680 pages in and I can't do it anymore. I thought I was getting into a Utopian novel, not Victorian romances and eloquent descriptions of the forests680 pages in and I can't do it anymore. I thought I was getting into a Utopian novel, not Victorian romances and eloquent descriptions of the forests of a fictional continent. It's as though someone threw Walden into Sense & Sensibility. This book is great for someone, but that person is not me....more
Yeah, it's a novelization of the SciFi Channel miniseries that ran prior to kicking off Season 1, with all of the pitfalls a book like that carries wiYeah, it's a novelization of the SciFi Channel miniseries that ran prior to kicking off Season 1, with all of the pitfalls a book like that carries with it like the proverbial albatross. There is no new content. No special peek inside the heads of Adama or Starbuck. Pretty much just a rote recitation of the 4 hour opening of the series as put together by a writer who had the script and a very thin thesaurus. Nothing special, but it keeps my appetite whet until the series conclusion in January....more
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 crackWhile 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 I did before reading this because I doubt I would have appreciated this half as much had I not spent the past year or so fleshing out my scant knowledge of science and math to a point where I have at least a nodding acquaintance with the ideas that Stephenson puts together in this, his fictional attempt at explaining his own Unified Field Theory of Everything.
This is the book that Stephenson has been building up to ever since he first put pen to page so many years ago. I would not hesitate to call it his magnum opus were he not still feverishly penning new tales that I am certain will astound me further. Ideas that were first expressed in embryonic stages in his earlier writings (Snow Crash, Cryptonomicon, and Diamond Age) have been gestating over the years until springing, like mythical Athena, fully formed from his mind ready to astound. Not that this is all dry science and Platonic dialogues. No, with Stephenson you are guaranteed a wild ride through an intricately imagined universe with your daily dose of metaphysics.
The tale begins within the walls of the Concent of Saunt Edhar (think coed monasteries for thinkers), following the young Fraa Erasmus as he prepares for his first visit outside the walls since he arrived at the concent ten long years earlier. He exists in a world of pure though, utterly isolated from the Secular World outside the walls. His days are spent under the tutelage of older and more experienced Fraas, in Convo with his peers puzzling out logic problems and explaining things like the three dimensional plotting of coordinates to a young autistic initiate. The scenes in the concent remind me of nothing so much as the vivid descriptions of monastic life in Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose. The universal clock which forms the central basis of life in the Math is as detailed as the labyrinthine library at the heart of Name of the Rose and the intrigues between the various sects nearly as convoluted.
The first hundred pages or so are a struggle, but one that is well worth it once the stage has been set and the story begins to reveal itself. Stephenson borrows and adapts a lot of terminology from our world to create his own vocabulary. Normally things like this throw me off and ultimately sour me on a book (I know what a “fork” is, but I’ll be damned if I know “dinglehopper”) but Stephenson puts some explanation into his phrases. For example, because the avout aren’t religious, they have Saunts in the place of Saints- saunts being a new rendering of savant. Confusing? Don’t worry, there’s an index of phrases just before the appendices. Don’t be misled though; this book is not all dry theorizing and descriptions of centuries-old wall carvings. I don’t want to give too much away, because that would be extremely easy to do and most of my pleasure with the book came from being as in the dark to what was occurring as Erasmus was, but suffice to say that the plot is a riveting one that takes Erasmus from the comfortable walls of his concent to a hellish trek across frozen wastes to a free-wheeling zero gravity ballet that culminates in a reality-bending climax that would make even Philip K. Dick smile in bemusement.
The problem with reviewing a book as dense as Anathem is that, invariably, you will never be able to touch on as many of the highlights as you would prefer. I haven’t even begun to talk about the debates between the Halikaarnian and Procian sects of avout that left my mind reeling and wondering whether I even existed at the end, nor the secretive Ita (derived from I.T. Administrators) who maintain the avout’s limited access to technology, nor the Jedi-like duo of Fraa Orolo and Fraa Jad who provide most of the forward momentum in this tale. This book had, quite literally, whole worlds crammed into its few pages and I was astounded that Stephenson brought it to a serviceable conclusion without extending it into a full series as he did with the semi-unwieldy Baroque Cycle. This is a great book to fall into when you want to disconnect from the world at large for a time and simply live through the adventures of a dewy eyed youth, far from the drama of day to day living. I recommend it to all fans of speculative fiction or anyone looking for something new and exciting. ...more