A #1 New York Times Bestseller, Anathem is perhaps the most brilliant literary invention to date from the incomparable Neal Stephenson, who rocked the world with Snow Crash, Cryptonomicon, and The Baroque Cycle. Now he imagines an alternate universe where scientists, philosophers, and mathematicians live in seclusion behind ancient monastery walls until they are called back into the world to deal with a crisis of astronomical proportions.
Anathem won the Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel and the reviews for have been dazzling: “Brilliant” (South Florida Sun-Sentinel), “Daring” (Boston Globe), “Immensely entertaining” (New York Times Book Review), “A tour de force” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch), while Time magazine proclaims, “The great novel of ideas…has morphed into science fiction, and Neal Stephenson is its foremost practitioner.”
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.
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Deep and satisfying
Thoroughly and inventively built up out of innumerable interlocking details, a convincing world that, once you are immersed in the book, becomes as real as waking life. This book was kind of a Magister Ludi for the 21st century, and dealt with concepts that tickled the most modern scientific sensibility and informed my world view. Reading it was an immersive experience that has stayed with me for months afterward. Highest possible recommendation.
Stephenson delivers brilliance yet again
Few writers today can simultaneously entertain, educate, and expand a reader's view of the world quite so well as Neal Stephenson.
This work is best suited for those readers seeking a bit more than a pleasant diversion. While fun and engaging, this book also draws the reader's mind to consider metaphysics, causality, and the relationship between human institutions of popular culture, academia, and religion. This comes about incidentally to an delightfully unpredictable adventure -- in much the same way Mr. Stephenson's earlier works carry readers into explorations of economics, cryptography, and nanotechnology. Reading his books is to engage in an epic battle between the instincts to savor and to devour. His stories leave the reader changed for the better, and I have seldom finished one without being immediately tempted to reread it from the beginning.
my favorite book of all time
I am listening through for the third time. And it's like 36 hours - tells you how much I like this book. It is UNIQUE and DEEP and requires patience and critical thinking. Lovers of debate, logic, math, religious study, history, and philosophy will have a hard time finding an epic novel with all of those blended so beautifully. Masterfully worded, fun to "discover" the invented languages, and well worth the investment of time and thought.