Friday, October 30, 2009

Anathem by Neal Stephenson

Somehow, despite hearty recommendations from friends, I had never read anything by Neal Stephenson. I even went so far as to buy Snow Crash a few years ago, but it's sat unopened on my bookshelf.

So it might seem odd that my first Stephenson book was Anathem, but I forgot to pack a book for a trip, most of the books in the airport bookstore were unappealing, I recognized Stephenson's name, and it was a nice long paperback.

I would say I was impressed by Anathem, but "impressed" is not really the right word: blown away was more like it.

Anathem is intellectually rigorous without sacrificing any entertainment value. I won't spoil the plot, but I will tell you that this book will give you a basic understanding of concepts like many-worlds, the quantum mind, directed acyclic graphs, Platonic realism, configuration space, and the "long now". In many ways, this novel is like a mix of the intellectual rigor of Eco, the world creation of Tolkein, the social variety of Vance, and the epic storytelling of Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series. Although some people will surely find it excessively didactic, rest assured that this is excellent modern hard science fiction.