Saturday, September 18, 2004

The Confusion

Professor Volokh is counting the days until Neal Stephenson's The System of the World comes out. I would be as excited, except last week was the first chance I had to read Book 2 of his Baroque Cycle, The Confusion. As preparation, I reread Quicksilver, which was nearly as good the second time as the first. The Confusion, though, was a letdown. So much was foreshadowed that I spent a significant amount of time simply waiting for major plot developments to emerge - the suspense was minimal. The more outlandish Jack's adventures became, the less connected I felt to his story, and the dozen or so in his motley crew of Vagabonds didn't do much more to seize my heart or attention. There was a criminal lack of Daniel Waterhouse. Eliza's story, which took up half of this volume, rattled along with little action, at least once her vengeance was preempted. And while the merely asserted ability of Miss Eliza to drive all heterosexual men wild with her beauty had grown tiresome, her transformation into a pockmarked mother of sickly and deformed offspring by a bland and tiresomely polite fellow (who suddenly reveals a sadistic streak in the last chapter - ?!?) left a nasty taste in my mouth.
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