Jordan Willcox's Reviews > Anathem

Anathem by Neal Stephenson
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Apr 29, 12

Read on April 29, 2012

Guy has gifts: for concisely building convincingly unique characters with appropriate subtlety; for gripping action; and for building truly complex phenomena of science into narratives in a seamless, explicable manner.

Having said that, this is a long, demanding, occasionally jarring (the slow, grinding kind of jarring) book that does not play to immediate gratification. The first 200 pages are as slow as the first half of Tolkien's Book 1, with much granularity on the mechanics of giant clock towers in a post-technological age and a saturation of complex alternate-universe historical shorthand. And we are kept in the dark about the full picture of the quantum entanglement ideas for a long, long time, so that in the middle of the book the fragments we have to work with seem vague and absurdly over-emphasized relative to their so far underwhelming consequences. However, if you stick with it, the ending is really fantastic.

It can't touch snow crash, and I should probably give it three stars because the middle wanders too much, but few writers have this kind of ambition. I can hardly imagine the work required to convincingly wrap the the theoretical explanations so that it emerges from narrative events (not just explanations) quite so fluently, while keeping a much simpler and more vivid sensory and danger/plot mechanic humming along at top speed.

Not as good as Dan Simmons, though.
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