and various other members of the Royal Society.

The Confusion consists of two smaller books, The Juncto and Bonanza which are intermixed across chapters. The Juncto follows events based around Eliza, Gottfried Leibniz, and Daniel Waterhouse, and Bonanza follows Jack Shaftoe on a voyage around the world. Both books concurrently follow a time line which merges in the end.


There was such a long gap between when I finished Quicksilver and began The Confusion, that I actually had to go back and re-read the last section of Quicksilver to remember where I left off. I'm glad that I did, because it helped make sense of the early events of The Confusion. The book, like Quicksilver, is utterly fantastic! The series ends with The System of the World. I finished it on 2017-10-23.


I own a first edition hardcover of this book, and have listened to the audio book read by Kevin Pariseau and Katherine Kellgren.


— This section contains spoilers! —


  • The book is well-written, and chocked full of excitement, action, intrigue, and historical knowledge.
  • The wide range of cultures and sciences is very interesting, as is the fight between Newton and Leibniz.
  • All of the characters, including the heroes, villains, and side characters are all interesting and well-developed.
  • Enoch Root is even more explicitly described as being an immortal, though nothing concrete is made of it.
  • The ending is pretty awesome and really makes you ready for the sequel.


  • The similarities between the Cryptonomicon are heavier, even bringing in an ancestor of Goto into the mix, which is even more silly. I would have preferred less similarity, as it requires a fair amount of suspension of disbelief.
  • The book focuses more on economics, which I still find interesting, but I'd still prefer more about science.


  • Nothing.




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