A few weeks ago I created an homage to Xkcd by evaluating my experience reading Neal Stephenson’s Anathem.

Well, I’m done.

Anathem Reading Experience

Overall, I think Neal Stephenson will be remembered as one of the premier scifi authors of this generation. That doesn’t make his books any easier to read. This one in particular I found to be genuinely amazing in spots and fundamentally boring in others. The concepts he put together in surprising juxtapositions made the story move along and kept me reading but I won’t read the book again.

If you’re new to Neal Stephenson, read Snow Crash and Diamond Age before you read this book. That will ramp you and let you know what to expect (Cryptonomicon is in it’s own special category, less scifi). If you find it hard to get through either of those, do not read Anathem.

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6 Responses to Anathem

  1. Rachel says:

    I loved Zodiac, too! Very readable and different from his other stuff.

  2. Bill Ruhsam says:

    @Rachel: Zodiac was ok. I don’t think I’ll read it again, though.

  3. Listener says:

    I enjoyed a LOT of the philosophy in Anathem, though much like the jail scene in Cryptonomicon it got kind of draggy toward the end.

  4. Bill Ruhsam says:

    @Listener: Your comment reminds me of a conversation I had with my wife immediately after finishing the book.

    I said [paraphrasing]:

    “I didn’t like the 100 pages of philosophy in the middle. You remember that bit in Snowcrash where Hiro was talking to the Librarian for a gazillion pages? It’s like that, but squared.”

    She said, “Oh, you mean that part of the book that I absolutely loved?”

    So, there’s room for people to like this. I just don’t happen to be one of them. This dovetails nicely with my recent posting about Hugo winners (and I’m sure Anathem will be a nominee) because it seems like my taste in novels is not aligning with the taste of the majority of WorldCon voters.

  5. Pingback: The Evil Eyebrow » 2009 Hugo Awards (Nominations)

  6. jeremy says:

    Dead thread, I know, but I was reflecting on a similar thought I had. But, reading a foreward to R.A. Heinlein’s Double Star some years ago, I came across an idea that has informed my reading of subsequent scifi: that good scifi should not only entertain, but also educate.

    So, while it can be hard to wade through NS’s meanderings in books like Snow Crash, Crypto, Anathem, and – most especially – the Baroque Cycle, I think the books are on the whole better for having them. In this case, I think reconciling his brand of the multiverse hypothesis has very profound and cool implications for historical philosophy, and transcribing the likes of Plato, Socrates, Pythagoras etc. into fictional characters like Protas, Thelenes and Adhrakones made it more palatable.

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