Confusion, the second volume in this massive epic trilogy, continues to use characters, both real and fictitious,to drive the action across many countries/cultures/civilisations, and across over two and a half thousand pages by the end of Vol 3. Apart from real characters such as Isaac Newton, King Louis of France, Leibnitz in Germany, Stephenson uses Vagabond Jack and Countess Eliza, two incredibly alive and believable 'soldiers of fortune' and survivors of the murky 17th & 18th century, who serve to guide the reader through the arcane cultures and political tightrope necessary for survival in these turbulent times. By contrast, Daniel Waterhouse, another fictional character gives an insight into the scientific search for knowledge within the 'Royal Society' in London, including the magical lure of alchemy. This novel, like the trilogy, is packed with historical fact, brilliantly realised detail and invention, and tremendous action sequences. Stephenson manages his wealth of material, so that the narrative has a 'thriller quality' to it, to sustain even the half-awake mind. This is densely-packed stuff, which might not suit those who don't wish to put in the effort required to enable this fascinating world to come alive, but the rewards for a little engagment are substantial: after a while the reader feels they are walking through these dangerous, uncertain and fascinating times, which make up the Renaissance world. A stunning piece of writing, if you give it the attention it requires. I've read masses in my life, but this has to be one of the best pieces of detailed and sustained 'worlds' ever created.