Neal Stephenson - Anathem

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Neal Stephenson - Anathem

Postby Minerva » Fri Feb 22, 2008 3:00 pm UTC

To be published in September 2008.

http://www.amazon.com/Anathem-Neal-Step ... 026&sr=8-1

http://grettacook.livejournal.com/46696.html
"It's set on another planet and has aliens and so on. It's really about Platonic mathematics, but he needed the aliens and space opera-ish elements to spice it up a little bit, just like the pirates kept people engaged in the Baroque books. He's nearly finished writing it, and if he doesn't finish by the end of the calendar year he'll have to give some money back. If everything proceeds according to schedule, it should be available in stores in about a year."

I'm eagerly waiting :)
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Re: Neal Stephenson - Anathem

Postby b.i.o » Fri Feb 22, 2008 7:38 pm UTC

I'm looking forward to it! :D
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Re: Neal Stephenson - Anathem

Postby crummett » Mon Feb 25, 2008 9:09 pm UTC

Any idea if this will continue the adventures of the Waterhouses, the Shaftoes and Enoch Root, or is it a standalone story?

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Re: Neal Stephenson - Anathem

Postby theamberkey » Tue Feb 26, 2008 12:07 pm UTC

Ooooh.

For serious? Stephenson's writing a space opera?

Excuse me while I go reread every single one of his books in an orgasmic frenzy.

Also, Crummett, had you read the blog post in question, you would know that the new book is unrelated in any way to the timeline of the Baroque Cycle et al.
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Re: Neal Stephenson - Anathem

Postby bananarchy » Tue Feb 26, 2008 7:38 pm UTC

w00t!! I ought to be able to finish reading the Baroque Cycle by then :mrgreen:
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Re: Neal Stephenson - Anathem

Postby oro » Wed Feb 27, 2008 7:21 pm UTC

theamberkey wrote:Ooooh.

For serious? Stephenson's writing a space opera?

Excuse me while I go reread every single one of his books in an orgasmic frenzy.


I am pretty sure that he didn't characterize it as space opera per se, though he may have said that it had some elements of space opera.

(I hope this doesn't diminish your orgasmic frenzy of reading, though.)
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Re: Neal Stephenson - Anathem

Postby bbctol » Thu Feb 28, 2008 1:55 am UTC

Crap! I still need to read the Baroque Cycle before it's too late!
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Re: Neal Stephenson - Anathem

Postby bananarchy » Thu Feb 28, 2008 3:40 am UTC

theamberkey wrote:Ooooh.

For serious? Stephenson's writing a space opera?

Excuse me while I go reread every single one of his books in an orgasmic frenzy.



Assuming you have relatively human reading speeds, that is going to be a fairly lengthy orgasmic frenzy. Which is the best kind, I suppose.
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Re: Neal Stephenson - Anathem

Postby Morphing Ball » Fri Feb 29, 2008 2:28 am UTC

I only recently read Cryptonomicon and I haven't even started on the Baroque Cycle. There are other books to read as well. It will be a while before I catch up with Stephenson.
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Re: Neal Stephenson - Anathem

Postby VectorZero » Thu Apr 03, 2008 1:06 am UTC

There are no other books.

(I'm supposed to be studying for my surgical exams. Having a few thousand pages to get through just makes it all the harder to pick up a physiology textbook.)
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Re: Neal Stephenson - Anathem

Postby taarnling » Thu Apr 03, 2008 2:29 am UTC

VectorZero wrote:There are no other books.

(I'm supposed to be studying for my surgical exams. Having a few thousand pages to get through just makes it all the harder to pick up a physiology textbook.)



Do you mean to say that Cryptonomicon and the Boroque cycle are the only things that Stephenson has written? Or are you saying that they are the only things worth reading?


Mainly though: Holy Cows! A new Neal Stephenson book! I think I've read everything out there and I've been terrified that there wouldn't be any more. Now I know there will be at least one more. Huzzah!
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Re: Neal Stephenson - Anathem

Postby theamberkey » Thu Apr 03, 2008 6:39 am UTC

taarnling wrote:
VectorZero wrote:There are no other books.

(I'm supposed to be studying for my surgical exams. Having a few thousand pages to get through just makes it all the harder to pick up a physiology textbook.)



Do you mean to say that Cryptonomicon and the Boroque cycle are the only things that Stephenson has written? Or are you saying that they are the only things worth reading?


Mainly though: Holy Cows! A new Neal Stephenson book! I think I've read everything out there and I've been terrified that there wouldn't be any more. Now I know there will be at least one more. Huzzah!

My guess is that VectorZero is referring to the works of Stephenson as a whole, referring to an obsessive mindset that good author seem to induce.

Simply because it would be ludicrous to not lump in The Diamond Age and Snow Crash in there. The others, not so impressed.
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Re: Neal Stephenson - Anathem

Postby taarnling » Thu Apr 03, 2008 5:21 pm UTC

Ahh, now there is an interpretation that I didn't think of, that Stephenson's books are the only books that exists. That makes more sense.
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Re: Neal Stephenson - Anathem

Postby VectorZero » Fri Apr 04, 2008 2:08 am UTC

theamberkey wrote:
taarnling wrote:
VectorZero wrote:There are no other books.

(I'm supposed to be studying for my surgical exams. Having a few thousand pages to get through just makes it all the harder to pick up a physiology textbook.)



Do you mean to say that Cryptonomicon and the Boroque cycle are the only things that Stephenson has written? Or are you saying that they are the only things worth reading?


Mainly though: Holy Cows! A new Neal Stephenson book! I think I've read everything out there and I've been terrified that there wouldn't be any more. Now I know there will be at least one more. Huzzah!

My guess is that VectorZero is referring to the works of Stephenson as a whole, referring to an obsessive mindset that good author seem to induce.

Simply because it would be ludicrous to not lump in The Diamond Age and Snow Crash in there. The others, not so impressed.


I have nothing to add to this :)
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Re: Neal Stephenson - Anathem

Postby theamberkey » Fri Apr 04, 2008 7:26 am UTC

taarnling wrote:Ahh, now there is an interpretation that I didn't think of, that Stephenson's books are the only books that exists. That makes more sense.

I see your possible sarcasm and raise you a literal interpretation. 8)
VectorZero wrote:I have nothing to add to this :)

I see your nothing and raise you... yeah, ok, I really am not going anywhere with this.
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Re: Neal Stephenson - Anathem

Postby zombie_monkey » Mon Sep 15, 2008 2:13 pm UTC

I finished it. It is very, very good. And goofy in that nice Stephensonish kind of way. I will say more after I've slept on it, maybe.
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Re: Neal Stephenson - Anathem

Postby wery67564 » Fri Sep 19, 2008 12:54 am UTC

Started yesterday and am halfway through, I cannot recommend what I have read so far more higly. This seems to be very "xkcd" if not for the fact that that it deals with such abstract thoughts about science, god, beauty and technology.

BUY IT!!!!
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Re: Neal Stephenson - Anathem

Postby Minerva » Fri Sep 19, 2008 11:11 am UTC

mmm, finally got it today.

940 pages... and it's hardcover!!
Aww yeah.

You have collected the +999 Big Heavy Book of Bludgening Stuff With. Seriously, this thing is considered a lethal weapon in thirteen states.
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Re: Neal Stephenson - Anathem

Postby Briareos » Wed Oct 01, 2008 9:19 pm UTC

I thought it was excellent, but then I liked all of Stephenson's books. My only question -- I couldn't figure out
Spoiler:
"monyafeek." My French is pretty good, but this one escaped me. Is it a poor transliteration of "magnifique"? I think that Jules uses it as an adjective the first time, even though it's quickly adopted as a noun.
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Re: Neal Stephenson - Anathem

Postby dudegalea » Wed Oct 01, 2008 10:14 pm UTC

Yes, "monyafeek" is "magnifique".
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Re: Neal Stephenson - Anathem

Postby just john » Thu Oct 02, 2008 4:54 pm UTC

I read it last week.

<subgenius>.. and I give it twelve thumbs up!</subgenius>

Seriously, I was looking forward to it, having heard about it just after re-reading his Baroque Cycle. <pro_wrestling>I totally mark out for Stephenson.</pro_wrestling> His book with his uncle, The Cobweb taught me a valuable lesson on a tactic of corporations.

With Anathem, I was expecting a cross between the Foundation Trilogy and Riddly Walker. (There was a nod to a subject raised in the same author's Pilgermann, tiling problems.) But it was more like The Name of the Rose (English translation thereof) mixed with the feel of Podkayne of Mars.

This is one of the first times I've been tempted to do an audio recording of a book's text (w/accompaniment.) Specifically, of that first description of The Book ...


And the made-up words and name substitutions? "The Steelyard" for "Occam's Razor"? Not just standard for science fiction (and like the Baroque Cycle, this is sf also because it talks about science so much,) but part of the plot. (Again, like Riddly Walker.)
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Re: Neal Stephenson - Anathem

Postby aetherson » Fri Oct 03, 2008 8:19 pm UTC

I enjoyed the book as a whole.
Although sometimes the way that it's written, from Erasmus' perspective but more detached...well it got cumbersome. Yes, I realize that it allowed for Stephenson to color the narrative from the perspective of a young mathic monk. That wasn't the issue. I just felt like I did when I read some of Heinlein's books where a specific character's whole purpose is to preach at me. (yes. i know. literary device)
On the whole though, engaging read. It also presented some of the more interesting "many worlds" theorems in an easily understandable way.
Although, the "Hylean Theoric Way"...is this a rename of present day theory/ school of thought like "Occam's Razor"/ "The Steelyard"?
01001101 01100001 01100100 01100101 00100000 01011001 01101111 01110101 00100000 01001100 01101111 01101111 01101011 00100001
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Re: Neal Stephenson - Anathem

Postby HotSake » Sun Oct 05, 2008 6:02 am UTC

Although, the "Hylean Theoric Way"...is this a rename of present day theory/ school of thought like "Occam's Razor"/ "The Steelyard"?


Basically the Platonic realm: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Platonism. Not exactly present day...
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Re: Neal Stephenson - Anathem

Postby Sulla158 » Tue Oct 07, 2008 11:46 pm UTC

I read it, liked it. I always like how Stephenson books have a good world and story and then a bunch of random, interesting facts thrown in for good measure.
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Re: Neal Stephenson - Anathem

Postby Sorroth » Sat Nov 08, 2008 5:59 pm UTC

I absolutely loved this book. I have always enjoyed the way Stephenson always seems to fill his books with both a compelling plot with interesting characters and a whole load of science. Cryptonomicon was to cryptology as Anathem is to epistemology.

Also, I find it hilarious that there's an isolated, secretive sect of people who are good with technology, and that without them the clock that is the centre of the math's community would basically collapse.

EDIT: I've found a list of the sort of references Just John mentioned : http://anathem.wikia.com/wiki/Arbre-Earth_Connections
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Re: Neal Stephenson - Anathem

Postby GabrielF » Sun Dec 14, 2008 12:16 am UTC

I've gotten into the habit of calling my iPhone a jeejah.
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Re: Neal Stephenson - Anathem

Postby Snoof » Sun Dec 21, 2008 7:14 pm UTC

Bought it, read it in three days. I will admit the descent into quantum mysticism irritated me a bit, but the rest of the book was so good I was willing to forgive Stephenson. I figure I'll come back to it in a few months and read it again with a fresh set of eyes, and marvel at all the stuff I missed the first time through.
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Re: Neal Stephenson - Anathem

Postby FiddleMath » Mon Dec 29, 2008 12:13 pm UTC

Given that, I am about to make real and interesting decisions about the direction of my career, the discussion around page 414 regarding personal narrative made me sit and think for quite some time and reexamine my motivations.

Reading the collected Sandman shortly afterwards only amplified this.
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Re: Neal Stephenson - Anathem

Postby Axman » Thu Feb 05, 2009 10:38 pm UTC

Fun so far. Taps an interesting source very, very close to the Myst fiction. I mean, it's a coincidence, right?
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Re: Neal Stephenson - Anathem

Postby lira_riu » Tue Feb 10, 2009 2:17 pm UTC

I read it in two days in January. At first, I thought to myself, "Stephenson, you're confusing me with all these made up words!" But after a couple chapters I couldn't put it down, and ended up doing nothing but reading for those two days. I'm not sure if it was glorious or depressing (doing nothing for two days), but I sure liked the book.
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Re: Neal Stephenson - Anathem

Postby Turambar » Wed Feb 11, 2009 1:27 am UTC

lira_riu wrote:I read it in two days in January. At first, I thought to myself, "Stephenson, you're confusing me with all these made up words!" But after a couple chapters I couldn't put it down, and ended up doing nothing but reading for those two days. I'm not sure if it was glorious or depressing (doing nothing for two days), but I sure liked the book.

Heh, same. It took me several chapters before I got used to the weird words. And then I promptly started trying to use them whilst playing Scrabble. They're catchy, that's for sure.
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Re: Neal Stephenson - Anathem

Postby Dibley » Sun Jun 07, 2009 12:58 am UTC

I was wondering about the quantum stuff. Can anyone who knows a bit more about it give an assessment of how full of shit he is?
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Re: Neal Stephenson - Anathem

Postby netcrusher88 » Mon Jun 08, 2009 1:28 pm UTC

The polycosm in Anathem comes from the many-worlds interpretation, although the HTW and probability "flowing" from cosmos to cosmos is new or at least separate. It is extremely popular in science fiction because it creates fun possibilities involved in shifting between cosmos, worlds, or universes depending on the author. Probably not the answer you were looking for.

Is there an English equivalent for the term planing in Anathem? I can't think of one and I've taken to using the term because sometimes it just fits.
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Re: Neal Stephenson - Anathem

Postby Dibley » Mon Jun 08, 2009 7:13 pm UTC

What I mean is, is it remotely plausible? I'm used to Stephenson being pretty good at Doing The Research, but I was somewhat suspicious this time.

As for planing, I rather liked that too, even though he was inconsistent with the spelling (I think he used "plane" "planing" and "planned", though it might have been "planning"). Anyway, I've heard "demolished" used in the same sense, but I like his word better.
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Re: Neal Stephenson - Anathem

Postby zombie_monkey » Tue Jun 09, 2009 8:26 am UTC

Stephenson tends to confuse overly literal-minded poeple, no offense intended. He often blends tall tales and antique but quiaint views and sticks them in a modern view-setting. It was the same in Snow Crash, where people complained about Sumerian as NLP. IIRC there was some stuff about bicameral minds in some of his book(s) too. You should try reading some New Wave and more avant-garde SF.
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Re: Neal Stephenson - Anathem

Postby Nath » Sun Jul 19, 2009 8:46 pm UTC

I just finished this. Fun, but ultimately somewhat disappointing. Neal Stephenson has really great ideas, but unfortunately he doesn't seem to be a very good writer. Plot and character points came out of nowhere, as if he made them up as he went along. Descriptions were long and tedious, and at the end of it you still didn't have a mental picture of whatever he was trying to describe.

I shouldn't complain too much, though, since I did end up enjoying it. It became a lot more fun when I realized that he wasn't really trying to make a real philosophical point. The many worlds stuff was basically being used as Star Trek-style technobabble; he went in to so much detail not for the sake of the plot, but to show off how much research he did :).
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Re: Neal Stephenson - Anathem

Postby zombie_monkey » Sun Jul 19, 2009 9:14 pm UTC

Nath wrote:Neal Stephenson has really great ideas, but unfortunately he doesn't seem to be a very good writer. Plot and character points came out of nowhere, as if he made them up as he went along. Descriptions were long and tedious, and at the end of it you still didn't have a mental picture of whatever he was trying to describe.

I guess that was my point, what you described there is ultimately a mater of taste, perception, and personal manner of reading. :) I find is descriptions interesting and I don't find them long and tedious; and about unexpectedness of plot and character points, I'm really interested about why you felt that way? I mean that in a very friendly way, I am interested in your opinion because you have expressed opinions I value in other threads.
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Re: Neal Stephenson - Anathem

Postby Nath » Sun Jul 19, 2009 10:47 pm UTC

I'll use Suur Ala as an example, though most of the other characters suffer from similar problems.
Spoiler:
She abruptly went from being a minor background character to Erasmus' main romantic interest with no lead-up whatsoever. She was retconned to have the slightest hint of a personality (i.e. she says 'obviously' a lot and looks at people pityingly but affectionately :)). She was evoked, for reasons that were never made clear. (Can you really imagine a bunch of people in suits getting together and deciding that the best way to get large operation organized was to ask an 18 year old academic to do it?) It was then revealed that she had started a liaison with Jesry -- which could have been an interesting twist, if Jesry wasn't equally underdeveloped. That plot thread was conveniently abandoned (apparently Stephenson didn't care any more than I did), and she got back with Erasmus just in time for a 'and they lived happily ever after' ending.

I can't think of a single emotional action that didn't seem forced or out of character. It's like he wrote everybody as an unemotional robot, and then went back and made them hug and/or cry occasionally.

As for the length of the descriptions, sure, that's a matter of taste. Actually, I don't think the length was what really bothered me; it's the fact that I couldn't form mental pictures of many of the things being described. I still don't have a good picture of what Saunt Edhar's looks like; I don't know how many buildings it has, how big the tower is, how everything is laid out etc. Of course, it's possible that he answered all these questions and I simply zoned out, but that doesn't say anything complementary about his skill as a writer (or, to be fair, my skill as a reader :)).
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Re: Neal Stephenson - Anathem

Postby zombie_monkey » Mon Jul 20, 2009 10:28 am UTC

Hm, well it didn't seem that abrupt to me... I guess I like filling in details myself. That applies both to character development and architecture and worldbuilding in general. I like to be given hints and fill in stuff myself, if it fits, I like the book, if it doesn't fit, that usually means the author did some assumptions that seems trange to me; with Stepehson most stuff fits, with some minor things when it comes to romantic relationships I guess.
Spoiler:
(Can you really imagine a bunch of people in suits getting together and deciding that the best way to get large operation organized was to ask an 18 year old academic to do it?)

This is an example of something that seems out of place, but when you attempt to imagine the background of why someone would do that, actually tell us something about the world; I see this as the proper way to convey the worldbuilding that he did for the book. I don't want to be told what the world is like, I want to deduce it from the description of the action.
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Re: Neal Stephenson - Anathem

Postby Nath » Mon Jul 20, 2009 9:35 pm UTC

I agree with you about wanting to fill in the details; it would be dull to have pages of stuff like, "The tower was 60m meters tall. There was a garden shed 18m north-north-west of it". I think the problem was that he went into too much detail to let me fill in the blanks on my own, since they had to be consistent with all his details. For instance, he'd describe in great detail some of the individual components of a building, but it'd be hard to fit them all together in my head if I didn't know how big the building itself was. Contrast this with someone like Terry Pratchett, whose descriptions tend to be a lot briefer, but let you form a picture in your head precisely because they aren't bogged down by unnecessary detail. The end picture in your head might differ from that in the author's, but they both work just fine for the purpose of the story.

As for the Ala thing, what does that tell you about the world? I can see no logical reason for that to happen. I like deducing things about the world, sure, but that doesn't mean speculative fiction writers are exempt from having to create logically consistent worlds.
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