The latest magnificent creation from the award-winning author of Cryptonomicon and the Baroque Cycle trilogy.
Erasmas, 'Raz', is a young avout living in the Concent, a sanctuary for mathematicians, scientists, and philosophers. Three times during history's darkest epochs, violence has invaded and devastated the cloistered community. Yet the avout have always managed to adapt in the wake of catastrophe.
But they now prepare to open the Concent's gates to the outside world, in celebration of a once-a-decade rite. Suddenly, Erasmas finds himself a major player in a drama that will determine the future of his world - as he sets out on an extraordinary odyssey that will carry him to the most dangerous, inhospitable corners of the planet...and beyond.
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. An accompanying CD of music composed by David Stutz is suitably ethereal.