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Anathem

4.16 of 5 stars 4.16  ·  rating details  ·  32,516 ratings  ·  3,190 reviews
This is 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 manage...more
Paperback, United Kingdom edition, 1008 pages
Published October 1st 2009 by Atlantic Books (first published September 9th 2008)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Matt
I think that Neal Stephenson is very intelligent and a terrific writer. That said, I found all the made-up googlies in this snarfle, really boinged my thnoode. Surely there is a slankier way of telling us that we are reading about another zoof than to make up every other googly. It made it very difficult to forkle the snarfle and I put it down after only 80 ziffies. This will not stop me from attempting the next Neal Stephenson snarfle, however.
Matt
After digesting Stephenson's latest 937 page tome, my response basically boils down to "Meh."

Ok, maybe not, "Meh." exactly. Maybe more like, "Hmmm." I wish I could say something more elegant about it, but the problem is that there isn't a lot to say about the book as a whole because the book as a whole isn't really that good or that interesting. The book as a whole is difficult to describe, because so much of the book seems like a digression from even itself that instead of a book, it's more lik...more
Kemper
Aug 27, 2013 Kemper rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone looking for something completely unique.
One of the most challenging books I've read, and one that I got a lot of satisfaction out finishing. Stephenson's got a wildly inventive mind and reading him is like jumping onto a high speed bullet train at full speed.

It took about 70 pages to get used to the new 'language' that he invented for this story, and I had to refer to the glossary repeatedly, but suddenly it just clicked, and I was completly caught up in the world Stephenson created.

Not for casual reading, but fans of sci fi, physics...more
Clouds

Christmas 2010: I realised that I had got stuck in a rut. I was re-reading old favourites again and again, waiting for a few trusted authors to release new works. Something had to be done.

On the spur of the moment I set myself a challenge, to read every book to have won the Locus Sci-Fi award. That’s 35 books, 6 of which I’d previously read, leaving 29 titles by 14 authors who were new to me.

While working through this reading list I got married, went on my honeymoon, switched career and became
...more
Simeon Berry
There are a number of technical problems to writing sci-fi and fantasy. Chief among them is the tremendous amount of work required to set up a cultural matrix: a language, a history, an iconography, etc. that makes the world fully realized and engaging. In this new 900-page doorstop, Stephenson tries to solve this problem with approximately 200 pages of exposition, setting up the mindset of a post-apocalyptic monastery where you have religious scholarship without the religion (mostly). So you ha...more
Brittany
Anathem is an astonishing, enormous, intimidating, and intensely enjoyable book. However, it is also the most "science fiction-y" of any book he's written so far, and that may turn some people off. Also, I'm given to understand that some people would prefer not to have to think about polar coordinates, geometric proofs, bubble universes, string theory, or relativity in their pleasure reading. That is, of course, their prerogative. Also, it's long. And at times there are scenes that go on for pag...more
Coral
Jul 26, 2008 Coral rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Coral by: Harper Collins, at ALA
Shelves: recommended
I really believe this is the best book Neal Stephenson has written. For one thing--I don't want to spoil it too much, so I will be vague--it has an actual, honest to goodness ending. The book's size might be a little daunting, especially to those readers who have come to expect unnecessary verbosity from him, but I think it's entirely appropriate: he covers a hell of a lot of ground. (Full disclosure: the page of cereal discourse in Cryptonomicon didn't bother me, or even seem out of place as I...more
Lori (Hellian)
I may end up giving this 5 stars, depending on how it stays with me. I loved it, but it should be noted Stephenson is one of my favorite authors. THis book is a lot less verbose than his last trilogy and even Cryptomonicon. But it's also a slower, harder read - there's hard science in here, and not just science but quantum physics, the hardest of all!

The story takes place on a planet in a different cosmos. The society here has a long, involved history with many different words to learn that are...more
Andrew
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Corey
Some novelists pander to their audience. Others challenge them. Neal Stephenson might be determined to make his audience feel stupid, in the nicest possible way.

The American novelist has long been considered one of the great madmen of science fiction, a towering intellect who synthesizes technical mumbo-jumbo and a Monty-Pythonesque capacity for silliness into daunting tomes as entertaining as they are impenetrable. Stephenson mashes up genres with the flair of Thomas Pynchon and the intellect o...more
Rob
Anathem is a very odd book, and one whose appeal I do not understand.

I don't think it would be unfair to call it an piece of expository nonfiction disguised as a novel. Virtues like plot momentum, characterization, drama, verisimilitude, and the like are subordinated to exposition. The book intends to do one thing, and one thing only -- it intends to expose the reader to a set of concepts and arguments Stephenson finds interesting. Stephenson is pretty explicit about this in his acknowledgements...more
Apatt
I have been reading this book for 17 days, when you have lived with a single book this long there is inevitably separation pain, now that I have finished it I feel like I just woke up from a long weird dream. I had a lot of trepidation about reading this book, the reviews and comments from fellow sf readers (hello PrintSF dudes!) are generally positive but I gathered from them that this is a long hard one (ooh-er!) which is bit intimidating given my very average intelligence. Still, I am intrigu...more
Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com:]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted here illegally.)

Is Neal Stephenson the most brilliant living author currently in the United States of America? Oh, wait, I can answer that for you right away: Yes. Yes he is. And that's because Stephenson can do something almost no other American writer currently putting out work can; he can take a healthy dose of t...more
Stephen
4.5 stars. Another original, robust effort by Stephenson who is one of the best SF writers working today. Highly recommended.

Winner: Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel (2009)
Nominee: Arthur C. Clarke Award for Best Science Fiction Novel (2009)
Nominee: John W. Campbell Award for Best Science Fiction Novel (2009)
Nominee: Hugo Award for Best Science Fiction Novel (2009)
Nominee: Britsh Science Fiction Award for Best Novel (2009)
Greg
There is an amusing review here on Goodreads that mocks the language of Anathem. The reviewer has a point, there is a silliness to some of the common words that Stephenson decides should be changed to kind of nonsensical words, just to show that this is a world that is like ours but not ours. I feel a little sad for the reviewer that he stopped reading at about page 80 though. Those first hundred pages or a little less, of the book were kind of tough going with the language, but it gets easier a...more
Ben
This is only my third Stephenson novel. The other two being Snow Crash (great) and The Diamond Age (good).I was drawn to this one because of how "science fictiony" it sounded, relative to his more recent work. Though it is hard to top Snow Crash , simply due to how much fun it was to read, I think this is a much more impressive work.

Part social commentary, part philosophical dialogue, part physics lesson, he somehow makes it all interesting. The world he created in Arbre and the concents is simp...more
This Is Not The Michael You're Looking For
Anathem is another incredible book by Neal Stephenson, although probably not for everyone. Highly philosophical, brimming with hard science, it is the story of a world where scientists have been more-or-less sequestered for centuries in "maths" (the scientific equivalent of a monastery), living ascetic lives and devising high philosophy of the universe. It is the story of a specific Avout (=monk), Erasmus, and what happens when the world that they know is turned upside down by an unexpected thre...more
Doug
I just finished my second read-through of this massive tome. If you don't like novels that could also be used to bludgeon a small elephant to death... READ THIS ONE ANYWAY.

Okay, it's actually not for everyone. This review will try to help you decide if you should delve into Anathem.

It helps if you like science fiction at least a little bit. It's not a space opera, nor is it anything that could be concretely labeled sci-fi, but there is that element, and it does take place on a different planet....more
Brian
The book is just ridiculously good. Thought-provoking, engaging, complex, well-developed... Trying to explain it seems almost counter-productive, though, since it's 900 pages of speculative fiction. We've got a world where scholar-monks shut themselves into their "maths" -- part university, part monastary, which may only open their doors once a year, once a decade, once a century, or once a millenium. And that's just the framework for the story. It's pretty much a must-read, unless you're truly...more
Chad
I finished Anathem last night, staying up far later than I'd planned. It is That Good. The fact that I stuck around for 900+ pages says a lot.

I haven't read a lot of Stephenson's other books - Snow Crash was something I mostly enjoyed, but it lost me in the mythology and such. I tried reading Cryptonomicon back when it was first released, but for reasons I can't remember I never made it past the first 50 pages. I'm told that the man has problems writing endings, that most of his books really don...more
Jan-Maat
On the one hand this is a cross between a history of philosophy, a Jules Verne story, the films Independence Day and Close Encounters of the Third Kind with elements of Hesse's The Glass Bead Game, aspects of physics and mathematics that works as a lively, readable and entertaining novel.

On the other hand if science-fiction can be read not as speculation but as a reflection of the author's views on the present then this is a disturbing book. The sense of a strict division between faith and reaso...more
Thorin McGee
Many stories end with the action heroes saving the day thanks to some world’s-last-only-hope-McGuffin-weapon that the world’s best scientists had been working round the clock throughout the story, albeit completely unbeknownst to the reader. This book shows you those scientists. And you quickly realize that what they’re working on, the ideas they’re debating and developing, are a lot more exciting and important than whatever Mr. and Mrs. Action Hero are up to. And frankly, they’re more fun to re...more
Jenne
Oh wow. This was cool.
Basically what you have here is a sort of alternate universe where they have these monasteries that are scientific instead of religious. And with lady and gentleman scientists both. And they sort of cloister themselves off for different periods of time, like 1 or 10 or 100 or 1000 years, so the outside society is constantly changing while the monasteries more or less stay the same.

It also is about different philosophical/mathematical/scientific ideas that people in our worl...more
Kerry
Apr 06, 2009 Kerry rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Curt, smart people everywhere
Recommended to Kerry by: the author, by being previously awesome
I was giddy reading this book. It was amazing. I love Neal Stephenson SO HARD.

I will say what I say about every Stephenson book that I've read, which is that he has a talent for creating incredibly likable characters. I love everybody -- I even love reading about the "bad guys" (although we didn't really get to know too many in this book.) Everyone is smart and funny (whether intentional or not) and I really liked how everyone in the concent looked out for each other. I dunno, I just loved every...more
Sandra
Whew, I finished it. What a weird experience. Like a geek telling a romance tale, filled with quasi-medieval trappings, wild speculative thought, space drama, technology aka praxis, and ending with a wedding.

It was funny at times. I liked some of the characters, weird as they are, and some of the action was good. The science? Not my field and mostly bored me until he got on with it. The vocabulary was cutesy and was annoying after a bit.
Bob Milne
Anathem represents my second encounter with the genius of Neal Stephenson (third, if you count my aborted read of Quicksilver), and I can honestly say that while the reading experience does not get any easier, there is the same sense of satisfaction waiting at the end. More dense, less accessible, and somehow not as interesting as Cryptonomicon, it's a book that almost violently defies categorization.

I find it a really difficult book to review. The university-educated, critical reading, spectacl...more
Chloe
While I had pre-ordered this book months before its release in 2008, it took me until this past March to actually blow the dust from my copy and crack the heavy spine open. I will admit to more than a little bit of intimidation on my part. After the epic size and scope of Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle, I knew that Anathem would be a read that I would need to fully dedicate myself to in order to appreciate/understand it as much as my meager mind is capable of. It’s fortunate that I waited as long as...more
Sandi
It took more than a year, but I finally finished Anathem. It had some really good parts, but it was surrounded by a bunch of really boring parts. By the last 100 pages, I just stopped caring. However, one thing you find with an e-reader is that the book you haven't finished just sits there mocking you, letting you know how close you are to the end. So, my Nook guilted me into finishing. The ending was pretty good, but it took way too long to get there.
Valerie
Dec 31, 2008 Valerie rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Rick, Debbie
Shelves: math, fantasy-sf
That took a while. I was afraid to read it at night for fear I would suffer a head injury when it fell on me. I haven't enjoyed orbital mechanics so much since reading Have Spacesuit Will Travel. In fact, this book reminded me very much of Heinlein. I'm not sure why. Noble teenage narrator, math whizzes in charge of everything, the plot--as mere filler for the scientific content, etc. I will read this again during the summer.
Will
Nov 26, 2008 Will rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lovers of philosophy, science and math that are willing to stretch their minds while reading fiction
I don't know how I could even start to give a satisfactory review of Anathem, especially without giving anything away. This book is best read as speculative fiction - that is, without categorizing it as "science fiction," I think. In typical Neal Stephenson style, the book has a pretty long introduction and throws a bit of a curve ball by introducing a lot of new vocabulary in the form of heavily styled, made up words. You just have to roll with it and understand that Neal knows what he's doing...more
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2014 Reading Chal...: Anathem by Neal Stephenson 11 67 Apr 01, 2014 10:11AM  
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Neal Town Stephenson is an American writer known primarily for his science fiction works in the postcyberpunk genre with a penchant for explorations of society, mathematics, cryptography, currency, and the history of science. He also writes non-fiction articles about technology in publications such as Wired Magazine, and has worked part-time as an advisor for Blue Origin, a company (funded by Jeff...more
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Snow Crash Cryptonomicon The Diamond Age Reamde Quicksilver (The Baroque Cycle, #1)

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