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
Word of warning: skip the front matter. There is a long history of the world, as well as an explanation of how stuff is pronounced at the front that it was a bad idea for them to put at the front of the audiobook version.
I was all set to give up on this book for about the first 30 minutes. It seemed boring and the reader was very slow. Fortunately, I was at the gym with nothing else to listen to, so I persevered, set playback speed to 1.5x, and ended up loving it.
Another word of warning: this book is not for everyone. It is set in what is essentially a "monastery for scientists" in an alternate universe. It is a fairly good example of "Hard Science Fiction" i.e. all the stuff that happens is mostly feasible within our current understanding of physics. If you think listening to people have conversations about science/philosophy is interesting, this may be the book for you. Otherwise, it probably isn't.
The excessive use of the fictional language made it very difficult to get through this book. I am sure that I missed important elements in the storyline while "zoned out" as the narrator trudged through endless monologues.
My first Stephenson experience was Snow Crash which was enjoyable but didn't leave me looking for more of his works.
A friend enticed me to give Stephenson a second chance by describing Anathem as "you think it's fantasy and then it turns out that it's science fiction." I'll entice you by saying I couldn't put it down and the world of the book has invaded my brain. I think the only cure will be to download everything else that audible has from Stephenson.
Female, Military Background, Mother, Wife. Enjoys Science, Medicine (in particular viruses and diseases).
This is everything I love about sci-fi. I wanted the story to continue forever. The ending was very satisfying. If there were loose ends, I didn't pick them up or care about them. I cared about the characters, and the dialogue wasn't as painful as other reviewers made it out to be. Via context and similar Latin roots, the words were pretty easy to figure out. The dictionary entries are not that annoying, in fact, I rather enjoyed them. Put all of that together and the cake is delicious, the fact that I am a chamber choir and Gregorian chant fanatic provided the frosting. Well done!
Voice acting a book as complex as Anathem is never easy, but in this case was done exceptionally well. Done with much love for detail and subtexts. Done with an ear for the very different voices each character must have if you want to do the text justice.
If you love science and good storytelling you will enjoy this book. The way it weaves a narrative of deep thoughts about the multi-cosm, quantum theory, consciousness and many others is exceptional and very rare.
Once the story got going this book was pretty darn good. It's a fun thought experiment, and it really works out your brain.
I do suggest skipping the first chapter with all the explanations as I don't feel they are necessary.
Hang in there past the first 12 hours or so because that is where things really start to get good.
The fantasy is strong, it is well grounded and well narrated, the world is believable and characters are lovable.
Anathem is unique! It is a very well written fantasy but could be a well researched text book. Not many flaws in the logic, in such a high fantasy I can only compare it with Harry Potter.
Narrators have done a great a great job.
It is extremely well researched on a wide array of subjects, seeing excerpts about many complex but real technical details in the middle of a fantasy was interesting.
I think the author has vandalized his own work, after writing a masterpiece he has used "Search/Replace" menu (an ITA term) and replaced otherwise perfectly fine words with some random words, and in the process even managed to switch the meaning of some well established words with something counter-intuitive. Inventing new words is fine, fantasy even requires that, but changing a word to mean something else is evil. I get it, it is supposed to be from another world, but imagine someone translated Tolstoy to English but flipped the meaning of words, then I would seek a sane translation!
It was a bit difficult to follow at first. After a couple of hours I fell right into the book. Stephenson tackles metaphysics and conscious ideas in a beautiful dialogue.
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