Notes on Anathem

So, I finished Neil Stephenson’s book Anathem several weeks ago and have been wanting to write something about it, but I’ve struggled over where to begin. This is a very large book, and can be difficult to get through at times, but in the end I found it to be a very satisfying journey.

First I’ll talk about the world. The vastness of the world he has created and the detail he goes into to describe it rivals that of Tolkien. It takes place in a world that is almost, but not quite, ours. While reading the book you are educated on much of this world’s history to understand how it got to the state it which we find the characters.

The protagonist is a man named Erasmas who lives in the concent of Saunt Edhar. This is much like a monastery but where the god who is studies and worshiped is math and science. Stephenson has created an entire new dictionary that he uses when telling this story. But learning the terminology is not too hard of a challenge as each new chapter begins with a new definition. I’m sure the print version of the book has a glossary, but since I was listening to the audio version, I did not have this tool. I became so familiar with the terms as I was reading the book that I began to think of my iPhone as a “Jeejah”.

Much of this book reads like a metaphysical lecture. The characters must dive into the depths of mathematics, astronomy, and philosophy to solve the mystery of an seeming alien ship that has presented itself. And the journey is fascinating.

I don’t want to go any farther for fear of spoiling the book. But, if you are a fan of hard science fiction, and the size and depth of the book does not scare you away, I highly recommend reading this.

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