Thursday, May 26, 2011

Book Review: Anathem

Very few people are going to like ALL of Neal Stephenson's books. I've read a number of them, and usually, but not always, like them (I loved Snowcrash and Diamond Age, was ambivilent about Zodiac, disliked Cryptonomicon, and loved the System of the World trilogy).


One thing I've found is that the time he takes in building up to the action is pretty consistently one quarter of the way in. The problem is that in a book like Anathem - a thousand page monster - this means it's quite some time before you get to the action.

In this case, it's still worth it. The long slow build-up does two things. First, the main character is part of a monastically-styled class in the book's world, and this long deliberate build lets the reader get immersed in the slow, pensive, pace that the 'monks' move and live. Secondly, It really takes the reader on a long and deep journey so that you find yourself - like the main character - gaping in wonder at how far you've come in the journey since the start.

And in that journey, well, it does go quite a ways. Picture somethings on the order of a Dune or Lord of the Rings; starting in Name of the Rose, but ending up in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The book also serves as backdrop for commentary on what I believe is Stephenson's distaste for the growing rift between the literati and the 'illiterati' in modern society.

As I said above, it's a long and arduous read. If you can get through long and deep sci-fi reads, though, you'll find a really great adventure here.

2 comments:

adam lake said...

this was a great reminder to finish this book, good read. i really liked cryptonomicon though :)

CorvusE said...

I'm surprised you didn't like Crypto, but did like the SotW trilogy. They are quire enmeshed, no? What didn't you care for about it?

Some friends and I are "climbing Mount Stephenson" this summer, starting with Crypto and taking on the trilogy, which I've not made it through before.

They don't plan on Anathem at this point, but it sounds like I'll add that to my Kindle once we're done.