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01 October, 2009
Book Review: Anatham by Neil Stephenson
Fraa Erasmus is a young Avout living in the Concent of Saunt Edhar. The concent is a sanctuary for academics. Where mathematicians, scientists, and philosophers are able to come up with their theories while being protected from the secular world by stone towers and walls. The cities and governments around the concent have changed through the ages, and always the avout have been able to survive. However, as Fraa Erasmus and his fellow academics prepare for the upcoming rite of Apert, where the cloistered academics may leave the walls of the concent for the first time in ten years, he finds his heart torn. Erasmus is faced with seeing the family he was taken from as a young boy, and is challenged to remain a part of the academic life he has grown into.
However, unknown to Erasmus and the other members of the Concent, there are things happening outside in the secuelar world that will change the Concent and the life Erasmus knows so well. Suddenly the secuelar world calls for the help of the academics, and Erasmus and many other academics are called forth from the Concents all over the world. For there has been a sighting of a ship orbiting the planet, and it is not known if these newcomers are friends or foes. But will the academics be able to solve this problem that they are faced with? Or will they not be able to keep their world from being destroyed by an unknown race?
I've been a fan of Neal Stephenson's books since I first read Snowcrash many many years ago. However, I had a hard time with this book. It wasn't the focus on hard science rather than computers. It wasn't the fact he went from the more cyberpunk plot to a fantastical world of monastaries and cloistered academics. It had a little to do with all the alternate words used for names of places and items and events.
The biggest hindrance that I had with the book was all the length to the build-up of the setting. It felt like when the plot finally started to turn to the events driving the story that it was almost an afterthought
Once events actually started happening, I really enjoyed the book. But it seemed drawn out and overly lengthy. Also, I "read" the audio version of the book. This is a multi-cast recording, this recording also features a cameo by the author and original music inspired by the story. Unabridged, it was almost 38 hours long.
I believe that Neil Stephenson is a very gifted author, and look forwards to his future works. But I was a little dissapointed with this one.