Synopses & Reviews
, 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.
"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.)
"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)
"Light on adventure, but a logophilic treat for those who like their alternate worlds big, parodic and ironic." Kirkus Reviews
"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
"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
"[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
"[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
"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
"[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
"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
"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
"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
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.
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.”
About the Author
Neal Stephenson is the author of seven previous novels. He lives in Seattle, Washington.