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Anathem by Neal Stephenson

Anathem (2008)

by Neal Stephenson

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
5,407200802 (4.21)1 / 298
  1. 181
    A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr. (Jesse_wiedinmyer, vnovak, szarka)
  2. 151
    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. 120
    Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson (BriarE)
  4. 110
    Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson (Wova4)
  5. 60
    The Glass Bead Game by Hermann Hesse (bertilak)
  6. 51
    Embassytown by China Miéville (bertilak)
    bertilak: Miéville has written a philosophical science fiction novel that rocks and is not bloated: Stephenson please take note.
  7. 40
    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)
  8. 63
    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.
  9. 30
    Nightfall by Isaac Asimov (Jesse_wiedinmyer)
  10. 30
    The Clock of the Long Now by Stewart Brand (bertilak)
  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
    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)
  13. 43
    Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder (SiSarah)
  14. 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.
  15. 11
    Gentlemen of the Road: A Tale of Adventure by Michael Chabon (MarkYoung)
  16. 00
    Relativity, space time and geometrodynamics by John Archibald Wheeler (bertilak)
  17. 00
    Finity by John Barnes (szarka)
  18. 12
    Parallel Worlds : A Journey Through Creation, Higher Dimensions, and the Future of the Cosmos by Michio Kaku (bertilak)
  19. 01
    Even Peons are People: Interplanetary Justice by D. Pak (philAbrams)
    philAbrams: Cleaver use of neologisms and author created futuristic expressions and terminology. Also philosophical undertones.
  20. 37
    Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke (SiSarah)
    SiSarah: While Anathem is science fiction and Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is historical fantasy, they share many themes in common (the nature and value of knowledge and study, the responsibilities of those who possess such knowledge, contact with a strange yet familiar "other" civilization). They both stretch the bounds of their genres and have deceptively simple plots that unfold slowly, and have great depth to the writing.… (more)

(see all 20 recommendations)


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English (198)  German (2)  Finnish (1)  French (1)  All languages (202)
Showing 1-5 of 198 (next | show all)
This was a book of the month (BOTM) selection for "Off the Wall" reads.
This was not a hit with me. The story is set on another planet, that is similar to Earth, but is not Earth. The society on this planet has divided into the secular and non-secular worlds. The Secular world is all math based and not a religion, but acts a lot like a religious order to me. The story line was so dull, with so many unfamiliar big words, that it made it really hard to even start. There was too much background, but doesn't it didn't help to ease the reader into the story at all.
I tried listening to the audio book and that helped a little, but I couldn't retain anything. So I switched back to reading and surprisingly that made the reading a little easier. I continued to switch between the physical book and the audio book for the remainder of the read.
The reading got better also once they stopped talking about the architecture and left the monastery, because there was an actual story, not just philosophy based on math theories. throughout the book there is so much philosophy, but it feels disjointed and thrown in at the most random times. I have to say this book makes me feel stupid. The theoretical discussions go so over my head that my eyes glaze over and I absorb nothing. I feel like I'm missing out on a ton of stuff just because I can't follow the theories. Some in my group really loved this tome of a math theory, but it was not a great read for me. In fact at times I absolutely dreaded reading for the week because this was just such a tedious read for me. I think that if you really enjoy and intellectual, deep read, that makes you contemplate our place in the cosmos and in reality yourself, this is a read for you. But if you are reading for a story, then this is not the story for you, the story plays second fiddle to the philosophy, and it is a complicated and hard to follow philosophy.
For additional reviews please see my blog at www.adventuresofabibliophile.blogspot.com
  Serinde24 | Sep 5, 2015 |
Interesting premise, good writing style and marvelous world-building but it just didn't do it for me. That's surprising as I'm normally quite the Stephenson fan. However, despite a great first third or so, I felt the book just fell down as it went along. It seemed to me that character actions began to rely more and more on plot convenience and less on common sense or believability, and that many of the minor threads of plot just seemed to get forgotten, turning the story into rather single-dimensional action pulp at the end.

As a side note, many have complained about the math and logic in the book; I didn't mind that aspect at all. My tepid response was purely a reaction to the crafting of the plot: 1008 pages just didn't seem a reasonable ante for what I got in the end.

I'll still continue with his books and hope that they're more like Zodiac, The Diamond Age or even Snow Crash. ( )
1 vote TadAD | Aug 19, 2015 |
This is an amazing book. Like Cryptonomicon, it's not an easy book to read, but that is what keeps it interesting. I love the world building, the way the characters interacted and the way the characters growed up. It has some extraordinaire dialogs featuring philosophical and mathematical discussions that keep geting more and more weird and interesting as you get deeper into the book.

Now, what's funny is that so far it seems like a soft science fiction book, as it's based on philosophy, but at it's core, it's a hard science fiction book, with description of mechanisms, and technical oriented characters as well as pure theoricians.

This book also features some invented words, but they are quite easy to follow up, even if you don't use the dictionary at the end and the reader's notes at the beginning. The book is completelly enjoyable and readable without those two things.

As with Cryptonomicon, when the story ends, Neil Stephenson adds some little extras, in this case full versions complete with graphics mentioned but not shown of didactic dialogs featured in the story

( )
  gedece | Jul 27, 2015 |
@anathem +reamde
This book was amazing; I had already loved Stephenson's other books (especially the baroque cycle and REAMDE) but this one was the best. I actually thought this plot was less twisted/con-fused than the others which made it easier to focus on the metaphysical aspects of this book (which were amazing). I know this is all speculative fiction but I'm almost considering a multi-cosmic approach to consciousness which is the biggest compliment I can give a book. I didn't thin the 1000 pages was nearly enough

Also, read the acknowledgment at http://www.nealstephenson.com/acknowledgments.html it gives a lot of good further books ( )
  Lorem | Jul 19, 2015 |
I managed to struggle through this to the end and so I give it 1* (not the ½* that I would have given it if I'd simply tossed it). This is nothing more than a fairly standard space opera with a lot of metaphysical claptrap thrown in to stretch it out to nearly 900 pages. ( )
  CurrerBell | Jun 5, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 198 (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 (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Neal Stephensonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dufris, WilliamNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gilbert, TaviaMinor Narratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Serrano, ErvinCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stutz, DavidComposersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wyman, OliverMinor Narratorsecondary 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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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0061474096, Hardcover)

For ten years Fraa Erasmas, a young avout, has lived in a cloistered sanctuary for mathematicians, scientists, and philosophers, protected from the corrupting influences of the outside world. But before the week is out, both the existence he abandoned and the one he embraced will stand poised on the brink of cataclysmic change—and Erasmas will become a major player in a drama that will determine the future of his world, as he follows his destiny to the most inhospitable corners of the planet . . . and beyond.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:01 -0400)

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Raz, a mathematician, is among a cohort of secluded scientists and philosophers who are called upon to save the world from impending catastrophe.

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