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937 pages, Hardcover
First published September 9, 2008
“Our opponent is an alien starship packed with atomic bombs," I said.My personal favourite moment would be the sudden arrival of the martial-arts monks - I haven't grinned that much at a book since the mimes went all kung-fu at the end of The Gone Away World .
"We have a protractor.”
“... when I saw any of those kinds of beauty I knew I was alive, and not just in the sense that when I hit my thumb with a hammer I knew I was alive, but rather in the sense that I was partaking of something--something was passing through me that it was in my nature to be a part of.”After this I read: Passage
Anathem is best read in somewhat the same spirit as John L. Casti's The Cambridge Quintet, which is to say that it is a fictional framework for exploring ideas that have sprung from the minds of great thinkers of Earth's past and present.There's nothing wrong with this as a goal. Sometimes ideas go down better when put in the mouths of characters -- anyway, that's one possible explanation for the appeal of philosophical dialogues. (Anathem, in fact, includes a lot of exchanges that sound, self-consciously, like philosophical dialogues.) And by using an entertaining story as a delivery system, an author can get concepts across to people who would never encounter them otherwise. What's disappointing and perplexing is how flimsy Anathem's delivery system is, how little appeal it has on the level of pure story. (SPOILERS FOLLOW.)