Title: Anathem by Neal Stephenson.
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.