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Anathem Hardcover – Bargain Price, September 9, 2008
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Very disappointing. Is this early Stephenson? Sporadic. Some sections are page turners but others are lectures in disc\quise.
The neologisms gets to be a bit too much.
This was a fantastic read. I couldn't put it down, and I'm now in my second time through it. The book starts off a bit slow, building up the characters and the world they live in. Read morePublished 4 days ago by Tiree
I can't even words about how good this book was. I had no idea what to expect.
What I received was an alternate history future of the world that was so fleshed out and... Read more
Anathem is a masterpiece, yet I won't rate it 5 stars because most readers won't be drawn into it. Every faux-historical scene in the book illustrates and provides commentary to... Read morePublished 18 days ago by Captain Faris
Epic Stevenson. It took me several starts over a few years to get past the first few chapters. I'm so glad I finally did, the book became an exciting epochal adventure in... Read morePublished 24 days ago by resolute.rhino
I nearly stopped reading this so many times but so glad I didnt. The vocabulary was annoying. The slow pace unnerving. Some of the concepts way too complex. Read morePublished 29 days ago by LB
This book is not for the faint hearted, but it is fabulous. Stephenson's work ranges from accessible to extremely deep and this is definitely on the latter end of it. Read morePublished 1 month ago by anyeone
A narrative that encompasses as broad an array of places and events as it does an array of concepts. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Martin L. Cohen