ANATHEM by Neal Stephenson

Book Quote:

Anathem: (1) In  Proto- Orth, a poetic or musical invocation of Our Mother Hylaea, which since the time of Adrakhones has been the climax of the daily liturgy (hence the Fluccish word Anthem meaning a song of great emotional resonance, esp. one that inspires listeners to sing along). Note: this sense is archaic, and used only in a ritual context where it is unlikely to be confused with the much more commonly used sense 2. (2) In New Orth, an aut by which an incorrigible fraa or suur is ejected from the math and his or her work sequestered (hence the Fluccish word Anathema meaning intolerable statements or ideas). See Throwback.

Book Review:

Reviewed by Ann Wilkes (MAY 01, 2009)

In Anathem, “concents”  with cultures similar yet underlying philosophies opposite to our convents and monasteries dot the world of Arbre. The concents cloister adherents with a religious devotion to scientific theory from the outside world and its “saecular” ideas. From the saecular world’s point of view, the fraas and suurs stay in their concents, without technology, to protect the outside world from scientific advancement in dangerous areas. They must work on their scientific theories without benefit of any hardware or software to develop new technologies.

Just as our hero, Fraa Erasmus and his friends prepare to graduate to the next level of their vocation, Erasmus’ mentor, Orolo, detects something strange in the night sky. Then Inquisition representatives lock down the starhenge, which houses the telescopes, and banish Orolo from the concent.

Risking detection by the hierarchs and the Inquisition, Erasmus and his friends try to piece together what little intelligence they can gather, including a recording taken by a telescope that he sneaks into the starhenge to remove.

Once it becomes clear that the object in orbit isn’t of their world, Erasmus and his co-conspirators are sent out of the concent to a “convox” of fraas and suurs from across the planet.

“The bells of Provener flipped switches in my brain, as if I were one of those poor dogs that Saunts of old would wire up for psychological experiments. First I felt guilty: late again! Then my legs and arms ached for the labor of winding the clock. Next would be hunger for the midday meal. Finally, I felt wounded that they’d managed to wind the clock without us. “

The action and intrigue begins well into this complex, 900 page tome. Expect to read 160 pages of world building and description before the plot begins to unfold. If you can handle tutelage in quantum mechanics, alternate realities, geometry, philosophy and history as a foreign exchange student to this world of Arbre, you’ll be rewarded with a masterfully orchestrated plot full of culture, religion, politics, intrigue and mind-bending scientific speculations with characters that will remain with you for days. And in case it gets a bit much, Stephenson provides dictionary entries along the way and a full glossary in the back of the book.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-0from 329 readerss
PUBLISHER: William Morrow (September 9, 2008)
REVIEWER: Ann Wilkes
AUTHOR WEBSITE: Neal Stephenson
EXTRAS: Excerpt Wikipedia in-depth page on ANATHEM


The Baroque Cycle


Written as Stephen Bury (with his uncle J. Fredrick George):

May 1, 2009 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: Speculative (Beyond Reality), y Award Winning Author

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