21 May 2009

Anathem by Neal Stephenson

Anathem by Neal Stephenson took me a bit to get into; the author presents a non-Earth world called Arbre with a new vocabulary, social structure, and cultural norms in such a way that one must immerse in it or walk away.

Anathem will reward Stephenson fans, as it requires a devotion to complex plots... and a bit of tolerance. The first few chapters are slow going. But it is worth one's while to get through them. The device of having avout, a type of quasi-monk who lives a life focused on learning rather than worship, learning the secular world via their interactions with the populace provides a graceful way of explaining the secular world without too much tedious exposition. As an example, Simone, a technologist of Arbre, becomes more understandable as the plot advances, and the main character, Ras of the avout, gains an understanding of the world around him.

Having slogged through the opening chapters, I was rewarded by the story that unfolded. This book at this point is my favorite read of 2009. And unless George Martin finishes up A Dance with Dragons or Neil Gaiman comes out with a new masterpiece to surpass the Graveyard Book, I fail to imagine a contender that might take its place.
"The greatest difficulty, for one such as you, shall be, not completion of the given tasks, but instead the humiliation and uncertainty that arises from not being able to know the entire plan. These emotions can hamper you. You must simply decide now, either to proceed with the awareness that the entire plan might never be revealed to you, and, were it revealed, might have obvious defects; or to turn away and allow some other person to occupy [the place] that has been alloted to you." Fra Osa of the Vale
Also available, hear and see Neal Stephenson read an excerpt from Anathem.

Some fans were even so inspired as to create a trailer for the film of Anathem. Not that tehre is a film version of Anathem, at least not in this version of reality we're in (or this narrative, as Fra Jad would say).

The World of Anathem


Someone said...

I read somewhere that the trailer was produced by Stephenson's publisher. Apparently trailers for books are not uncommon now, though Anathem was the first I had seen