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Anathem Mass Market Paperback – August 25, 2009
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“Reading Anathem is a humbling experience.” -- Washington Post on ANATHEM
“The cult legend’s newest book, Anathem, [is] destined to be an instant sci-fi classic.” -- Popular Mechanics on ANATHEM
“As with Stephenson’s previous work, plot and character are wrought to the highest standards of literary fiction but they’re scarcely as fascinating as the worlds he conjures up. If there’s anything more readable than ANATHEM it should probably be banned.” -- Word (UK) on ANATHEM
“Anathem is a challenge: Make yourself one of the avout. Make yourself a scholar, and try to understand the world a little differently.” -- Eugene Weekly on ANATHEM
“Blending quantum physics, phenomenological philosophy and various other fun hobbies...Stephenson’s enthusiasm to share his theories and explanations is infectious...think “The Name of the Rose” crossed with “Dune”...genuinely fascinating brain food.” -- The Oregonian (Portland) on ANATHEM
“A masterpiece...mind-bogglingly ambitious...readers will delight in puzzling out the historical antecedents in philosophy, science, mathematics, and art that Stephenson riffs on with his customary quicklsilver genius...it’s one of the most thought-provoking novels I’ve ever read, and also one of the most engaging.” -- Locus, Paul Witcover, on ANATHEM
“This is a book about science and philosophy which demands the full concentration of the reader -a worthwhile, smart, exciting read.” -- Time Out London
“A tour-de-force of world building and high-concept speculation, wrapped around a page-turning plot.” -- St. Louis Post-Dispatch on ANATHEM
“A sprawling disquisition…[a] logophilic treat for those who like their alternate worlds big, parodic and ironic.” -- Kirkus Reviews on ANATHEM
From the Back Cover
For ten years Fraa Erasmas, a young avout, has lived in a cloistered sanctuary for mathematicians, scientists, and philosophers, protected from the corrupting influences of the outside world. But before the week is out, both the existence he abandoned and the one he embraced will stand poised on the brink of cataclysmic change—and Erasmas will become a major player in a drama that will determine the future of his world, as he follows his destiny to the most inhospitable corners of the planet . . . and beyond.
Anathem is the latest miraculous invention by the New York Times bestselling author of Cryptonomicon and The Baroque Cycle—a work of astonishing scope, intelligence, and imagination.
- Publisher : Harper; Reissue edition (August 25, 2009)
- Language : English
- Mass Market Paperback : 1008 pages
- ISBN-10 : 006147410X
- ISBN-13 : 978-0061474101
- Item Weight : 1.01 pounds
- Dimensions : 4.19 x 1.51 x 6.75 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #113,971 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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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.
Top reviews from other countries
Less a thousand-page SF novel, more a 500-page SF novel interspersed with philosophical examinations of the 'many worlds' theory in quantum physics set out in the newly-invented (Arbran) terminology of the novel's protagonists. 'Anathem' is no easy read and the sections using a 'directed acyclic graph' to explain how different timelines might physically influence each other had me reaching for the paracetamol as my brain cells exploded, but I made it to the end!
I'm still not sure that, as a narrative, it entirely holds together, but if you persevere you'll be a member of a pretty exclusive club of readers who can genuinely say they've read it all the way through, and that's got to be worth adding to your CV.
So, approach with caution, but be prepared to be amazed at the extraordinary work Neal Stephenson has wrought.
If the book made proper use of this setting it would be a fantastic novel. I could happily have read 1000 pages of Theors discussing their lives and politics, unfortunately the book veers off into a typical scifi adventure plot roughly 1/3rd through. From here it's a slow descent but a descent nonetheless. Characters come and go, seemingly forgotten about for much of the story only to reappear to mill about aimlessly. Action scenes that play out like cheesy 90s hollywood movies are forced in. Chapters become less and less coherently linked and require ever more suspension of disbelief until a singularity of tropey scifi nonsense finishes off what started strong.
Were this a shorter book it would be enough to render it nothing more than a mediocre scifi novel but the first third of the book alone makes this worth the read and even though the other 2/3rds can be found elsewhere, written better, reading it never became tedious.
The plot of Anathem takes place on a different planet than ours and Stephenson invented quite a few words to go with it. As a non native speaker I got to play the beloved 'made up word or English word I do not yet know' game. Thankfully the Kindle comes with a dictionary and Anathem comes with an extensive glossary.
After about seventy pages, I felt more comfortable with the language, and the book started to flow. The world building is fantastic, the social commentary funny, and I thoroughly enjoyed the read.
I recommend this to people who love alternative worlds, physics, philosophy and science. And by love, I mean really love.
It’s a while now since I read this and I know it will need a re-read at some point, so I won’t try to discuss the plot in detail. I enjoyed it a lot.
Some parts got a bit “out there” and I wonder if more could have been done with those ideas, or it was best left a bit vague? For most of the book I felt immersed in the story and atmosphere. The less believable parts pushed me out of that a bit.