Monday, October 27, 2008

Book 0: Anathem

Title:  Anathem by Neal Stephenson.

Pages: 937

How was it obtained:  Online from Barnes and Noble.

Time spent on the "To Read" shelf:  About 2-3 days.  That's why it is Book 0--I owned it and started to read it before my challenge came to mind.

Days spent reading it:  Around 3 weeks.

Why I read it:  Honestly--The cover looked really, really awesome.  So I read the inside flap and thought it sounded interesting.  I have read Neal Stephenson before (Snow Crash, The Diamond Age) so I thought I'd enjoy reading another.

Brief Review:  Ok, this book was huge.  My first comments would have to be, Neal Stephenson needs a real editor.  This book needed to be about 300 pages shorter, maybe even more.
Stephenson drops you into a world called Arbre.  It is similar, but disimilar to our own.  The first 175 pages are spent dropping new words and vocabulary as if Stephenson was speaking a foreign language I was supposed to understand.  Once I got acclimated to his language, the book became a fairly good read.  Stephenson is prone to talk about esoteric ideas, and integrate them into his plot as if they make sense.  Maybe Stephenson is smarter than I am, but I spent a good part of the book saying, "That's sounds interesting, but I don't understand the point."
When Stephenson was actually moving the plot along, instead of having two or three of his characters in a strange Dialog about these bizarre ideas, the book was really cool.  It would be difficult to give a synopsis of the plot without having to explain a billion terms, but the general idea was cosmological theoreticians are assembled to figure out how aliens have arrived at the planet Arbre.  Great and strange events follow.  A good overview is given here on the wikipedia page made for Anathem.  
Not for the faint of heart at 937 total pages (45 being appendices), but not a waste of time for the dedicated.  One of the things I love about sci-fi is an author's freedom to explore interesting ideas about religion, politics, science, etc. without having to fit into a set of rules.  Stephenson definitely exploits these freedoms to their max.  I don't regret reading it, but if I had known how difficult it was going to be, I might not have started it.

Favorite quote from the book:  "Do you need transportation?  Tools?  Stuff?"
"Our opponent is an alien starship packed with atomic bombs," I said.  "We have a protractor."

Stars:  3.5 out of 5.

The Final Word:  Extensive.


Angela said...

i like the quote. I don't even know the context, but its funny.

You've inspired to to do something similar...who knows when I'll get around to it though.

Elizabeth said...

You are a good reviewER. :-)

Ben said...

It sounds like the sci-fi version of The Brothers Karamazov.. (don't tell Nate I said that)