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Anathem Mass Market Paperback – August 25, 2009
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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
I enjoyed the book, though it did take some work getting through the initial descriptions and details of the world.Published 1 day ago by Chris
The premise of the story is so rich and thought out and perfect, it kind of cancels out Stephenson's tendency to be unable to REALLY craft a satisfying ending. Read morePublished 12 days ago by Sean Engelhardt
As with other Neal Stephenson novels, it takes a while to get "into" it. For me the second half was a "faster" read-more action. Read morePublished 18 days ago by docrbk
Another phenomenal novel. Predicts smartphones and 3-d printing. He does a great job of slowly introducing an entire alternate human culture.Published 19 days ago by Mark Tiffany
The first 2/3rd's of this book is gripping and amazing. It is smart and keeps you reading. But, the inevitable slide to the end just nearly ruins it. Read morePublished 22 days ago by Joel De Gan
I love Neal Stephenson's books, but this is not my favorite.Published 28 days ago by Amazon Customer
I decided I was finally going to read a Neal Stephenson book from beginning to end. I now regret that decision. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Kindle Customer
Started out contemplative and interesting, but by the end degraded into wretched tech-fetish hard sci-fi marred with a pseudo science quantum mechanical many-worlds deus ex machina... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Joe Segal