Lori's Reviews > Anathem

Anathem by Neal Stephenson
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's review
Sep 24, 2008

it was amazing

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 crucial for the story. There IS a glossary, so that's not a problem, but some of the words take awhile to remember in full and they are important so I found myself rechecking the glossary quite a bit. It's ironic how the words are important since there are 2 important groups of scientists, or maths as called here - one semantic and the other syntactical.

Already you can see there's alot more going on here than just the story. And what a story it is! At no point does it disappoint. As usual with Stephenson, the characters are so likable, even the annoying ones. There's no hate here. I suppose that's what I like about this author - his main character is always a well-meaning, cheerful, intelligent, equanimous kind of person, surrounded by a great supportive cast.

Well, I can't stop pondering this so it's most definitely 5 stars.
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Chloe How are you enjoying this? I have a deep love of all things Stephenson and pre-ordered it months before it came out. Now it's sitting here on my shelf and I have to admit that I'm daunted. I know that at the end I'll have fallen in love with the book and Stephenson dozens of times over, but the sheer magnitude of the book (and the topics discussed inside) make me hesitate about diving in.

Lori Logan! I've been thinking of you, my fellow diehard Stephenson buddy. And for another reason too! I'd been having a very hard time getting into this because I just finished Shantarum, from your recommendation, so it's been a double whammy of thinking of Logan time, hee. Plus the War and Peace stuff too, I realised I had read the Briggs translation, and enjoyed it.

Anyhooo, Anathem is a tough start because it takes place in an alternative universe with a complex history and social structure that has no intro. PLUS it has it's own terminology, with made up words. This is challenging enough, but as I said I had just finished Shantarum and my mind was still with that. So I'd read only a few pages of Anathem at a time, which didn't help because then I'd forget all the new words! Ordinarily I'd have put a book away, but this was just too intriguing, and I loved the characters, the universe, and I could tell once my brain settled down it would all click together. And yes, it did it did! Plus I discovered there's a glossary at the end, which I didn't see at first because Neal tacked on an addendum chapter after it.

Soooo, that's a long winded reply! I'm loving it now. The characters, as always, are great. It becomes much easier to read as you become acquainted with the world and know enough to still be challenged but eager for the ride once I got up to about pg. 100. Yup, I'm a happy girl now. A VERY happy girl!

Shantarum blew my mind. Especially all the news lately from Pakistan, the history from the 80s has given me so much food for thought.

Servius  Heiner Hey, Lori, I am not finished yet, but I need some clarification. I am only on page 4** something but I have been reading this as being a post apocalyptic book, taking place somewhere in the ball park of 4500-5500 years after present day, not on a different world. It seems to me (at my current point in the book) that the “Math’s” main purpose is to be some kind of biological time capsule; to preserve thought and higher understanding. But again this has all been formed off the idea that this was a post apocalyptic story. Where human civilization had had a few “crashes”. I must admit that it could be I am just submersing myself in the theories and neglecting the plot…

After reading through a couple of other reviews I see I am not the only one taking this stance… but then again there are also many taking your stance. So I guess I am asking what in the book made you decided that this was another planet? Was it simply that the characters in the story referred to it by a different name? I chalked that up to the lost knowledge during the “event” and the ensuing 3 sacks that followed.

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