Book de jour – ‘Anathem’

This one’s really more of a ‘livre de bois’ (‘Prententious? Moi?’). Given how little time I have to read, I probably wouldn’t have tackled Neal Stephenson’s latest doorstop if I haven’t read – and loved – Cryptonomicon. Because I’ve also read – and not loved – the Baroque Cycle (that’s two months of my life I’ll not get back…) I was ambivalent about Anathem, but it was an Xmas gift, and I started it in the holidays when I knew I’d have more time.

I’d say my time was well spent. I can’t remember the last time a book so comprehensively took me to new and alien places – though not so alien that we can’t relate to them, which is part of his genius. Journeys like this are one of the reasons I read SF. Having said that, the journey does meander a bit; with my ‘craft head’ on I suspect Mr S outlines his world meticulously then lets the plot just happen. Also, I probably shouldn’t admit it, but I got a little lost round about page 865. Up until then I didn’t pretend to know what was going on, but I was happy to be along for the ride. Then the ride turned out to actually be a toboggan run, or possibly a car crash and …

Yes. Not sure about the ending.

Overall verdict: magnificent if ultimately incomprehensible to us lesser mortals. Beloved has just started it, and he’s a trained mathematician, so I’m rather hoping he’ll be able to explain the ending to me some day.

2 Responses to Book de jour – ‘Anathem’

  1. hampshireflyer 1 February 2010 at 6:30 pm #

    I really wasn’t sure what was going on from the point they went up to the place I won’t mention to spare readers who haven’t read it yet… but the first half is brilliant. Although I wish we’d been able to find out a bit more about what the other cataclysms had been…. fair enough if the characters can’t know, but we can!

    • JaineFenn 1 February 2010 at 10:57 pm #

      I know what you mean, but not knowing the full history – whilst having the impression the author probably did – was one of the things that added depth to the book.

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