review of “The Confusion” Books | Pirates! Calculus! Banking! Alchemy!

The arrival of “The Confusion,” the second installment in Neal Stephenson’s mammoth “Baroque Cycle” saga, presents some problems for a reviewer. No one is going to tackle this 800-page volume who hasn’t already read, and enjoyed, the first, “Quicksilver.”

But if you didn’t like the first installment, oppressed by its seeming plotlessness, its profusion of minutiae about life during the late 17th century, and its endless disquisitions on Puritan religious life and the genealogical interconnections of European royalty, then no matter what the reviewer says about the second, you’re still unlikely to give it a go. One is tempted, then, to merely repeat the quick and dirty summary offered by a reviewer at the geek news Web site Slashdot: “if you liked ‘Quicksilver,’ this one is better; if you didn’t, don’t bother.” ‘Nuff said.

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