Anathem /

Raz, a mathematician, is among a cohort of secluded scientists and philosophers who are called upon to save the world from impending catastrophe.

Main Author: Stephenson, Neal.
Format: Book
Language: English
Published: New York, NY : William Morrow, c2008.
Edition: 1st ed.
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Review by Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Stephenson has quickly established himself as an A-list writer of epic-length fantasy. His mammoth novel Cryptonomicon (1999) was as long as the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy, and then there's the multivolume Baroque Cycle, which offers a world of another time and place that is so tangible that reality seems flat and dull by comparison. He does the same thing here in this astonishing novel, taking us to a world similar to Earth, where society is divided between the avout, who live in a sealed-off monastery and devote themselves to science and philosophy, and the saecular, whose daily lives are taken up with more mundane concerns, such as reproduction, recreation, and business. Every so often, residents of the monastery venture out into the saecular world but never for very long. Then Erasmus, the novel's narrator, and his fellow avout are shocked to learn that they are being sent out into the other world to save it from certain disaster. Stephenson's novels have always contained more than one level, and Anathem continues that practice, its surface story serving as a launching pad for multiple meanings, both metaphorical and allegorical. The novel is beautifully written (fans of Adam Roberts' ornately written science fiction will see some similarities), and, even though it runs to nearly 1,000 pages, it feels somehow too short, as though we're made to leave this carefully constructed world and return to our own before we're quite ready. A magnificent achievement.--Pitt, David Copyright 2008 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

In this follow-up to his historical Baroque Cycle trilogy, which fictionalized the early-18th century scientific revolution, Stephenson (Cryptonomicon) conjures a far-future Earth-like planet, Arbre, where scientists, philosophers and mathematicians--a religious order unto themselves--have been cloistered behind concent (convent) walls. Their role is to nurture all knowledge while safeguarding it from the vagaries of the irrational saecular outside world. Among the monastic scholars is 19-year-old Raz, collected into the concent at age eight and now a decenarian, or tenner (someone allowed contact with the world beyond the stronghold walls only once a decade). But millennia-old rules are cataclysmically shattered when extraterrestrial catastrophe looms, and Raz and his teenage companions--engaging in intense intellectual debate one moment, wrestling like rambunctious adolescents the next--are summoned to save the world. Stephenson's expansive storytelling echoes Walter Miller's classic A Canticle for Leibowitz, the space operas of Larry Niven and the cultural meditations Douglas Hofstadter--a heady mix of antecedents that makes for long stretches of dazzling entertainment occasionally interrupted by pages of numbing colloquy. An accompanying CD of music composed by David Stutz is suitably ethereal. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

Scholars safe behind the walls of a 3400-year-old monastery are called upon to leave their sanctuary and help a world on the edge of doom. With a one-day laydown on September 9; with an 11-city tour. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

A sprawling disquisition on "the higher harmonics of the sloshing" and other "polycosmic theories" that occupy the residents of a distant-future world much like our own. Stephenson (The System of the World, 2004, etc.), an old hand at dystopian visions, offers a world that will be familiar, and welcome, to readers of A Canticle for Leibowitz and Dune--and, for that matter, The Glass Bead Game. The narrator, a youngish acolyte, lives in a monastery-like fortress inhabited by intellectuals in retreat from a gross outer world littered by box stores, developments and discarded military hardware. Saunt Edhar is a place devoted not just to learning, but also to singing, specifically of the "anathem," a portmanteau of anthem and anathema. Polyphony can afford only so much solace against the vulgar world beyond the walls. It's a barbaric place that, to all appearances, is post-postapocalyptic, if not still dumbed-down and reeling from the great period of global warming that followed "the Terrible Events" of a thousand-odd years past. Our hero is set to an epic task, but it's no Tolkienesque battle against orcs and sorcerers; more of the battling is done with words than with swords or their moral equivalents. The hero's quest affords Stephenson the opportunity to engage in some pleasing wordplay à la Riddley Walker, with talk of "late Praxic Age commercial bulshytt" and "Artificial Inanity systems still active in the Rampant Orphan Botnet Ecologies," and the like, and to level barrel on barrel of scattershot against our own time: "In some families, it's not entirely clear how people are related"; "Quasi-literate Saeculars went to stores and bought prefabricated letters, machine-printed on heavy stock with nice pictures, and sent them to each other as emotional gestures"; and much more. Light on adventure, but a logophilic treat for those who like their alternate worlds big, parodic and ironic. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.