Book rating: 03 Hardback

By (author) Neal Stephenson

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  • Publisher: ATLANTIC BOOKS
  • Format: Hardback | 800 pages
  • Dimensions: 160mm x 234mm x 72mm | 1,542g
  • Publication date: 1 September 2008
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 1843549158
  • ISBN 13: 9781843549154
  • Sales rank: 129,725

Product description

Here is another brilliantly original novel from the cult author of "Snowcrash and Cryptonomicon".Since childhood, Raz has lived behind the walls of a 3,400-year-old monastery, a sanctuary for scientists, philosophers, and mathematicians. There, he and his cohorts are sealed off from the illiterate, irrational, unpredictable "saecular" world, an endless landscape of casinos and megastores that is plagued by recurring cycles of booms and busts, dark ages and renaissances, world wars and climate change. Until the day that a higher power, driven by fear, decides it is only these cloistered scholars who have the abilities to avert an impending catastrophe. And, one by one, Raz and his friends, mentors, and teachers are summoned forth without warning into the unknown.

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Author information

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.

Customer reviews

By Mark Thwaite 10 Dec 2008 3

At over 800 pages long, Neal Stephenson's brilliantly realised new novel Anathem is not for the faint-hearted. But Stephenson, cult author of the bestsellers Snow Crash, Quicksilver and Crytonomicon, is always at his best when he writes his brick-thick tomes. Stephenson fans will love Anathem, but those new to the author will find much to enjoy here too.
It was Plato who suggested that philosophers should rule as kings. Since childhood Raz has lived inside "a 3,400-year-old monastery, a sanctuary for scientists, philosophers, and mathematicians." Here, the life of the mind is sovereign, and the murky realities of normal, everyday life are pushed firmly to the background. Raz and his fellows get on with learning and thinking "sealed off from the illiterate, irrational, unpredictable 'saecular' world" which is just an "endless landscape of casinos and megastores that is plagued by recurring cycles of booms and busts, dark ages and renaissances, world wars and climate change." Recognise it!?
One day, however, driven by the fear of catastrophe and final breakdown, Raz, his fellow students and their teachers are summoned, forced to come out of the monastery and made to confront reality. The boffins are required, now, to think of ways to save the world. And, finally, for once, to act.

Review quote

"Learned, witty, weirdly torqued, emotionally complex, politically astute, and often darkly comic...ANATHEM is an audacious work by a highly intelligent imagination, a delightfully learned text."--Edmonton Journal (Alberta) on ANATHEM

Editorial reviews

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 a 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. (Kirkus Reviews)