Anathem is a great listen. It's not perfect but is fun and stimulating. There are some themes that come from the current state of scientific thinking, you will recognize them. This is the "seven in one blow" story with deep thematic underpinnings. If you have no interest in science, history or philosophy, pass this up.
This book was extremely slow at the beginning and the writers desire to use some kind of other worldly vocabulary and historical referencing makes it difficult to understand at times. However, the overall story is good, and I like long books. Once the story finally gets started and the chief conflict is identified, things pep up. Prior to that you often wonder what the point of the story is. The narrator is good (not as good as Pillars of the Earth), and I appreciate one reader as opposed to several.
Overall, I must say that after the slow start, the book held my interest and had me wondering in the shower about what was happening next. It is not a 5 star book, however.
This is my first Neal Stephenson book and I must say, I had to stop listening to it about 1 1/2 or 2 hours into the book. I could not follow what was going on. I may have to start again to see if it is better the second time. I know that it is about 32 hours, but I could not get past the first couple of hours.
Notwithstanding the fact that I would give someone's I-teeth to join a math (where they put science types) and be an Avout (see- science type) ...This touching work comes alive in the narration in more ways than one... and so the Many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics is emraced by the likes of Fra Jad (my hero) as objective reality, or the wavefunction thereof, tests reality in in the many Cosmi. So slog through the foreshadow long clock setup and be prepared for relative state formulations not to mention playing with a semi-universal wavefunction, parallel universes, many-universes interpretation or just plain many worlds as alien's come a knocking. Don't miss this tale of freindship, love (3 stars but what do you want) and good science. In layman's terms, there is a very large perhaps infinite number of Cosmi and everything that could possibly take place has or may have happened in Hem space. It makes a remarkably acessible dance of the Multiverse hypotheses in physics and philosophy as thousanders, religated to thier crags beat the slines (powers that be who thing that evolution, physics, geology and chemistry are "just theories". A story of freedom and other decoherence interpretations made large as Raz and the crew with the help of a starving alien bring balance to a world I would join in a heartbeat. Now where did I put that new-matter bolt?
I loved Snow Crash so much that when Anathem appeared I jumped at the oppoprtunity. I cannot tell you how much I looked forward to hearing this book. I thought "32 hours!" - how wonderful.
I should have stuck with my practice of waiting to commit until I've seen some of the reviews. This was a total waste of two precious credits.
The whole business of the alien vocabulary contributes not one whit to the story and - after two hours into it - I've had enough. 25% of every sentence uttered are these silly made-up words, so you spend so much mental energy trying to figure out what to make of all the gibberish that it's impossible to follow what's going on. He might as well be talking Klingon.
I can't imagine torturing myself for 32 hours with this.
And the narration is nothing to cheer either - most voices sound so similar that you have the further complication of trying to figure out who is talking as well as what the devil they are saying. Contrast that with the narration of Snow Crash ... it's like night and day.
I feel really robbed.
I can understand why other listeners have written bad reviews for this amazingly breathtaking and highly original book. That said it is difficult to listen to before you grasp the language of the book. Struggle through the first couple of hours and I guarantee it smooths over from there and it becomes a book of absolute epic quality.
Like chipmunks, Stephenson's fiction comes with two speeds: bat out of hell or motionless. "Snow Crash" triggered sonic booms from start to finish. There were times I thought I'd need a seat belt to keep from being thrown out of my chair. Better yet, the story was absolutely fascinating.
"Anathem," in contrast, moves at a pace so glacial minutes go by like days. When I gave up after seven hours, only the barest outlines of the central plot (at least I hope it was the plot) had been revealed.
I suppose it's fortunate "Anathem" is set in the very distant future, because I would hate to think of anyone I care for having to learn and endure the hyper-ritualized, pseudo-monastic culture depicted in Stephenson's imaginary world.
The only thing worse than existing in the world of "Anathem" would be having to hear about it for thirty-plus hours. I could not muster the slightest interest in the story line, the thesis, the protagonist, or any of the other characters, most of whom are mere caricatures. "Anathem" is endless form - baroque, arcane and ultimately paralyzingly boring - with little or no apparent substance, though it appears Stephenson has an axe of some sort to grind about Information Technology.
I am sorry I bought the book, and I will be wary of anything else Stephenson churns out in the future.
Waste of a lot of time. Just cumbersome and boring. Don't believe the good reviews. I think people are afraid to admit that they spent this much staying with it! Its bad...just move on. This is the first bad review Ive ever done.
This book, like most of Stephenson's work, is excellent. However, I was heartbroken to start this book up and immediately recognize the same voice that butchered Cryptonomicon so badly. I'm only a few minutes into this one, but he's already managed to make Fraa Orolo sound like Hedonism-bot from Futurama. Given that this book is full of new vocabulary and Mr. Dufris has a history of mispronouncing words (the example of his calling a submachine gun a 'submarine gun' 3-4 times in Cryptonomicon comes to mind) I can only imagine what hilarity awaits.
Other comments say that it starts bad and gets better. Nope. Nine hours in and it just keeps getting worse. Boring. Boring. Thing seem to happen for no reason. I find myself saying, "So what?" "Who cares?" and, "Why?"
This author is mean. He takes cheap shots at people who are mainstream, uneducated, poor, religious, whatever. I don't think it's one of those how-the-main-character-sees-the-world things either. I think he's just a jerk.
The main character is actually believable and likeable, which is a waste because the book is like this:
Imagine walking into a class where graduate philosophy students are talking. They quote arguments named after dead thinkers. They have their own language. But, you can tell that even if you did know what they were talking about, you would not be impressed. Still, they have this haughty attitude like they're smarter than you. (Yeah, yeah, the Hippocratic Oath and Socratic dialogue are good legacies. That's not what I'm talking about). In this book, they're not real dead philosophers cuz it's scifi, but some of them are given similar names that sound like real philosophers. Bored yet?
Oh, then an alien spaceship starts to orbit the planet. Cohesive.