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Anathem (2008)

by Neal Stephenson

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
6,939251927 (4.18)1 / 388
Raz, a mathematician, is among a cohort of secluded scientists and philosophers who are called upon to save the world from impending catastrophe.
Recently added byprivate library, zer0pr1ime, xevooy, PhasicDA, sami7, st3t, Ygraine, RhettPendlebury, georgee53
  1. 201
    A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr. (Jesse_wiedinmyer, vnovak, szarka)
  2. 181
    The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco (the_awesome_opossum)
    the_awesome_opossum: The plot and writing are really similar: a dense and complex mystery/thriller set in a monastery. The Name of the Rose is historical fiction, not sci fi, but if you enjoyed the complicated and weighty plot, Name of the Rose would also be good… (more)
  3. 140
    Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson (BriarE)
  4. 130
    Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson (Wova4)
  5. 80
    The Glass Bead Game by Hermann Hesse (bertilak)
  6. 70
    Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco (freddlerabbit)
    freddlerabbit: See the Name of the Rose recommendation above - I find Foucault's even more analogous here because Name of the Rose is a bit more plot-driven than the other two, where Foucault's and Anathem both have as much as 40% pure theory-disguised-as-dialogue.… (more)
  7. 71
    Embassytown by China Miéville (bertilak, g33kgrrl)
    bertilak: Miéville has written a philosophical science fiction novel that rocks and is not bloated: Stephenson please take note.
  8. 50
    The Clock of the Long Now by Stewart Brand (bertilak)
  9. 40
    Excession by Iain M. Banks (elenchus)
    elenchus: Banks also introduces the "out of context" problem central to Anathem, but in a wildly different plot, and universe. Banks is less ontology and more space opera, but I found both books very entertaining, and both Stephenson and Banks sensitive to political questions raised by their respective plots.… (more)
  10. 30
    Nightfall by Isaac Asimov (Jesse_wiedinmyer)
  11. 20
    The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell (quartzite)
    quartzite: Both books deal with key groups of people preparing to meet alien cultures with a bit of theology and philosophy thrown in.
  12. 20
    Seveneves by Neal Stephenson (Mind_Booster_Noori)
  13. 53
    Sophie's World: A Novel About the History of Philosophy by Jostein Gaarder (SiSarah)
  14. 64
    The City & The City by China Miéville (chmod007)
    chmod007: Both novels depict coexisting-but-dissociated societies — drastically foreign to the world we live in — but help us reflect on it.
  15. 00
    The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. by Neal Stephenson (Mind_Booster_Noori)
  16. 00
    Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business by Neil Postman (themulhern)
    themulhern: Stephenson himself remarked that Anathem was a book about how people don't read books anymore. Moreover, there is a delightfully satirical sequence in which the characters are discusses serious things over food at a rest stop, and the narrator is repeatedly distracted by images on the speelies that are incoherent yet commanding. Later, the protagonist realizes that one of these images was relevant, and there is another bit of satire.… (more)
  17. 00
    Evolution's Shore by Ian McDonald (themulhern)
    themulhern: Another book in which the aliens appear with unknown motivations. Here, though, the context is a very contemporary Earth, and so the speculation is much more about the here and now. It spawned a series of which I have not read the rest.
  18. 00
    Relativity, space time and geometrodynamics by John Archibald Wheeler (bertilak)
  19. 11
    Gentlemen of the Road: A Tale of Adventure by Michael Chabon (MarkYoung)
  20. 00
    The Just City by Jo Walton (Cecrow)

(see all 24 recommendations)


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English (247)  Finnish (1)  French (1)  German (1)  All languages (250)
Showing 1-5 of 247 (next | show all)
I wish half stars were possible-this is definitely 4.5. ( )
  AldusManutius | Jul 5, 2020 |
In theory, this book is the intersection of the Asimov's centennial (1920) and the 40th Anniversary of Eco's Il nome della rosa (1980). Therefore, it is high time to read it.
  c12marin | Jun 20, 2020 |
I think this is actually my new favourite Stephenson book! This is set in a world where, because of some kind of Terrible Events which occurred in the distant past, all mathematicians live in strange monastery-like cloisters ("concents") cut off from the general population and study theoretical maths and astronomoy, but are banned from studying things with real-world applications. It starts off feeling like a future or fantasy-world dystopia, describing the different rituals of the concent and the daily lives of the people who live there, but then due to outside events the main character ends up involved in something that affects the entire world, at which point the tone shifts to being more scifi. Every chapter begins with an excerpt from the dictionary of the mathematician's language, defining and giving historical context to some important referents. It took me quite a while to finish this, as the characters often engage in long mathematical or philosophical debates which are, however, quite plot-important, and so I had to make sure I wasn't skimming them. But I wouldn't call it a heavy read.
( )
  tronella | Jun 6, 2020 |
Oh my lord, this is still one of my top ten favorite works of literature. Like. Ever.

Not only has this seminal masterwork of fiction withstood a second read with flying colors, but it continues to define and defy both Science Fiction and Speculative Fiction categories. Heck, I think we can say it belongs on any Philosophy shelf, too, and I defy anyone to not laugh their heads off at the haircuts or Rakes or so many beautiful easter-eggs of ideas studded through the opening couple hundred pages.

What? It's just a bunch of monks talking philosophy and science in an alien world? How the heck could that be fun?

Ahh, this book moves on from that soon enough, especially when mysteries both small and really large start piling up, and the high-tech history of the world with it's truly awesome advances is only *part* of the reveals in store for us.

The world building is probably the most fantastic and excellent that I've ever read in any novel, and I'm even including masterworks like Dune and Foundation in this category. More than anything, it's the history and the alternate progressions of thought and development that is so close to our own history that is so amazing. And funny. Screw Occam's Razor. We've got a Rake. ;)

Little easter eggs abound in the opening that make so much more sense later in the novel, and on the second read, they're even better because we know what to expect. Causal Domain Shear? What's that? A haircut? OMG.

Do *not* expect this to remain a sleepy monk community that has remained cloistered with a few exceptions for 5 thousand years.

*Do* expect some truly wonderful and crazy science, philosophy, action and adventure, aliens, space-travel, time and space hacking, immortality, shaolin monks kicking all sorts of ass, horrible world killers, and multiple dimensions.

Holy crap, right?

It's a damn near perfect story, including great characters, pacing, reveals, science, politics, philosophy, and even religion and poetry. It also continues to blow my mind. How can something this complicated in its entirety read so easily, so effortlessly? But it does, and it's funny as hell, too.

I remember my first reading of this getting under my skin and confounding me at the same time. I kept wanting to categorize and pigeonhole it, and with every new hint that came along to tell me that I was going to fail miserably, I slowly got the hint that I just needed to go with the flow, trust the author, and just get fully immersed. There's no other way around it.

And there has never been a book quite like this in my life, ever before or ever since.

I can't even say that my love of this novel is a case of right place, right time, because with the second read almost eight years after the first, you'd think that I'd have grown as a person. I've certainly read a lot of new books, too. But, alas, this one still packs one hell of a punch.

The total-action scenes at the climax had me gasping for air, literally. I actually started crying from just how freaking awesome it all was. :)

Don't ever let any tell you that there is nothing new under the sun, or that SF or literature is dumbing down. This is one of the smartest pieces of fiction I've ever read. I am in awe. ( )
  bradleyhorner | Jun 1, 2020 |
**Anathem** by *Neal Stephenson* kept me pretty busy. Between a bunch of conferences, the sufficient concentration was a bit hard to come by. What's worse: Now that I have read it, I can't tell you if it is a good book or not.

… because I enjoyed it too much. This book hit my sweet nerd spots one after another. Advanced future? Monasteries? Weird science? Conservancy? Quantum states in brains? Spaaaaaace? Yes, please. For me, this book is just fantastic, and I'll definitely return to it in the future. Plausible characters, fallible protagonist, and holy-shit-unpredictable plot. Wonderful worldbuilding, too. But, really, in many ways it's the scifi version of The Name of the Rose (complete with author pretentiousness). I love both, regardless of their, ahem, more objective qualities.

An honorable mention goes to the presence of plenty of strong and cool women in a book where it would have been easy to sell an all-male cast. ( )
1 vote _rixx_ | May 24, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 247 (next | show all)
Seen through the eyes of a young ascetic named Erasmas, the universe of “Anathem” and its properties are revealed methodically over hundreds of pages, and at first, there is much joy to be found in watching this plausible other reality assemble itself and in observing how it parallels our own.

Too much of the book is dominated by lengthy dialectical debates, whose conclusions are hardly earth-shattering (if you are reading this review, I suspect you already know how to divide a rectangular cake into eight equal servings) and which do little to promote a reader’s engagement with the characters of ­“Anathem,” any more than one cares about the interior lives of Pausanias or Eryximachus while reading “The Symposium.” What’s worse, the book’s fixation on dialogue leads Erasmas (and Stephenson) to simply tell us what is happening or has happened in pivotal scenes, instead of allowing us to see the events for ourselves through descriptive action.
added by SimoneA | editNew York Times, Dave Itzkoff (Oct 17, 2008)
The only catch to reading a novel as imposingly magnificent as this is that for the next few months, everything else seems small and obvious by comparison.
Stephenson's world-building skills, honed by the exacting work he did on his recent Baroque Cycle trilogy, are at their best here. Anathem is that rarest of things: A stately novel of ideas packed with cool tech, terrific fight scenes, aliens, and even a little ESP.
added by PhoenixTerran | editio9, Annalee Newitz (Sep 4, 2008)

» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Neal Stephensonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Dufris, WilliamNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gilbert, TaviaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gräbener-Müller, JulianeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Serrano, ErvinCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stingl, NikolausÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stutz, DavidComposersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wyman, OliverNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"Do your neighbors burn one another alive?" was how Fraa Orolo began his conversation with Artisan Flec.
"Our opponent is an alien starship packed with atomic bombs," I said. "We have a protractor."
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