Review: Anathem by Neal StephensonNeal Stephenson’s speculations on language and philosophy impress Christopher Brookmyre. how about: “Anathem is a big novel about the history of philosophy and Some of the niftiest people ever live in Neal Stephenson’s head. Anathem, by Neal Stephenson, is one of my favorite books of all time—a thousand-page journey to another world that feels just a step removed.

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Large portions of the book involve detailed discussions of mathematics, physics, and philosophy. Anathem is another incredible book by Neal Stephenson, although probably not for everyone. In any case, I don’t want to go into them because the book isn’t really about them, just as it is not nfal about the characters.

And the way Stephenson does this is of course unexpected and magnificent, which is by creating an entire different planet called Arbre which is almost just like Earth, but different in several basic important ways. He may need an equally great editor, though. The first third or so of the book aka or so of its pages merely deals with the events that occur sstephenson and surrounding Apert.

In the realm of the avout

The reviewer has a point, there is a silliness to some of shephenson common words that Stephenson decides should be changed to kind of nonsensical words, just to show that this is a world that is like ours but not ours. I was wearied by the abundance of exposition. Thousands of years before the events in the novel, the planet’s intellectuals entered concents monastic communities to protect their activities from the collapse of society.

As Stephenson himself would admit, the whole setting is a pretext for conceptual exposition.

Essays and Other Writing b I kept wanting to categorize and pigeonhole it, and with every new hint that came along to tell me that Stephenosn was going to fail miserably, I slowly got the hint that I just needed to go with the flow, trust the author, and just get fully anatjem. And he says it, almost like he was a heretic espousing some radical concept the orthodoxy would be offended by, in code.


Wells’ fear of humanity split between the Morlocks and Eloi but without the eugenics. Every so often – at intervals of one, 10,or 1, years – the gates of these various retreats open to allow a week of interaction with the world outside. I don’t think it would be unfair to call it an piece of expository nonfiction disguised as a novel.

The book intends to do one thing, and one thing only — it intends to expose the reader to a set of concepts and arguments Stephenson finds interesting. And its ultimate goal is to get people to think in terms of long timelines, instead of letting our horizons become very short.

Not only will the two worlds remain separated with the elite population living, again, behind walls in fortresses of learning but now for the first time they will perpetuate the division through breeding. Yet the avout have always managed to adapt in the wake of catastrophe, becoming out of necessity even more nneal and less dependent on technology and material things.

For example, “the reticulum” is used for the book’s equivalent anaathem the internet. Mar 13, nostalgebraist rated it did not like it Shelves: And that’s because Stephenson can do something almost no other American writer currently putting out work can; he can take a healthy dose of the popular zeitgeist at any given moment, mine it to understand the underlying fears and hopes these trendy obsessions actually express, twist it using some of the most inventive speculative fictional tropes that have ever been created, infuse it with the kind of heady, complex “pure science” usually only understood by nuclear physicists and NOVA hosts, then spit it out in these breathtakingly ansthem thousand-page tomes every couple of years.

Anathem – Wikipedia

At this point, I may not get to his upcoming book Seveneves for some time. There may be infinite worlds, but the ones which stephenaon accord with reason don’t hold up. The concept of a monkish society that lives only for theory, feared but revered by the outside world with their bullshit language and mundane pursuits was great, kind of like Herman Hesse’s Glass Bead Gamebut without the trippy kind of Eastern Religious undertones.

But let’s be clear: Over the centuries, cities and governments have risen and fallen beyond the concent’s walls.


But for the first couple of hundred pages, we are given the brilliantly worked-out, but – for the reader – hard-going, account of life in the concent, including pages of how to wind a millennial clock by hand. Books by Neal Stephenson. Godmode has been reached. Oh my lord, this is still stephensoh of my top ten favorite works of literature.

Anathem by Neal Stephenson

On the other hand if science-fiction can On the one hand this is a cross between a history of philosophy, a Jules Verne story, the films Independence Day and Close Encounters of the Third Kind with elements of Hesse’s The Glass Bead Gameaspects of physics and mathematics that works as a lively, readable well once or twice, it palls after that and entertaining novel.

I can’t even say that my love of this novel is a case of right place, right time, because with the second read almost eight years after the first, you’d think that I’d have grown as a person. However, the action is mostly in stasis for a good two-thirds of the book, and it takes a very hardcore geek to make it through the Many World theorems that stand in the place of much of the plotting. 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.

I am in awe.

The neak character in “Anathem” is Erasmas, who is a Decenarian, also known as a Tenner, meaning that the gates of his area of the cloister open only once every 10 years. Which everyone who doesn’t read science fiction hates, or thinks he hates. What’s disappointing and perplexing is how flimsy Anathem ‘s delivery system is, how little appeal it has on the level of pure story.

A book I will definitely read a second time in a few years and then hopefully a third time, several years later.

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