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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
A fairly eclectic mix of monastic history and the old university structure. The focus on theoretical mathematical subjects seems reasonable in this circumstance. Read morePublished 23 hours ago by Pippa
Great book, same complaint as the other Stephenson I've read, which is echoed by many other people: the ending! Read morePublished 7 days ago by Carly
I'm a huge fan of Stephenson's writing. Anathem is distinguished from much of his work by the fact that it has a real ending.
A worlds-spanning epic. Must-read.
I have listened to this book already via Audible several times. I bought the Kindle version so I could read how things are actually spelled. Read morePublished 12 days ago by Balt M.
This book requires a dedicated investment to get through the first 20% but then pays big dividends. Another amazingly intellectual book with significant multi-layer thoughts... Read morePublished 15 days ago by B. Mathews
If you haven't read Stephenson yet, start with this one! One of my all-time favorite books. Yes, it is long, but it doesn't feel like it. Read morePublished 1 month ago by beenthere_readthat
Pretty well written and interesting ideas, but really REALLY detailed in spots. Takes some time to actually get rolling and occasionally navel gazes on topics that aren't relevant... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Colin Hancock