Over the centuries, cities, and governments have risen and fallen beyond the concent's walls. Three times during history's darkest epochs, bloody violence born of superstition and ignorance has invaded and devastated the cloistered mathic community. Yet always the avout have managed to adapt in the wake of catastrophe, becoming out of necessity more austere and less dependent on technology and material things. Erasmus, however, has no fear of the outside - the Extramuros - for the last of the terrible times was long, long ago.
Now, in celebration of the week-long, once-in-a-decade rite of Apert, the fras and suurs prepare to venture outside the concent's gates - opening them wide at the same time to welcome the curious "extras" in.
During his first Apert as a fra, Erasmus eagerly anticipates reconnecting with the landmarks and family he hasn't seen since he was "collected". But before the week is out, both the existence he abandoned and the one he embraced will stand poised on the perilous brink of cataclysmic change.
Powerful unforeseen forces threaten the peaceful stability of mathic life and the established ennui of the Extramuros - a threat that only an unsteady alliance of Saecular and avout can oppose - as, one by one, Raz's colleagues, teachers, and friends are all called forth from the safety of the concent in hopes of warding off global disaster.
Suddenly burdened with a worlds-shattering responsibility, Erasmus finds himself a major player in a drama that will determine the future of everything - as he sets out on an extraordinary odyssey that will carry him to the most dangerous, inhospitable corners of an unfamiliar planet...and far beyond.
©2008 Neal Stephenson; (P)2008 Macmillan Audio
This author has an unbelievable ability to tie together so many different threads of culture, language, life, philosophy and science... and to do so without any of it seeming trite, or incomplete.
This is a VERY COMPLICATED story. It is tremendously interesting, clever, deep, and very engaging. I often felt stunned/floored by the complexity of the world that was imagined here... the detail, the completeness... I can't fathom what it must be like to have a mind capable of imagining the ridiculous (and I mean that in the best possible way) quantity of amazing ideas contained in this story. .. and then to be able to convey them in a thoroughly coherent, convincing, and engaging way for over 30 HOURS... !
Neal Stephenson, you are my new favorite author. Thoroughly impressed... and thoroughly smitten by your characters.
Oliver Wyman, your skills in narrating this story cannot be understated... as much as the story itself was a work of genius, your narration was truly an inspired performance. You breathed life into a strange world, and into so many characters, using so many different voices -- you made listening to this book a special experience that raises the bar for all narrators everywhere.
Phenomenal exploration of an extreme version of the relationship between science and society. As usual for Neal Stephenson, it's also chuck full of technical and scientific speculation based on real science. I highly recommend it.
This book is by far one of the best things I have read in a long time, probably since the last Neal Stephenson book I read. The story takes place in an monastery of an alien world where the inhabitants spend their very long lives pondering the great questions of the universe. The young protagonist Erasmas is forced to his home after strange occurrences that his mentor and father figure was investigating. He takes part in an adventure around his planet, traveling to other sects of monasteries with clashing views on all that you could possibly believe or see. Neal Stephenson does a fantastic job at putting well developed philosophical ideas, science, mathematics, astronomy, and beliefs in this adventure that really define and develop the characters throughout the book. One of the most intelligent books you can find in the science fiction section. I highly recommend this book.
The audio production was great and Oliver Wyman blew me away with the vocal performance. I cannot imagine any other voice for Fraa Erasmas. The chapters start with mesmerizing chants that take place within the book and it really makes listening to the audiobook an experience. The only complaint I have is in the beginning is a list of dates and events that would be a good as a reference to turn to while reading the paper book but does nothing when it is read to you before understanding the setting.
Early on in this book I regretted my decision to start it. The made up language tried my patience and really added nothing to the story. But the story is what forced me to stick with it, I do however admit to zoning out a bit during the lengthy philosophical debates. Overall I think it's a great book and I won't deduct stars for things that personally annoyed me.
This book builds an Earth-like world and then explores certain interesting ideas of theoretical physics and philosophy. The comparisons with our world are fun: Stephenson's fiction is brainy and absorbing, as in his earlier books. Some of the characters are excellent. The jargon is a little annoying in audiobook form, but mostly works on Latin puns and is sometimes enjoyable that way.
I gave the performance a three mainly because I find some of the principal reader's habits and inflections irritating after several hours. This is the second long Stephenson novel I have listened to with him. The little snippets of music are great, though.
Retired Marine Chief Warrant Officer; just trying to heal up all that's been broken these last 22 years and enjoy my family and workshop.
This is my first of Neal's books and I'm profoundly captured. I enjoyed this as much as a Gaiman, Folett, or Helprin. I'm going to roll right into another. Neal develops not Characters so much as a deep backdrop world that develops the characters. It is subtle because it is intertwined with an entire new vocabulary exclusively organic to the storyline; you continue to have that development swell as the story reveals itself. That is the better definition of a story: a sculpture of stone rather that the building of layers as might be found in a painting. In the former, Neal works the stone by removing stone to reveal the finished piece within..... That takes a special talent that we find more scarce these days and I've had to go back for 2nd and 3rd reads of classics just to have something worth reading or listening too. That's not the case here and I'm looking forward to my next of his works.
I tried. I tried my hardest to listen to this book. The made up words destroyed it completely. it's almost like a merflunkle was used in the backmackling. Dr. Suess can get away with this but not many others.
If my friend was a real scifi fantasy nut with the ability to absorb extensive "world building", yes.
The variety of voices made this slightly less confusing.
The first 1/3 of this book was a struggle for me and I had to keep coming back to it. This involved total world building, and lots of technobabble, and I had a tough time getting into it. After that 1/3 was slogged through, though, I started to buy in to the characters and enjoyed the novel overall.
I really hung in there, through the first 10 hours or so, wondering why we were listening to the daily routine of what sounded like a scription of monks in an alternate universe set in an alternate dialect. It did finally begin to ramp up, only to peter out feebly at the end. Very interesting theoretical content, but the delivery was long and stale...
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