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.
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!
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manoftroy, January 19, 2010 (view all comments by manoftroy)
Neal Stephenson takes you into a new world. He challenges the way we think and what we believe. I enjoy the use of math and science. He show their influence on the way we think.
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EOY, January 12, 2010 (view all comments by EOY)
I couldn't put this book down. I was intimidated by the size of it, but once I started reading, it stuck with me like no book ever has. I would read until I couldn't keep my eyes open at night and I couldn't wait until the next evening when I could read again.
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William Morrow & Company -
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 Publishers Weekly,
"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 Alice Dodge, Rain Taxi,
"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)
by Booklist (Starred 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."
by Kirkus Reviews,
"Light on adventure, but a logophilic treat for those who like their alternate worlds big, parodic and ironic."
"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."
by Chicago Sun-Times,
"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..."
by The Portland Oregonian,
"[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..."
by Seattle Times,
"[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."
by Los Angeles Times,
"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."
by The Wall Street Journal,
"[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."
by Discover Magazine,
"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."
by Strange Horizons,
"Anathem is a unique, impressive but fairly mad novel: one part hubris to one part taking the piss to one part gnarly geek awesomeness."
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.
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