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Anathem [Paperback]

Neal Stephenson
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (131 customer reviews)
RRP: 9.99
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Book Description

1 Oct 2009
This is the latest magnificent creation from the award-winning author of "Cryptonomicon and the Baroque Cycle" trilogy. Erasmas, 'Raz', is a young avout living in the Concent, a sanctuary for mathematicians, scientists, and philosophers. Three times during history's darkest epochs, violence has invaded and devastated the cloistered community. Yet the avout have always managed to adapt in the wake of catastrophe. But they now prepare to open the Concent's gates to the outside world, in celebration of a once-a-decade rite. Suddenly, Erasmas finds himself a major player in a drama that will determine the future of his world - as he sets out on an extraordinary odyssey that will carry him to the most dangerous, inhospitable corners of the planet...and beyond.

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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: 13.4 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (131 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 25,880 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.

Product Description


"'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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
86 of 91 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rewarding reading if you persevere with it 12 Oct 2008
By wedge
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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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars There is a universe where... 24 July 2009
.. this book gets started a lot more quickly than it does in our universe.

I'm an unashamed Stephenson fan, but he tried my patience at the start of this book, and you can see from other reviewers that this is a common experience.

I did get to the point where I was thinking 'ok Neal, where is this going' but I had faith, and that faith was rewarded. The slow part at the start is exposition that I feel is ultimately necessary and a part of his literary creation. He describes a world with some similarities and many differences to our own; the exposition serves as backdrop and 'control' for the reader (and main character) on a journey through adventures and concepts that are startlingly at odds with what went before. In the end this made sense to me, like the chaotic writing in the London part of Gravity's Rainbow made sense as a representation of how the city was for people. In the end, there is a point to having an alternate world to compare with, too. Not just 'I made this stuff up for a laugh'.

I don't want to get all high-falutin though - if you liked the pirate story part of the Baroque Cycle like I did, the first part will test you a bit.

Like Stephenson's other works, this has some serious underpinnings, in this case really based around the collision of maths, philosophy and physics. Stephenson presents these topics in a coherent way with his story, without snapping the reader out of the world (well not too much, sometimes you stop to say 'ok what is the equivalent of this in my world').

I disagree that this book is some kind of exercise in snobbery because it tackles difficult subjects and it's a lengthy book.
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45 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding! 23 Sep 2008
I got the same feeling reading Anathem that I got reading Cryptonomicon - that is, after reading 100 pages, I was thrilled that there were 800 more. It's a ripping yarn peppered with mathematical, mechanical, and linguistic nuggets. There's a little odd vocabulary, but it doesn't take long to get used to, and it's fun to look up terms in the glossary, which is interesting in itself. If you are daunted by the fact that there's a glossary and few appendices, then don't bother. This isn't a book to be idly flicked through. But that's not to say it's difficult or tedious; it's driven by an intricate and enthralling plot, and I found myself completely immersed. Stephenson is a freak of a writer, and this book is wholly impressive.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Anathem Anathema Anthem 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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Would have been been much better shorter 11 July 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The first eight thousand pages could have been usefully cut back to about one eighty. This is a long book that would have worked better as a novella. An atmospheric start in a monastic setting drags on but nowhere like as much as the interminable (and for many fantasy works) inevitable heroic journey. Plot lines are initiated and then not developed or seen through. The major love plot arrives from nowhere and is quickly sent back there where it lingers love lorn and yearning to bore the reader more.

Yes, there are some interesting ideas but they appear more akin to the sort that the proverbial monkey at a typewriter would come up with than ones with any real insight or meaning. They are also rather pretentious.

After all that the final one thousand pages are fantastic in the sense of lacking any credibility but by this stage I was so disengaged I was relieved that it managed to reach an end in what was almost hasty fashion after the first eighty thousand pages. The best part of the ending was just that.

Somwehere along the way Stephenson seems to have lost the plot. His early books were well-paced and very readable but his last two books have both been dirges.

He should learn from Banks. Iain Banks can write whatever tedious serious stuff he wants but he tells us in advance so that his Sci Fi readers know what to expect and to avoid them.

As Iain M Banks his books have action, there is a plot which is developed and he reaches a conclusion at a decent pace. As long as Banks writes Culture books I will read them while avoiding his cultured books. I will be much more cautious about investing the time in another Stephenson book and if it is more than 500 pages I am not going to bother.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Tedious and pompous
I have previously read and enjoyed other books by the author but I just couldn't get past the start of this novel. Read more
Published 5 days ago by Rotaxus
4.0 out of 5 stars Good but dense.
Interesting narrative and concepts some what hampered by the tolkenesque tracks of environmental description. Plow through the first few chapters and it settles down.
Published 8 days ago by Jason Poley
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic
Just finished Anathem and I loved it. For the average reader it is a heavily maths/logic/philosophy based future-set novel which a little surprisingly veers into sci-fi. Read more
Published 19 days ago by ChrisKnight
1.0 out of 5 stars Extremely slow moving & overly verbose story line which seems to be...
Plagiaristic story line nicked from Lord of the Rings & the chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever. Read more
Published 23 days ago by Mrs. Sylvia Mellersh
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good and remarkable value.
I was a bit put off by the initial strange verbal exchanges but having read other reviews I bought it anyway and was amply rewarded. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Mr D J Cann
5.0 out of 5 stars Sci-fi done right
ANATHEM is a serious piece of science fiction - a vast, dense novel full of philosophy, maths and quantum physics that develops a novel ontological theory from the work of multiple... Read more
Published 2 months ago by The 14 Amazons
5.0 out of 5 stars fantastic pure sci-fi
A great read and well worth persevering through the first few scene-setting chapters. A basic knowledge and passion for maths and metaphysics helps.
Published 2 months ago by Lee Collier
5.0 out of 5 stars A story of maths
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. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Mr. R. F. Harvey
5.0 out of 5 stars subtle and complex
Arguably a slow start. Neal always puts a lot of effort in setting the backdrop and building the characters, but from about halfway through really takes off. Read more
Published 3 months ago by C&J
5.0 out of 5 stars A terrific read
If you are interested in the history of ideas and the development of science, then this book is for you. Read more
Published 3 months ago by ballettlover
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