From 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. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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