Anathem takes place on Arbre, a world where those of an intellectual bent sequester themselves in monasteries apart from the Sæcular world. When an alien ship is noticed orbiting the planet, avout from concents all over Arbre are drawn together for a Convox to determine how to respond to the threat of the Geometers.
Stephenson’s Anathem is an ambitious project, pulling together physics, metaphysics, world-building, anthropology, and an adventure tale. It’s an alien world as he keeps reminding us by the huge vocabulary he’s invented. Said vocabulary alternates between exasperating and entertaining, but one becomes accustomed to it. The plot mostly meanders along, with long philosophical detours, accelerating in the final third of the book. The ideas and the explanations come thick and fast. The characters are enjoyable, if improbably talented and versatile nerds.