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Anathem

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Anathem Cover

ISBN13: 9780061474095
ISBN10: 0061474096
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Staff Pick

As a novelist of ideas, Neal Stephenson is known for writing books that are thematically dense. Anathem is no exception. In a world where mathematical philosophers live isolated like monks, the appearance of an orbiting alien spaceship — which has a geometric proof displayed on its side — prompts a convocation wherein differing groups of math monks search their philosophies for explanations. Add in quantum mechanics, particularly explorations of the many-worlds interpretation, and you have the formula (or should I say algorithm?) for a rich brew of ideas.
Recommended by Doug, Powells.com

Review-A-Day

"Readers hoping to find [Stephenson's] particular flavor of exhaustive research into heady and hard-to-grasp topics (like Sumerian mythology or Newtonian physics), his lightfooted prose, and his obvious love of language will not be disappointed." Alice Dodge, Rain Taxi (read the entire Rain Taxi review)

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Anathem, the latest invention by the New York Times bestselling author of Cryptonomicon and The Baroque Cycle, is a magnificent creation: a work of great scope, intelligence, and imagination that ushers readers into a recognizable — yet strangely inverted — world.

Fraa Erasmas is a young avout living in the Concent of Saunt Edhar, a sanctuary for mathematicians, scientists, and philosophers, protected from the corrupting influences of the outside saecular world by ancient stone, honored traditions, and complex rituals. Over the centuries, cities and governments have risen and fallen beyond the concent's walls. Three times during history's darkest epochs violence born of superstition and ignorance has invaded and devastated the cloistered mathic community. Yet the avout have always managed to adapt in the wake of catastrophe, becoming out of necessity even more austere and less dependent on technology and material things. And Erasmas has no fear of the outside — the Extramuros — for the last of the terrible times was long, long ago.

Now, in celebration of the week-long, once-in-a-decade rite of Apert, the fraas and suurs prepare to venture beyond the concent's gates — at the same time opening them wide to welcome the curious extras in. During his first Apert as a fraa, Erasmas eagerly anticipates reconnecting with the landmarks and family he hasn't seen since he was collected. But before the week is out, both the existence he abandoned and the one he embraced will stand poised on the brink of cataclysmic change.

Powerful unforeseen forces jeopardize the peaceful stability of mathic life and the established ennui of the Extramuros — a threat that only an unsteady alliance of saecular and avout can oppose — as, one by one, Erasmas and his colleagues, teachers, and friends are summoned forth from the safety of the concent in hopes of warding off global disaster. Suddenly burdened with a staggering responsibility, Erasmas finds himself a major player in a drama that will determine the future of his world — as he sets out on an extraordinary odyssey that will carry him to the most dangerous, inhospitable corners of the planet...and beyond.

Review:

"In this follow-up to his historical Baroque Cycle trilogy, which fictionalized the early-18th century scientific revolution, Stephenson (Cryptonomicon) conjures a far-future Earth-like planet, Arbre, where scientists, philosophers and mathematicians — a religious order unto themselves — have been cloistered behind 'concent' (convent) walls. Their role is to nurture all knowledge while safeguarding it from the vagaries of the irrational 'saecular' outside world. Among the monastic scholars is 19-year-old Raz, 'collected' into the concent at age eight and now a decenarian, or 'tenner' (someone allowed contact with the world beyond the stronghold walls only once a decade). But millennia-old rules are cataclysmically shattered when extraterrestrial catastrophe looms, and Raz and his teenage companions — engaging in intense intellectual debate one moment, wrestling like rambunctious adolescents the next — are summoned to save the world. Stephenson's expansive storytelling echoes Walter Miller's classic A Canticle for Leibowitz, the space operas of Larry Niven and the cultural meditations Douglas Hofstadter — a heady mix of antecedents that makes for long stretches of dazzling entertainment occasionally interrupted by pages of numbing colloquy. An accompanying CD of music composed by David Stutz is suitably ethereal. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

While thinking about Neal Stephenson's "Anathem," I found myself imagining that I was one of those cartoon heroes suddenly confronted by a moral quandary. On one shoulder sits a little red devil, with a tiny pitchfork; on the other, a cherubic angel in white robes. Each whispers in my ear, and I am tugged first this way and then that. My heart is roiled, I am perplexed and unhappy, caught in a dilemma.

... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review)

Review:

"Stephenson has quickly established himself as an A-list writer of epic-length fantasy....The novel is beautifully written...and, even though it runs to nearly 1,000 pages, it feels somehow too short....A magnificent achievement." Booklist (Starred Review)

Review:

"Light on adventure, but a logophilic treat for those who like their alternate worlds big, parodic and ironic." Kirkus Reviews

Review:

"Anathem pulls off what most writers would never dare attempt — it is simultaneously a page turner and a philosophical argument, an adventure novel and an extended existential meditation, a physics lesson, sermon and ripping good yarn." Salon.com

Review:

"Anathem is chock-full of great ideas, and the details matter....Because of the internal strength of Stephenson's storytelling, Anathem achieves transcendence of traditional commercial boundaries..." Chicago Sun-Times

Review:

"[A] rigorous but rewarding epic fantasy....[F]or all its heft and intellectual bluster, the book's an engaging read: think The Name of the Rose crossed with Dune..." The Portland Oregonian

Review:

"[A]n absorbing book [that] features plenty of action....Anathem's appended lectures and proofs round out this semblance of a world running sometimes in parallel to our own, but given to fascinating, logically derived, yet wholly unexpected departures." Seattle Times

Review:

"Stephenson has done something remarkable in this novel, which is to make the resolution of a venerable philosophical debate essential to the unfolding of his story." Los Angeles Times

Review:

"[Stephenson's] prose is dense, but his worldview contagious. Three hundred pages in, I fervently resolved to shut down my blog and spend the next millennium reading books." The Wall Street Journal

Review:

"Awesome. Despite its length at 960 pages, the fast pacing of the book is reminiscent of Stephenson's earlier, shorter, Snow Crash and The Diamond Age....Stephenson deserves credit for his trademark skill of putting ideas as big as this one into a book that's also a rattling good read." Discover Magazine

Review:

"Anathem is a unique, impressive but fairly mad novel: one part hubris to one part taking the piss to one part gnarly geek awesomeness." Strange Horizons

Synopsis:

Since childhood, Raz has lived behind the walls of a 3,400-year-old monastery, a sanctuary for scientists, philosophers, and mathematicians. There, he and his cohorts are sealed off from the illiterate, irrational, and unpredictable saecular world, until the day that a higher power decides it is only these cloistered scholars who have the abilities to avert an impending catastrophe. One by one, Raz and his friends, mentors, and teachers are sent forth without warning into the unknown.

Synopsis:

A #1 New York Times Bestseller, Anathem is perhaps the most brilliant literary invention to date from the incomparable Neal Stephenson, who rocked the world with Snow Crash, Cryptonomicon, and The Baroque Cycle. Now he imagines an alternate universe where scientists, philosophers, and mathematicians live in seclusion behind ancient monastery walls until they are called back into the world to deal with a crisis of astronomical proportions.

 

Anathem won the Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel and the reviews for have been dazzling: “Brilliant” (South Florida Sun-Sentinel), “Daring” (Boston Globe), “Immensely entertaining” (New York Times Book Review), “A tour de force” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch), while Time magazine proclaims, “The great novel of ideas…has morphed into science fiction, and Neal Stephenson is its foremost practitioner.”

Video

About the Author

Neal Stephenson is the author of seven previous novels. He lives in Seattle, Washington.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 9 comments:

Wes2, January 2, 2012 (view all comments by Wes2)
Characterization, variety of cultures, and action with thought kept me enthralled.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
Asteroidboy, September 1, 2011 (view all comments by Asteroidboy)
Pleasant read and a good story. Typical Stephenson cast of thousands, and the world he creates is other worldly; but this time he includes a glossary! Reminded me somewhat of Wolfe's New Sun books, but much easier to read.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
katie b, January 26, 2010 (view all comments by katie b)
without a doubt, Anathem was the most entertaining, original and thought-provoking book I have read in a long, long time - including all of the other wonderful writings by author Neil Stephenson.

Not only does the book give you a good story and original thoughts about many topics I have seen in the recent pop-science literature, but it provides a very unusual reading experience as well.

The story line takes right off from the start, using a lot of "original" (shall I say "made up" instead?) vocabulary. It took a few trips to the dictionary to determine which really were original and which were words I just hadn't encountered - Stephenson has always had a prodigious vocab... until I learned through reading just to "let go" and let the story reveal the meanings. That was one of the reading experiences right there.

In getting into the story, my mind was making a lot of side trips triggered by the new words and the ways they were used. Those mental side trips in themselves were interesting and actually part of the overall story line (I'm trying to avoid the spoiler review, here). As you read, the meanings and the "logic" within the meanings of these new words begin to work into your head. Yes, while the story is going on - there is no problem in following the story line. This isn't dense verbiage, just newness.

After I had read about half the book, I went back and re-read the first chapter, finding that all of the newness I had experienced in the vocabulary the first time was gone - I found myself wondering why I didn't "get" everything the first time. And the answer is The Experience of reading it. And the uni-directional flow of time? Aha. You can't step in the same river twice, nor experience this book in the same way twice. How DOES Stephenson write like this??

Anathem is a good read, a wonderfully original story, and completely unforgettable. For any Stephenson fans who HAVEN'T read this yet - what is keeping you??? For everyone else, I envy the experience(s) ahead of you. Enjoy!
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(1 of 3 readers found this comment helpful)
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780061474095
Author:
Stephenson, Neal
Publisher:
William Morrow
Author:
by Neal Stephenson
Author:
by Neal Stephenson
Subject:
Life on other planets
Subject:
Philosophy
Subject:
General
Subject:
Science fiction
Subject:
General Fiction
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Hardcover
Publication Date:
September 9, 2008
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Y
Pages:
960
Dimensions:
9.46x6.52x2.21 in. 2.87 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Science Fiction and Fantasy » A to Z

Anathem Used Hardcover
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Product details 960 pages William Morrow & Company - English 9780061474095 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

As a novelist of ideas, Neal Stephenson is known for writing books that are thematically dense. Anathem is no exception. In a world where mathematical philosophers live isolated like monks, the appearance of an orbiting alien spaceship — which has a geometric proof displayed on its side — prompts a convocation wherein differing groups of math monks search their philosophies for explanations. Add in quantum mechanics, particularly explorations of the many-worlds interpretation, and you have the formula (or should I say algorithm?) for a rich brew of ideas.

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "In this follow-up to his historical Baroque Cycle trilogy, which fictionalized the early-18th century scientific revolution, Stephenson (Cryptonomicon) conjures a far-future Earth-like planet, Arbre, where scientists, philosophers and mathematicians — a religious order unto themselves — have been cloistered behind 'concent' (convent) walls. Their role is to nurture all knowledge while safeguarding it from the vagaries of the irrational 'saecular' outside world. Among the monastic scholars is 19-year-old Raz, 'collected' into the concent at age eight and now a decenarian, or 'tenner' (someone allowed contact with the world beyond the stronghold walls only once a decade). But millennia-old rules are cataclysmically shattered when extraterrestrial catastrophe looms, and Raz and his teenage companions — engaging in intense intellectual debate one moment, wrestling like rambunctious adolescents the next — are summoned to save the world. Stephenson's expansive storytelling echoes Walter Miller's classic A Canticle for Leibowitz, the space operas of Larry Niven and the cultural meditations Douglas Hofstadter — a heady mix of antecedents that makes for long stretches of dazzling entertainment occasionally interrupted by pages of numbing colloquy. An accompanying CD of music composed by David Stutz is suitably ethereal. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review A Day" by , "Readers hoping to find [Stephenson's] particular flavor of exhaustive research into heady and hard-to-grasp topics (like Sumerian mythology or Newtonian physics), his lightfooted prose, and his obvious love of language will not be disappointed." (read the entire Rain Taxi review)
"Review" by , "Stephenson has quickly established himself as an A-list writer of epic-length fantasy....The novel is beautifully written...and, even though it runs to nearly 1,000 pages, it feels somehow too short....A magnificent achievement."
"Review" by , "Light on adventure, but a logophilic treat for those who like their alternate worlds big, parodic and ironic."
"Review" by , "Anathem pulls off what most writers would never dare attempt — it is simultaneously a page turner and a philosophical argument, an adventure novel and an extended existential meditation, a physics lesson, sermon and ripping good yarn."
"Review" by , "Anathem is chock-full of great ideas, and the details matter....Because of the internal strength of Stephenson's storytelling, Anathem achieves transcendence of traditional commercial boundaries..."
"Review" by , "[A] rigorous but rewarding epic fantasy....[F]or all its heft and intellectual bluster, the book's an engaging read: think The Name of the Rose crossed with Dune..."
"Review" by , "[A]n absorbing book [that] features plenty of action....Anathem's appended lectures and proofs round out this semblance of a world running sometimes in parallel to our own, but given to fascinating, logically derived, yet wholly unexpected departures."
"Review" by , "Stephenson has done something remarkable in this novel, which is to make the resolution of a venerable philosophical debate essential to the unfolding of his story."
"Review" by , "[Stephenson's] prose is dense, but his worldview contagious. Three hundred pages in, I fervently resolved to shut down my blog and spend the next millennium reading books."
"Review" by , "Awesome. Despite its length at 960 pages, the fast pacing of the book is reminiscent of Stephenson's earlier, shorter, Snow Crash and The Diamond Age....Stephenson deserves credit for his trademark skill of putting ideas as big as this one into a book that's also a rattling good read."
"Review" by , "Anathem is a unique, impressive but fairly mad novel: one part hubris to one part taking the piss to one part gnarly geek awesomeness."
"Synopsis" by , Since childhood, Raz has lived behind the walls of a 3,400-year-old monastery, a sanctuary for scientists, philosophers, and mathematicians. There, he and his cohorts are sealed off from the illiterate, irrational, and unpredictable saecular world, until the day that a higher power decides it is only these cloistered scholars who have the abilities to avert an impending catastrophe. One by one, Raz and his friends, mentors, and teachers are sent forth without warning into the unknown.
"Synopsis" by ,

A #1 New York Times Bestseller, Anathem is perhaps the most brilliant literary invention to date from the incomparable Neal Stephenson, who rocked the world with Snow Crash, Cryptonomicon, and The Baroque Cycle. Now he imagines an alternate universe where scientists, philosophers, and mathematicians live in seclusion behind ancient monastery walls until they are called back into the world to deal with a crisis of astronomical proportions.

 

Anathem won the Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel and the reviews for have been dazzling: “Brilliant” (South Florida Sun-Sentinel), “Daring” (Boston Globe), “Immensely entertaining” (New York Times Book Review), “A tour de force” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch), while Time magazine proclaims, “The great novel of ideas…has morphed into science fiction, and Neal Stephenson is its foremost practitioner.”

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