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Anathem Paperback – 1 Oct 2009


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Product details

  • Paperback: 928 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Books (1 Oct. 2009)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 1843549174
  • ISBN-13: 978-1843549178
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 5.3 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (145 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 192,455 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author



Neal Town Stephenson (born October 31, 1959) is an American writer, known for his speculative fiction works, which have been variously categorized science fiction, historical fiction, maximalism, cyberpunk, and postcyberpunk. Stephenson explores areas such as mathematics, cryptography, philosophy, currency, and the history of science. He also writes non-fiction articles about technology in publications such as Wired Magazine, and has worked part-time as an advisor for Blue Origin, a company (funded by Jeff Bezos) developing a manned sub-orbital launch system.

Born in Fort Meade, Maryland (home of the NSA and the National Cryptologic Museum) Stephenson came from a family comprising engineers and hard scientists he dubs "propeller heads". His father is a professor of electrical engineering whose father was a physics professor; his mother worked in a biochemistry laboratory, while her father was a biochemistry professor. Stephenson's family moved to Champaign-Urbana, Illinois in 1960 and then to Ames, Iowa in 1966 where he graduated from Ames High School in 1977. Stephenson furthered his studies at Boston University. He first specialized in physics, then switched to geography after he found that it would allow him to spend more time on the university mainframe. He graduated in 1981 with a B.A. in Geography and a minor in physics. Since 1984, Stephenson has lived mostly in the Pacific Northwest and currently resides in Seattle with his family.

Neal Stephenson is the author of the three-volume historical epic "The Baroque Cycle" (Quicksilver, The Confusion, and The System of the World) and the novels Cryptonomicon, The Diamond Age, Snow Crash, and Zodiac. He lives in Seattle, Washington.

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Review

"'The only catch to reading a novel as imposingly magnificent as this is that for the next few months, everything else seems small and obvious by comparison.' Christopher Brookmyre, Guardian 'Anathem is a brilliant, playful tour of the terrain where logic, mathematics, philosophy and quantum physics intersect, a novel of ideas par excellence, melding wordplay and mathematical theory with a gripping, human adventure.' The Times 'I think this novel is wonderful... Anathem is a call to move into the world.' Andrew McKie, Daily Telegraph 'Neal Stephenson's vertiginous new novel [holds], for me, a boundlessly engaging fascination that comes at the price of being made to feel infinitesimally small: not merely as a human being, but as a writer, too... The only catch to reading a novel as imposingly magnificent as this is that for the next few months, everything else seems small and obvious by comparison.' Christopher Brookmyre, Guardian 'You find yourself enveloped in the atmosphere of a good library, one populated by a cast of characters whose talking is anything but annoying - and often illuminating. Fabulous.' Jonathan Wright, SFX Magazine"

About the Author

Neal Stephenson is the author of eight novels, including the cult successes Snowcrash and Cryptonomicon. He has been shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke Award five times, winning with Quicksilver. Three of his last four novels have been New York Times bestsellers. He lives in Seattle.

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

92 of 97 people found the following review helpful By wedge on 12 Oct. 2008
Format: Hardcover
Anathem was a complete surprise to me. I had deliberately avoided reading anything about the book before I bought it, willing to trust the author to come up with another excellent novel comparable to Snow Crash, The Diamond Age or Cryptonomicon.

After reading the first 50 or 60 pages, I was wondering if I'd wasted my money. I don't know what I was expecting, but it wasn't this. The many invented words peppered throughout the text didn't help either - you can immediately decipher many of them from context they're used in, but it is annoying to do it as often as Anathem requires.

However, I kept going, and by the time I'd gotten through the first 100 pages or so I found myself quite enjoying it. After another couple of hundred pages I was reluctant to put it down, and eventually ended up reading the last third of the book in a single session.

What I would say is that once you become familiar with the dialect used by the characters and get past the relatively slow opening chapters, Anathem becomes a far more engaging and interesting book. Sci-fi action sequences are interspersed with frequent philosophical or metaphysical discussions between various characters, which may of course not be to the liking of every reader, but I found it both interesting and entertaining.

Now that I've finished the book I am planning to wait a few weeks and then read it again, as I suspect that reading the opening chapters will be a far better experience the second time around.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Quicksilver TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 18 Nov. 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Neal Stephenson's house-brick size novels are always constructed in meticulous detail, and 'Anathem' is no exception. Unfortunately, his painstaking (laborious?) attention to detail can, for some, make his novels impenetrable, but if you enjoyed Cryptonomicon or The Baroque Cycle, then you will almost certainly like 'Anathem' too. If you are new to Stephenson, then I wouldn't start here - he seems to be becoming increasingly less accessible. Go back at least as far as Cryptonomicon and begin there.

In addition to his usual information-overload, 'Anathem' sees Stephenson add yet another layer of confusion. Set in the far future, in a parallel world, much of the language used by the novel's characters, has been invented by the author. These new words are logical and consistent, deriving from Greek and Latin, but they take a little while to bed in, and I found 'Anathem's' opening fragmented and hard to follow. But like subtitles to a good film, I soon stopped noticing, and became wholly immersed in this magnificent novel.

The novel's central character is Erasmas, a member of intellectual brethren, cut off from normal secular society. The brothers (and sisters) remain exiled from the real world, for one, ten, a hundred or even a thousand years depending how committed they are to their calling. As the novel opens, Erasmas is about to complete the first decade of his seclusion. Considering much of the early parts of the novel revolve around the philosophical discussions between members of this cloistered community, 'Anathem' is surprisingly readable.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Dudleian on 2 April 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed Snow Crash which is still paint fresh after 20 years, despite the incredible changes in IT in the interim. The story starts with blazing action, and doesn't let up until the end, despite a stream of ideas spilling out like flares from a firework along the way.

I bought this expecting another/different/better version of Snow Crash. If that's what you are looking for, walk away now. I've read a lot of Sci Fi and fantasy and I'm not allergic to opaque terminology, unfamiliar history, invented societies, and mind-boggling mores. I'm willing to work my way through a fair bit of that if there are rewards on offer, but after the seventy page info dump (and I use the word advisedly) at the start of this book, I just gave up. I'm sure things getter better if you make the effort to trudge on through the wilderness, and this book is adored by a lot of people. But I'm just a bit too near the exit door to want to struggle so hard for so long for so little reward.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mr. R. F. Harvey on 3 May 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Anathem starts in a world that feels like a medieval monastery, or should that be a university? It is a community ruled by a clock that is wound once a day. The story is told by Fraa Erasmus who is a member of the team of avouts who wind it. Rituals are at the core of this world but in the place of religion th there is the study of mathematics. As the story progresses you realise that within the one institution there are a number of schools of thought called maths. But this institution has been in continuous existence for over 3,000 years and exploits something called new matter that is very high technology.

The background can make getting to grips with Anathem hard work. I am lucky. I am a failed physicist who has studied a chunk of pure maths and has taken a course in the history of maths. I was hooked in a few pages. Others report that they had trouble getting started. If you are one of these then stick with Anathem and you will come to terms with the thinking. Once you are over this hump you too will find this to be a gripping read.

I really enjoyed this book. It takes two long running science fiction themes and twists them together in a novel way. It also shows that the study of maths is something vibrant and interesting. There is even one good piece of geometry that will help the reader to understand the nature of a squareroot and another that answers the question why do I need six co-ordinates to describe an object's position in space.

Give Anathem a go. The chances are that you will enjoy Anathem as much as I did.
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