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
Like many of the other reviewers, I had a hard time at first following along to what was going on. I think I listened to the first 2 to 3 hours of the book 3 times before continuing with the story all the way through. Once I did, I found this to be one of my favorite Stephenson reads. Like many of his other books, the author throws a lot of scientific/philosophical/historical dialogue at the reader, and for many this is a bore. For me, however, this is where Stephenson shines. If you like Stephenson and are put off by the learning cure, push past it. If this is your first encounter with him, perhaps something more accessible from the get go (snowcrash or the diamond age) would be a better place to start.
I am the type of listener who prefers the longer epic tales. This book is complex, interesting and humorous with an invented vocabulary that you have to get use to. Once I got use to the flow, I realized how smart and funny the novel is. Quite a few of the dictionary definitions made me laugh out loud.
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.
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