George V. Reilly

Review: Anathem

Title: Anathem
Author: Neal Stephenson
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½
Publisher: William Morrow
Copyright: 2008
Pages: 937
Keywords: science fiction
Reading period: 29 March–12 April, 2009

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.

Vintage Stephenson.

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