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Anathem Hardcover – Sega, September 9, 2008
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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.
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
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Once you hit the point the seclusion breaks down and the protagonist is headed out into the world, though, it kicks into the kind of speed that Neal Stephenson is known for. The rest of the book blazes past as the young Raz is put through trial after trial. The final two chapters I simply couldn't put the book down. it was that kind of entertaining. You forget all about the language replacements and the place the story started.
Readers should be cautioned that at many, many points characters break into Socratic dialogues on various subjects. Many of these topics return later to be re-dialogued with new information, or the subject matter actually plays out in the story. if you don't like reading about people talking at length about complex ideas, you may not like portions of this novel. If you are annoyed that this novel's invented language seems like a copy paste replacement of key words instead of a genuine language, well I think that's a valid critique but I wasn't as bothered by it.
However if you are intrigued by the theories behind multiple universes, convergent universes, spaceflight, logic puzzles you will find all of them represented well in this novel. If you just want a neat science fiction novel with a grand adventure across continents and elsewhere, this could be your book.
Like many of the 1 star reviews I didn't give this book the chance it deserved the first time I tried to read it. My second attempt though, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Give it a go, maybe you'll love it too.
Filled with mind bending philosophical questions, discussions and debates. Built in a fantastically complex yet very cohesive and coherent universe. I loved the characters, the storytelling... I loved everything about this book. It instantly became one of my favourite books ever.
The story is slow and this is nowhere near what I would call "action packed"... but it made me think and reflect like very few books have.
I loved this book and I wish I could be more eloquent in describing it. But I will definitely be reading it again.
The Kindle version of the book has Appendices that are missing from the Audible version of the book. Some of these contain discussions