Sep 7, 2010

Anathem, by Neal Stephenson

Once again, another Neal Stephenson book that just blows me away. How this man is capable of doing so much research, synthesizing it, then putting it into an incredibly well-written format is beyond me. Though his interest in math and science is evident in this book as well as The Baroque Cycle, there are no other similarities between the two.

Anathem is firmly science fiction, though it takes a while to work up to it. As all good science fiction does, it deals very much in philosophy, though much more obviously than many other books. Stephenson's world, Arbre, is similar enough to our own to understand, but different enough to be fascinating as we discover it along with the protagonist, Erasmus. Much of the action takes place in what are essentially monasteries, but instead of worshiping God, the monks devote their time to the mathematical and scientific mysteries of the universe. Much of the first half of the book takes place behind the walls of just one math (as the monasteries are called), and then the action slowly spirals outward. The characters are very well developed, and it is a true pleasure to read their interactions.

Again, Stephenson's writing is some of the best I've ever seen. The glibness and humor are less apparent in this book than in the Baroque Cycle, but they still run through the entire novel like an undercurrent. I once again find myself sad that the story has ended, and cannot wait to pick up another one of his books and devour it.

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