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Anathem by Neal Stephenson

Anathem (original 2008; edition 2008)

by Neal Stephenson

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
5,494205790 (4.21)1 / 300
Authors:Neal Stephenson
Info:William Morrow (2008), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 960 pages
Collections:Your library, Favorites, To rip

Work details

Anathem by Neal Stephenson (2008)

  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 (203)  German (2)  Finnish (1)  French (1)  All languages (207)
Showing 1-5 of 203 (next | show all)
This third epic novel of Stephenson's that I've read is in some ways even more awesome than _Reamde_ and _Seveneves_. Allegorically set in an elaborately described parallel world, the story involves profound issues of physics/cosmology and philosophy I won't even try to summarize here. (Except to say that one thing it supports is what I would aphorize as "Abstract entities can be real; supernatural ones cannot.".) Prospective readers: you *must* not let the book's initial storm of coined words and names deter you from reading the whole 900+ pages.
  fpagan | Nov 21, 2015 |
Another reviewer used the word intimidating to describe this book; another the word rewarding; I found both of these to be true, but it takes a lot of effort to read 973 pages, a fifty page glossary of terms and a couple of supplements. Is that amount of effort worthwhile? My answer is obviously yes, because I have given it a four star rating. The only book I couldn't finish in the last thirty years was written by Stephenson, so I approached this one with great trepidation. But it soon sucked me in, I cannot pretend to have understood it all but the story and the incredibly worked out background kept me interested during the philosophical dialogs. The language is amazing, unlike another reviewer, I did not find the "made-up" words a turn-off, but part of the novel's fascination. I hesitate to recommend it generally because of its length and complexity but would assure anyone who tries it that patience and persistence will bring rewards. ( )
  johnwbeha | Nov 18, 2015 |
Very enjoyable read. 900-plus pages of philosophy, alternate-world sf, and action adventure all mixed together. The ending was perhaps a bit too pat; unlike others I think I might prefer the ambiguous way Stephenson's other big books end. ( )
  ronhenry | Nov 17, 2015 |
Wow. I almost started reading it again as soon as I finished it. Not a book for everyone, but I wanted to live in this world. Incredible worldbuilding, great story, engaging characters. Possibly Stephenson's best. ( )
  darushawehm | Oct 24, 2015 |
Ooh this was a big one. Took me a whole bloody month to read, partly because I had to rearrange the furniture every time I wanted to open it.
The thing about this is that it's all about a world where scientific progress comes about through the efforts of ancient monastic enclaves who devote their lives to the study of scientific theory and philosophy, letting the outside world get on with believing whatever madcap delusions they can draw from passing cloud blocking out the sun or whatever. Oooh, clever inversion.
I knew monks. I grew up near a monastery. They weren't that much like these guys, but I don't think they were much like other monks, either, being a fairly wealthy and extroverted order who sent missionaries to Africa and Asia and came back with groovy beaded rattle things and dried snakeskins. Oh, there were more than a few saintly beatific brothers with benign expressions and faraway eyes who preached sermons about the ineffable thingness of wotsit (seriously, listening to them was like... well, even as a kid I actually kind of liked them, especially compared to the Bush-like eloquence of the parish priests, and anyway they were short.) Mostly, though, they were what college students would be like if they didn't drink or swear or have sex or do drugs, so I apreciate what Stephenson is getting at here. Also, the singing.
I also knew nuns, seeing as Anathem's monastries are coed. I went to a convent school, and there's nothing quite like seeing tiny, hunched, female figures in black putting the fear of almighty God in the hearts of strapping six foot farmer's sons. Sister Agnes, who taught us Irish, would stand beside us (we were sitting, she was standing, and the tallest wisp of grey hair that poked out of the front of her wimple came up to our shoulders despite the massive heels on her shoes) and stick her arm out from her elbow at a ninety degree angle, rotate her hips and repeatedly strike our arms and say 'Nil pheac deanta agat!' What did that mean? No idea. Never learnt a word of Irish. I assume it's Irish. The suurs in Anathem don't do any pheacing, so that aspect didn't ring true for me.
Anathem's a lot like The Baroque Cycle in that science and philsophy and technology are all discoursed on in various ways by the characters while the plot ticks along in the background, except it's all rephrased and reformulated because it's a different world, same physics (or is it?) Our hapless hero is summoned by the saecular power to help out with this problem they're having which may involve the end of the world, and all that. Epic stuff happens with the usual Stephensonian aplomb, some of it funny and witty, some of it not, all of it eminently readable and fun. ( )
  Nigel_Quinlan | Oct 21, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 203 (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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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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