Sunday, November 30, 2008

Anathem

My back is rejoicing that I've finally finished Neal Stephenson's "Anathem", because I no longer have to lug it to and from work to read on the train. Typical Stephenson: 900 pages of infodump/textbook masquerading as a story. The subject of this work was the quantum theory of consciousness. Previous works have covered the history of economics, cryptography and nanotechnology. But you don't care, because they are awesome to read.

The first part of the novel reminded me of "A Canticle for Leibowitz". Scientist-monks, preserving knowledge while the rest of the world collapses. Anathem is much more than that, though. There's an action story where scientists save the world, embedded in dense discussions of heavyweight science. Which is great for a geek like me, but I think it'd probably scare off casual (=normal people) readers.

Narrated by Erasmus, one of the scientist-monks, he begins the story acting as an amanuensis (a bit like a note-keeper) to Fraa Orolo, his mentor. He also ends the story as an amanuensis, but in a different way, after making a thrilling journey through Stephenson's well-crafted world.

Awesome stuff. Wait for it to come out in paperback, even better as e-book, or make sure you have private health care that covers the extensive spine damage from carrying it.

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