You don’t mind spending an hour or two on a Neal Stephenson novel, do you? OK, so Anathem is slightly over a thousand pages long…but it’s not much over a thousand. I mean, it’s not as long as Cryptonomiconwhich clocks in at 1168 pages.

Anathem is definitely worth reading, but let’s face it, you’re not going to finish it in an hour or two — nor is the book quite as spectacularly good as Cryptonomicon. Read it anyway, and it will repay your close attention. I can’t pretend that it will be a quick read, as it is quite complex and intellectually abstract. Nevertheless, it’s clearly a work of science fiction, not a philosophical treatise, so don’t be intimidated. And don’t give up after the first hundred pages just because it’s difficult.

One reviewer describes Anathem as “a novelization of Gödel, Escher, Bach” — not literally, but as a characterization of how it feels. If I had read that review ahead of time (something I try not to do), it would have been a selling point for me, but I can understand why it wouldn’t be for everyone. I’m not going to tell you the plot — in fact, I can’t tell you the plot — but it is heavily philosophical, mathematical, and linguistic. What could be better?

As I said, read it! Trust me, you’ll like it.



Categories: Books