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Anathem [Kindle Edition]

Neal Stephenson
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (662 customer reviews)

Kindle Price: $8.99
Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
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Book Description

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.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. This audiobook goes the extra mile, giving listeners something the printed page-turner can not. Fans of the cult author will enjoy his vocal cameo appearances when he calmly reads definitions from a non-Earth dictionary at the start of many chapters. Another added bonus is the music between chapters that was composed specifically for this production; working with Stephenson and early drafts of the novel, David Stutz beautifully captures the complex traditional, coded choral music described therein. Moreover, the extras do not obscure the remarkable performance by William Dufris, who reads as if he knows the 900+–page text by heart. The story is told by a monastic scholar, and Dufris—with a twinkle in his proverbial eye and a sense of awe in his voice—is the perfect match. His intelligent rendering of the cast of characters is a delight for the ears. A Morrow hardcover (Reviews, July 28). (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Stephenson has never been an easy writer to pin down, and he has a reputation for not always wearing his erudition lightly. Particularly in his later books—and that now includes Anathem—readers are vetted at the door before being invited into the author’s labyrinthine worlds. The early books were held up alongside the work of William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, and other cyberpunk gods, though in the last decade Stephenson has carved a niche as one of the most ambitious writers working today in any genre. Anathem is intellectually rigorous and exceedingly complex, even to the point, as the Washington Post avows, of being “grandiose, overwrought and pretty damn dull.” Others complained of too much abstraction. Stephenson’s fans are legion, however, and many will add Anathem to their list of must-read doorstops.
Copyright 2008 Bookmarks Publishing LLC

Product Details

  • File Size: 1750 KB
  • Print Length: 1010 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; Reprint edition (August 26, 2008)
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0015DPXKI
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,057 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
548 of 586 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars no spoilers review September 9, 2008
First off, I'll let slip that I am a big Neal Stephenson fan, although I did not enjoy the Baroque Cycle. Anathem is, in some respects, "difficult" to read. Yes, there is language here that Stephenson made up, although he didn't take it to the same level that Tolkein did in his Middle Earth works. (There is an glossary of terms at the back, and entries from a dictionary are spreckled throughout the book.) And Anathem may be "slow" in that it takes approximately 200 pages to get to the core of the plot. However, I never found myself bored with the writing.

It is a difficult book to describe to others. In some ways, I felt like I was reading a novelization of "Goedel, Escher, Bach". There are some complex ideas here, some of which are expanded upon in appendices, which contain dialogues (ie in the Socratic sense of a philosophical or mathematical discussion between two people of differing views). I find such discussions intriguing, so I never found the book dry or boring, though strictly speaking, much of the material could have been removed to focus strictly on the plot. (This would, however, have weakened the reader's understanding of the plot.) Such digressions are quite characteristic of Stephenson's work (ie the discussions of language theory present in Snow Crash), and for a certain audience, it is quite enjoyable. If you have a tolerance for (or perhaps even enjoy) side-discussions of interesting material, and enjoy speculative fiction, then none of this should put you off. If you read xkcd, or liked Snow Crash, or the Foundation series by Asimov, then Anathem is likely a good bet for you. If mathematical or philosophical concepts make you cringe in fear, then you would probably not enjoy Anathem (or anything else by Neal Stephenson for that matter).

This review is based on an advance copy.
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488 of 527 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Book About Everything. September 15, 2008
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Is Neal Stephenson a science fiction author? His two earliest novels, "The Big U" and "Zodiac" are contemporary satire; his masterpieces, "Cryptonomicon" and "The Baroque Trilogy" are historical romances. Take away the two Crichtonesque thrillers he collaborated on under the pseudonym "Stephen Bury," and what's left is a pair (could this be a pattern?) of books, "Snow Crash" and "The Diamond Age," that combine the near-future info-tech milieu of 80's cyberpunk with the irony and social consciousness of 60's sf. These two, and only two, indisputably science fiction novels came out back to back within a couple of years of each other in the early 90's.

Now, thirteen years later, we get a third: "Anathem." It is the first time Neal Stephenson returned to a genre. I think it's significant that genre is science fiction. I wanted to know, does he revive the tradition of those previous two works, or has he created something new?

Actually, he has reinvented the wheel. Shockingly, it is a bigger, better wheel. And it's about time.

"Anathem" is a work of Hard SF, meaning that everything that's weird or new in it is a rigorous extrapolation of science, mathematics and philosophy. It's the kind of book Arthur C. Clarke used to write in the 40's and 50's. He wrote about rockets and satellites because scientists were working on rockets and satellites.

Most (I would argue all) recent Hard SF, however, is about "rockets" and "satellites." Science Fiction has become an exclusively literary genre, with books inspired less by new scientific research than by previous science fiction books, and, regrettably, movies.
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244 of 262 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another intellectually amazing novel from Neal Stephenson September 10, 2008
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Anathem is another in a line of unique novels from Neal Stephenson. His earlier books like Snow Crash and the Diamond Age are excellent glimpses of the concept-driven novels that he has been writing for the last ten years. One weakness of his earlier books is that he didn't end stories particularly strongly (Snow Crash being a notable exception) but he has gotten progressively better at that, particularly with the System of the World, the last of the Baroque Cycle trilogy. Starting with Cryptonoicon, he started writing "long" fiction. One typical thing about these novels is that they have a slow build while you get introduced to the characters and situations. I know several very bright people who couldn't stomach the long lead-up in Quicksilver and never got to the fantastic 2nd and 3rd novels in the series, The Confusion and System of the World. Like the beginning of a rollercoaster where you need to climb to the crest of the first hill, the first sections of his novels pay off as the rest of the story becomes compulsive reading.

No spoilers to follow: Anathem finds him back in top form with a new cast of characters, a new world, and a new language. Not surprisingly, this means that the first chapters of the book are challenging and somewhat difficult, but as another review stated, nowhere near as convoluted and involved as The Lord of the Rings or (in my opinion), Dune. The more you know about history and ancient Greek thought the more you will be blown away by Anathem; and that is before the correlations to more recent philosophy and an extended meditation on zero-gravity navigation. A re-imagining of intellectual history, only Neal Stephenson can make the fine points of esoteric philosophical and intellectual minutia so much fun to read.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Dense, challenging, and unexpected.
Published 2 days ago by Tim Schmelter
5.0 out of 5 stars "Anathem" is worth every second you take to read it.
Science fiction (or speculative fiction, which I feel better describes this novel) is supposed to open your mind and show you things you have never seen before. Read more
Published 8 days ago by Kohl King
5.0 out of 5 stars Paperback Dove
If you long for a reason to read great science fiction in the dead of night, preferably in secret and with the aid of a flashlight--then get cozy my friends, this is it! Read more
Published 19 days ago by Yesenia Marquetti
5.0 out of 5 stars Another great work by Neal Stephenson
Amazingly intelligent and entertaining -- like all of Stephenson's novels, though each one is unique, opening up new spheres of reality and thought. Read more
Published 29 days ago by Ieva Zadina
4.0 out of 5 stars Another brilliant, amazing, self-indulgent and overly-long Neal...
I love this book and yes I think I skimmed about half of it. The ideas are brilliant and it really sucked me into this entire amazing world. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Herman Blivet
5.0 out of 5 stars Great writer
Neal Stephenson is probably my favorite writer. His books are complex, thought-provoking, very challenging and stay with you long after you have turned the last page (or screen). Read more
Published 1 month ago by el compa jlo
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book I've read in years
It has been a long time since I was sad to come to the end of a book. This is a deeply thought-provoking work from one of my all-time favorite authors, and despite a seemingly... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Mark R Dreyer
5.0 out of 5 stars This is one of my all-time favorites from this author ...
This is one of my all-time favorites from this author (who is excellent), but also one of my all-time favorites of any book ever. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Brad Petry
4.0 out of 5 stars I loved the book
I loved the book, but it's aimed pretty squarely at my demographic. There are a few math lessons and the end gets pretty crazily quantum for awhile, but I am a huge fan of the... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Chris Wade
5.0 out of 5 stars One of his Best
A challenging read, especially the first couple of hundred pages. But hang in there! The story pays off in big action and big ideas.
Published 1 month ago by Recovering Remote Programmer
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More About the Author

Neal Town Stephenson (born October 31, 1959) is an American writer, known for his speculative fiction works, which have been variously categorized science fiction, historical fiction, maximalism, cyberpunk, and postcyberpunk. Stephenson explores areas such as mathematics, cryptography, philosophy, currency, and the history of science. He also writes non-fiction articles about technology in publications such as Wired Magazine, and has worked part-time as an advisor for Blue Origin, a company (funded by Jeff Bezos) developing a manned sub-orbital launch system.
Born in Fort Meade, Maryland (home of the NSA and the National Cryptologic Museum) Stephenson came from a family comprising engineers and hard scientists he dubs "propeller heads". His father is a professor of electrical engineering whose father was a physics professor; his mother worked in a biochemistry laboratory, while her father was a biochemistry professor. Stephenson's family moved to Champaign-Urbana, Illinois in 1960 and then to Ames, Iowa in 1966 where he graduated from Ames High School in 1977. Stephenson furthered his studies at Boston University. He first specialized in physics, then switched to geography after he found that it would allow him to spend more time on the university mainframe. He graduated in 1981 with a B.A. in Geography and a minor in physics. Since 1984, Stephenson has lived mostly in the Pacific Northwest and currently resides in Seattle with his family.
Neal Stephenson is the author of the three-volume historical epic "The Baroque Cycle" (Quicksilver, The Confusion, and The System of the World) and the novels Cryptonomicon, The Diamond Age, Snow Crash, and Zodiac. He lives in Seattle, Washington.

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Teglon (for those who have read the book)
No. The message was an analemma (the figure eight on the cover). Orolo sent the analemma by tracing it out in the sky with the guide lasers for the directional telescope. The analemma is the pattern traced out on the floor of the temple of Orithena by the sun's light going through the oculus in... Read More
Nov 22, 2008 by Alex Robertson |  See all 12 posts
Question about HTW and causality for those who have read the book
I did not come away from this book thinking that the Geometers went in reverse of the Hylaean Theoric Flow. It would in essence mean they went against the laws of nature. I do think they may have gone at a slower speed affected by their space travels(?) Besides the Calca what section in the story... Read More
Sep 27, 2008 by Earthling |  See all 44 posts
Orbit dynamics are just hosed
"What principle explains the powers imputed by this document to the Dynaglide lubri-strip?" he asked. "Is it permanent, or ablative?"

"Ablative," I said.

"It is a violation of the Discipline for you to be reading that!" Barb complained.

"Shut up,...
Feb 25, 2011 by etaoin |  See all 5 posts
HTW seems based on discredited platonic ideas...
This whole book is really an argument similar to the chicken and the egg statement. You seem to be arguing that the egg (the physical world) came first. Stephenson is arguing that the chicken (An archetype where we came from; a.k.a. HTW) came first.

Generally, people would agree with you... Read More
Nov 13, 2008 by Bryan M |  See all 7 posts
Why did the orders fight over Erasmus?
Infact the majority of the Edharians DON'T want Erasmus, concerned that he won't be able to keep up with the advanced theorics they are doing, as he has not proven himself as the most adept student.

Generally, the majority of the great students intend to go to the Edharians, leaving the... Read More
Feb 3, 2010 by sharpmath |  See all 2 posts
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