Neal Stephenson focusses on Jack Shaftoe and Eliza in parallel story lines that intersect and weave around one another in interesting ways. Major characters from the last book like Newton, Daniel Waterhouse and Leibniz show up but they end up being cursory characters—and it’s for the best—Eliza and Jack are clearly the most interesting characters. Jack’s exploits are more visceral than Eliza’s and so I tended to like his chapters better, but I also don’t want to downplay Eliza’s political plots, schemes and manipulations. She is a truly great character.
If there’s one downside to this book it is that you have to wade through the slightly too long Quicksilver before starting this book—it does not stand on its own at all. But given the strength of this book, I whole heartedly recommend Quicksilver just to get the background needed for “The Confusion”. I can’t wait for the final book in the trilogy, “The System of the World”, to come out.