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Old 10-22-2008, 09:19 AM   #1
Taylor514ce
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Anathem, by Neal Stephenson

Neal Stephenson is one of my favorite SF authors. Strike that: favorite authors. I thought Snow Crash and Diamond Age were mind-blowing, amazing stand-alone novels. Cryptonomicon and The Baroque Cycle stand up with some of the best SF, Fanatasy, and Action Thrillers ever written. So I responded with unmitigated, undignified glee when I found that his newest novel, Anathem, out in hardcover, was also out as an e-book at half the cover price.

I bought it. I read it. I liked it.

Warning, it has highly abstract, theoretical discussions. It has to have. That's what the main characters do: have theoretical discussions. Why? Because all mathematicians, researchers, and scientists have been segregated from society into "concents", and banned access to most technology. They are back to chalkboards, for the most part. Why? I can't say, because the "why" is part of the plot.

One fascinating aspect of these "concents", or "maths" (what we might call convents and monasteries) is that they are divided into groups who only have access to the outside world, briefly, once every ten, hundred, or thousand years, respectively. Why? I can't say, it's part of the plot.

Some would say that this book isn't for everyone. Fine. But for existing Stephenson fans, you won't be disappointed. For those who like William Gibson, Orson Scott Card, and a dash of Encyclopedia Brown, you might be a new Stephenson fan.

I'll also say that this book has one of my new favorite lines. I can't repeat it, because it would give away part of the plot, but I can tell you that it involves a protractor.

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Old 10-22-2008, 10:11 AM   #2
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I was hesitnat to buy the book, a couple of weeks ago, but I did it. I'm just finishing my current read so that I can bite Anathem.
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Old 10-22-2008, 10:41 AM   #3
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I can understand someone reading the first 50 or even 100 or even 500 pages and wanting to give up. Don't. The finale is worth the investment. Not so much "mind-blowing" as "mind-expanding". Even the main characters are left wondering "did what I just think happen, really happen"? There's even a very touching romantic sub-sub-sub plot.
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Old 10-22-2008, 11:41 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Taylor514ce View Post
I can understand someone reading the first 50 or even 100 or even 500 pages and wanting to give up. Don't.
...
Hi Taylor514ce,

Thanks for the recommendation.

I remember a long time ago--the first time I read "The Magus", I thought it was very boring and several times during the first 100 pages I was going to give up on it. But around page 100, the plot and characters had developed enough to become throroughly engrossing. It's still one of my favorite books--although I haven't read it in several years. (I wonder if I can get it for my Kindle?)

Anyway, my point is that I try never to give up on a book once I start it--or at least, to give it a 100 pages or so....

Regards,
R.L.
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Old 10-22-2008, 12:25 PM   #5
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Hey Taylor,

How does the story compare with Diamond Age? I have to admit to you, I wasn't as impressed with that as most people are. I feel like it was something that I would have went ooh and ahh over when I was 15 because I knew the scientific/technological references and would have patted myself on the back for it. I definitely will give Neal props for originality on alot of applications of technologies in the book, but some of it felt very forced. Some of it (such as the drummers) also felt like it was really trying to appeal to the young male demographic at the cost of the story. I'll pm you a point on this as to avoid a spoiler.

-MJ
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Old 10-22-2008, 12:48 PM   #6
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There is another thread about Anathem here:


http://www.mobileread.com/forums/sho...t=28992&page=3
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Old 10-22-2008, 12:56 PM   #7
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It doesn't compare to Diamond Age, which is by far the weakest of all of his novels. Anathem is much more cerebral.
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Old 10-23-2008, 05:11 PM   #8
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I enjoyed Anathem.
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Old 10-23-2008, 05:55 PM   #9
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I also thoroughly enjoyed Anathem. It's definitely worth perservering through the first couple of dozen or so pages.
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Old 10-23-2008, 09:41 PM   #10
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I started it, but couldn't get past the first few chapters. I probably wasn't in the right of frame of mind for it, but maybe I'll try again when I've had a few pints of Guinness.
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Old 10-23-2008, 09:51 PM   #11
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I downloaded it from Audible last week. It's in my listen cue. "Snow Crash" was an Audible download for me as well 3-4 years ago and I enjoyed it.
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Old 10-26-2008, 08:54 PM   #12
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I just started Anathem yesterday and I'm enjoying it tremendously. The beginning is heavy going, but after a while I became fascinated with watching for the next revelation about Arbre and the maths. I agree that it's better by far than Diamond Age.

It also reminds me a bit of Margaret Wells' Wheel of the Infinite, a less ambitious and cerebral book but one that depicts a vaguely similar religious/philosophical order, with fancy architecture. ;-)
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Old 10-26-2008, 10:08 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Taylor514ce View Post
Neal Stephenson is one of my favorite SF authors. Strike that: favorite authors. I thought Snow Crash and Diamond Age were mind-blowing, amazing stand-alone novels. Cryptonomicon and The Baroque Cycle stand up with some of the best SF, Fanatasy, and Action Thrillers ever written. So I responded with unmitigated, undignified glee when I found that his newest novel, Anathem, out in hardcover, was also out as an e-book at half the cover price.
I'm still struggling through Cryptonomicon. So far it's just scenes and vignettes; I haven't found a story line yet. But since so many have said it was a great book, I'm hanging in there.
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