Neal Stephenson: The Confusion
Paperback 926 pages (April 7, 2005)
Category(ies): Fiction (Historical/Fantasy)
The second volume of the Baroque Cycle, this follows on from the events in Quicksilver. Unlike that volume, this comprises just two books, and they are interleaved, rather than running consecutively, covering the period from 1689 to 1702.
4 - Bonanza. At the end of the previous volume, Half-cock Jack has been captured by Barbary slave traders. This book describes the consequences, as he works his way from the depths of being a galley slave all the way up to being a king (albeit a term-limited one, assigned to a poor Indian province) and back down again to imprisonment and humiliation by his enemies. In the middle, there is a raid on the Spanish silver galleon in the river at Bonanza (hence this book's name), and the resulting pursuit that causes the building and crewing of the good ship Minerva -- which we met in Quicksilver -- and a round-the-world journey.
5 - Juncto. (The English equivalent of Junta). This novel, on the other hand, mainly follows Eliza and Daniel. Politically, this novel covers the reign of William III, who ushered in the Age of Empire. We see the custody of Isaac Newton at the mint. Also, more information on the politics, economics, philosophy and science of the era, all of which would be quite indigestible if it wasn't used so well. (If you want a real feel for the history of this period, then this will supply it far better than any history book could ever do. Just not accurately.)
If I have a reservation, it is that this volume is less dazzling than the first, probably because it is concerned with the continuation of stories. In other words, it suffers some of the traditional trilogy-middle-volume sag. But only some.
In general - strongly recommended. But do read Quicksilver first.