by Neal Stephenson
4.4 238

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Anathem by Neal Stephenson

A #1 New York Times Bestseller, Anathem is perhaps the most brilliant literary invention to date from the incomparable Neal Stephenson, who rocked the world with Snow Crash, Cryptonomicon, and The Baroque Cycle. Now he imagines an alternate universe where scientists, philosophers, and mathematicians live in seclusion behind ancient monastery walls until they are called back into the world to deal with a crisis of astronomical proportions.

Anathem won the Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel and the reviews for have been dazzling: “Brilliant” (South Florida Sun-Sentinel), “Daring” (Boston Globe), “Immensely entertaining” (New York Times Book Review), “A tour de force” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch), while Time magazine proclaims, “The great novel of ideas…has morphed into science fiction, and Neal Stephenson is its foremost practitioner.”

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061474101
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 08/25/2009
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 1008
Sales rank: 110,025
Product dimensions: 4.20(w) x 6.86(h) x 1.62(d)

About the Author

Neal Stephenson is the author of Reamde, Anathem, and the three-volume historical epic the Baroque Cycle (Quicksilver, The Confusion, and The System of the World), as well as Cryptonomicon, The Diamond Age, Snow Crash, and Zodiac. He lives in Seattle, Washington.


Seattle, Washington

Date of Birth:

October 31, 1959

Place of Birth:

Fort Meade, Maryland


B.A., Boston University, 1981

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Anathem 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 238 reviews.
JDGreenwood More than 1 year ago
My first Neal Stephenson book so I have nothing to compare it to, but I considered it to be quite impressive. The first 1/3-1/2 were very slow and methodical, with a great deal of character and thought development. The rest of the book was much faster-paced and dramatic. I appreciated the inital groundwork that Stephenson established and thought it paid dividends thereafter.

The book is part escapist sci-fi, part philisophical exploration, part human introspection. These happen to all be fascinating subjects for me, so I was hooked.

It is definitely not light reading. I found myself constantly referring to the appendix to remember definitions, and to the timeline at the beginning of the book to aid my comprehension. I read and re-read several excerpts that I struggled to digest the first go-around. But that's my kind of book -- I like to be challenged mentally, and Anathem nailed it.

It was over 900 pages, but I didn't mind -- wished it had kept going. Would have liked to have seen the toils of the "second reconstruction," and further character development of Raz, Ala, Tulia, Jesry, Arisbalt, Lio, etc. as they aged. I'll miss them.

I'm now a Neal Stephenson fan and look forward to reading his other books.
LittleKellyGoose More than 1 year ago
So weird and good. Starts off a little slow, but then I was completely submerged in this world. Loved it!
Beauty_in_Ruins More than 1 year ago
Anathem represents my second encounter with the genius of Neal Stephenson (third, if you count my aborted read of Quicksilver), and I can honestly say that while the reading experience does not get any easier, there is the same sense of satisfaction waiting at the end. More dense, less accessible, and somehow not as interesting as Cryptonomicon, it's a book that almost violently defies categorization. I find it a really difficult book to review. The university-educated, critical reading, spectacle-wearing intellectual who lies deep within me wants to award it five stars for its sheer audacity, limitless depths of esoteric concepts, and laudable efforts to make math interesting. It really is a book to be admired as much for what it sets out to accomplish as for the skill behind it. However, the tired, overworked, long-haired geek in search of entertainment who resides a bit closer to my surface is struggling to award it any more than two stars for the brief, fitful glimpses of story hidden between the concepts. There's a really exciting novella buried here, but it would take an entire concent another millennium to unearth it. More than anything else, I guess my problem is its all just so boring. Plot developments are so few and far between, it feels like the story never moves ahead. There's a lot of talking, a lot of thinking, a lot of writing, and a lot of calculating going on that, quite honestly, I would have been content to have seen left off the page. Yes, it's interesting and, yes, I can honestly say I learned a few things, but they were hard lessons. By the times the aliens actually appear, I'd honestly forgotten that there were aliens in the book, and by the time we get to the revelations about Fraa Erasmas . . . well, I'd stopped caring. It took me nearly a year of on again/off again reading to get through it, and it was more a sense of obligation that kept dragging me back than any real desire to get back into the story. The book never really grabbed my attention, and simply didn't offer my any incentive to keep reading. I feel bad, because there's a nagging voice in the back of my head that keeps telling me I should appreciate it more, but appreciation is not the same as enjoyment, and therein lies the rub.
D-Dawning More than 1 year ago
I read the reviews on this book and figured that I would love it. I like longer books with a lot of detail and subplots. However, this book was just too intense. The main problem that I had was that the first 150 to 200-ish pages you practically have to learn a new language in order to understand the book - and these are words solely for this storyline. It wouldn't have been too bad if I was learning real English words. Once you're finished with the book, you don't need the learned words anymore. Yes, there was a glossary, but who wants to stop reading and look up a word in the glossary literally every other sentence? I think this would have been an excellent book if it were toned down a little. The plot and subplots were actually very good and the book was well written. If it weren't for the constant new words that I had to learn for the story, I probably would have given this book a 4.
LibraBB More than 1 year ago
This is not light reading and there were times during the first few hundred pages where I felt lost in the language and history of the world Stephenson has created here. But at some point, I felt like I was part of that world and the past became my past, the language my language and I became totally immersed in Arbre. I do wonder, particularly later in the book, if I could have understood or enjoyed it as much without my degree in Physics as the subtleties of the various interpretations of Quantum Mechanics play such a central role. I'd place this on my bookshelf beside Foundation and Dune without hesitation.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is quite possibly my new all-time favorite book. I finished it a few weeks ago and have been hesitant to start another book just because I'm still thinking so much about Anathem. It took me a bit to really get into it, the first 150 pages or so were a struggle as I picked up the vocabulary, but it was most definitely worth sticking with and getting into. Math, science, and philosophy are some of my favorite subjects so of course that helped draw me in, but I think even someone not as interested in those subjects could still enjoy the book. I really enjoyed how thorough Stephenson was with everything in the book, and I know it's one I'll read many more times and enjoy each one of them. It's not an "easy read" and probably not a great fit for someone new to hard sci-fi, but it is a great intellectually stimulating book.
JRonning More than 1 year ago
Just finished my second read, because it requires 2 to barely scratch the surface of what is going. The book is a cleverly disguised lesson in Quantum theories. The beginning is an entry course, which defines the terms to be used and introduces you to the world. The middle is a bit more advanced, touching on some complicated theories. The final portion is where it all comes to a head, and the advanced theories are in play. It's difficult, but worth every minute. It's brilliant, and frankly could change how you view the truth of the universe. Should be considered a masterpiece.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I would give the last 200 or so pages of this book four-out-of-five stars. The problem is that there were 500 unnecessary pages before those last 200.
ebaba More than 1 year ago
Neal Stephenson, in this book apparently seems to be doing a whole lot of character building and surrounding description with details that are highly superfluous. This book makes the reader believe that every single descriptor is of utmost importance only to offer the bad taste of having rummaged through the first half finding out finally that many details were not even used in the second half of the book. Having finished the entire book, I saw many loose threads of whole ideas developed up to a point, abruptly ending without any further mention. I felt that I toiled through it all only to be left with a flat taste in my mouth.
Herbivorous More than 1 year ago
Heaping helpings of self-indulgence and interesting digression can make Neal Stephenson books great, but unfortunately this one isn't great. I enjoyed the read, and if you love Neal Stephenson, you'll read this and enjoy it, but it certainly isn't a place to start exploring his stuff. My specific complaints -- as referenced above, the book is too all over the place. Rather than just nodding at various genres, Neal stops to wallow in each. On top of that, I found the characters very thin. If you haven't read Neal Stephenson before, you'd be much better starting with Cryptonomicon, or with Quicksilver, the first book in the Baroque Cycle. You can land here once you've run out of those, and explored some of the earlier stuff (Snow Crash, for example.)
semaj More than 1 year ago
With Anathem, Stephenson has created a well-crafted story with complex characters set in a believable world. This tome is rich with relevant social commentary, engaging philosophy and ontological epistemology. The only major flaw I could find on my first reading has to do with several instances where the authors voice over-rode the voice of certain characters. The characters of Fraa Jad and Fraa Lodoghir were ultimately more wise than their author and this created some odd moments when the wisdom of a millenarian was overwhelmed by the condescension of Stephenson. Be that as it may, it is a very timely and even occasionally brilliant work which should not fail to please anyone who has wrestled with Pythagorean, pre-socratic, platonic, neo-platonic, and aristotelian philosophy as well as that of Kant, Hegel, Whitehead, Wittgenstein and Heidegger. A dose of Theology and Soteriology rounds out the minimum prerequisites.
The world of Anathem is similar to a stage on which Gene Wolfe (Book of the New Sun), Frank Herbert (Dune Chronicles) and Walter M. Miller, Jr (A Canticle for Leibowitz) discuss contemporary events and philosophical trends. A very engaging (and demanding) read. Congratulations Neal!
Guest More than 1 year ago
In the future on the planet Arbre, great thinkers are clustered behind the ¿Concent¿ walls where they control knowledge from the illogical thinking ¿Saecular¿ masses. Preadolescents who show a strong logical ability for rational thought are taken away from the masses to be educated as logical scientists or pragmatic mathematicians inside the cloisters. They learn early on their responsibilities as knowledge is power and knowledge used unwisely is dangerous thus must be coveted and protected.------------ Nineteen year old Raz showed signs of brilliance when he was eight, he was collected to be trained as a muse. He has become a ¿Tenner¿ over his decade plus of intense learning. Thus his time to go outside amongst the low life Saecular is coming an event he is allowed once every ten years hence a Tenner. However, the cloistered soon realizes a pandemic catastrophe from outer space is coming soon. Much of the older Concent members feel strongly that physical intervention is prohibited as they debate what to do. However, teens like Raz and those he associates with have not lost their need for adventure. Foolishly perhaps without adult supervision and some would say in violation of their elders, they set forth to save Arbre.---------- This is a fascinating tale mindful of Gulliver¿s Travels to Laputa, the flying island of scientists and mathematicians. The debates and discussions on history and the upcoming calamity are enjoyable to follow, but can turn tedious as long stretches purposely lack action those behind the walls are reflective thinkers not necessarily doers except perhaps the teens. Fans who appreciate a cerebral science fiction thriller with as much philosophizing as action will want to read Neal Stephenson¿s brillian, interesting but different ANATHEM.------------- Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I highly recommend this book. It is one of those books that you never want to end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. Althought the first few pages can put some readers off because of the heavy use of fictional words and language, once you start understanding what those words mean it's worth it. I've re-read this book at least 3 times now.
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PainFrame More than 1 year ago
What does it mean that you worry so much? I really wrestled with my feelings on this one. It’s clear Stephenson is a talented and imaginative writer, and I’m no stranger to long and complicated books (this one even has story problems!), but the last quarter of this book, especially the end, really left me cold. It saddens me to say this, as I thought the whole social system, philosophy and tech was really interesting, especially the neat bolt, cord, and sphere, capable of many winning combinations. The story has a nice build to it which led my to believe some kind of revelation was coming towards the end - and when it kind of fizzled out, well, it tainted my view of the whole story. I think it can be worth reading, some of the details are great, but I won’t return to this world again.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A great blend of story and science, taking place on a world not entirely like earth.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is awful. Conceited. Self coscious. Do not buy it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
That took six seasons (one had 22 hours to get to 3rd) you cant cram an alternate world into the first half of a book you start easy
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