Alan's Reviews > Anathem

Anathem by Neal Stephenson
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's review
Dec 06, 08

it was amazing
Recommended to Alan by: res ipsa loquitur
Recommended for: Lovers of complex ideas; David Foster Wallace fans
Read in November, 2008 , read count: 1

Anathem is a great, sprawling book that, once you take the dust cover off, even looks very much like a religious tome. It's also a demanding book, slow to get started (though it's not strictly true to claim that it begins with two hundred pages of exposition) and full of thorny concepts, words and dialogue.

Once Stephenson gets rolling, though, he's unstoppable, and it eventually becomes clear to the discerning reader that Anathem is a major work of speculative literature, concerned with sweeping themes of philosophy and religion, mathematics and astrophysics, history and alternate history.

The jargon does take some getting used to. Stephenson has invented an entirely different world, and even when the words stay the same (carrot, dog) we are cautioned in his Foreword that these are just familiar terms which he's used as placeholders for something that could be entirely different in appearance. However - there are deep, binding similarities between Stephenson's invented world of Arbre and our own Earth, similarities which are not just arbitrary, as they might be in a lesser author's hands, not just laziness or failure of invention. This place is like a funhouse mirror held up to our own world, but that distorted reflection has a reason, a point.

Though it takes awhile to arrive - almost 900 pages - Anathem is a wild ride, with some of the most breakneck action sequences I've ever read in a work of sf; it's not all philosophical debate. And, unlike some of Stephenson's earlier novel-length work, here he sustains the pace and interest all the way to the end of the ride.

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Comments (showing 1-2)

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Jpmist Enjoyed your review. I gave this book a few less stars because "The Baroque Cycle" which I enjoyed tremendously, spoiled me so. Am surprised you've haven't read it, it's well worth it!

Alan "Am surprised you've haven't read The Baroque Cycle, it's well worth it!"
Oh, I have read—and enjoyed—Stephenson's other work to date; he's one of my favorite authors. I have just not done so since 2008, when I joined Goodreads.
I have done very little backfilling of older books here; I know other people use GR very differently, but I don't like to rate a book unless I have read, or reread, it recently and have something to say about it too.
Thanks for the kind words!

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