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Anathem cover art

Anathem

By: Neal Stephenson
Narrated by: Oliver Wyman,Tavia Gilbert,William Dufris,Neal Stephenson
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Summary

Fraa Erasmus is a young avout living in the Concent of Saunt Edhar, a sanctuary for mathematicians, scientists, and philosophers, protected from the corrupting influences of the "Saecular" world by ancient stone, honored traditions, and complex rituals. 

Over the centuries, cities, and governments have risen and fallen beyond the concent's walls. Three times during history's darkest epochs, bloody violence born of superstition and ignorance has invaded and devastated the cloistered mathic community. Yet always the avout have managed to adapt in the wake of catastrophe, becoming out of necessity more austere and less dependent on technology and material things. Erasmus, however, has no fear of the outside - the Extramuros - for the last of the terrible times was long, long ago.

Now, in celebration of the week-long, once-in-a-decade rite of Apert, the fras and suurs prepare to venture outside the concent's gates - opening them wide at the same time to welcome the curious "extras" in.

During his first Apert as a fra, Erasmus eagerly anticipates reconnecting with the landmarks and family he hasn't seen since he was "collected". But before the week is out, both the existence he abandoned and the one he embraced will stand poised on the perilous brink of cataclysmic change.

Powerful unforeseen forces threaten the peaceful stability of mathic life and the established ennui of the Extramuros - a threat that only an unsteady alliance of Saecular and avout can oppose - as, one by one, Raz's colleagues, teachers, and friends are all called forth from the safety of the concent in hopes of warding off global disaster.

Suddenly burdened with a worlds-shattering responsibility, Erasmus finds himself a major player in a drama that will determine the future of everything - as he sets out on an extraordinary odyssey that will carry him to the most dangerous, inhospitable corners of an unfamiliar planet...and far beyond.

©2008 Neal Stephenson (P)2008 Macmillan Audio

What listeners say about Anathem

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

The best of the lot (not just Neal, books!)

I'm not going to bury the lead: the moment I finished this book I went straight back to the beginning and started again. I don't think I've ever done that before. oh, and I also then ordered a physical copy, cos I wanted one. This book has cemented Neal as my favourite living author (No one will ever replace Sir Terry).
I was initially put off, by some of the negative reviews about early pacing and the narration, and so 'worked my way up' to Anathem, I have never been so wrong. I loved this book from the start. I admit the preamble was a little offputting, as I didn't know if it was in-universe, but after that... I was just there. There was no opening action scene but every sentence, about the purportedly dull life of the avout, prompted questions about the world that I just needed to find out. fake spoiler: you do get answers (mostly) but you earn them and they come as a genuine reward while prompting more questions about the story you just read.
I understand the negative comments about there being too much philosophy/science but this is Neal, what did you expect? He introduces real philosophical questions in a way that is both accessible for the uninitiated but also fun for those of us who are familiar with it. if it's new: you learn stuff, if not: its a fun game of guessing what the reference is.
This is the best world building since Lord of the Rings (book) or Avatar: The Last Airbender (obviously the series) and it somehow manages to be a more complete world than The Baroque Cycle while being about 1/4 of the words.
This book has wormed it's way into my head and hasn't left. I cannot recommend highly enough.

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35 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Better read it

Great novel however because of the multitude of new words created and the large number of alien names it is sometimes hard to follow the vocal narration. It might be better to read this one as to allow an easy referencing of previous information.

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22 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Incredible

Stephenson at his best. Was slow to try it as had read reviews suggesting it was over-complicated and slow. Not at all! I'm an avid fan of the author's other works but Anathem stands out as the most satisfying, well rounded story I've read/listened to by him yet.

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9 people found this helpful

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Excellent original science fiction

One of the best new science fiction books I have read. Has genuinely interesting discourses on the theory of mind and quantum interpretations and cosmology.

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8 people found this helpful

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Good Long Listen

Very long! Great story, loved the journey. little disappointed on the ending to be honest.

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6 people found this helpful

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stock with it

loved it but it did take me a while to stick with the world. as an audiobook it's difficult to stick with events that creat this world but it's an excellent book and deserves the awards and accolades it got.

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4 people found this helpful

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great book

a great listen! some fun ideas on what a different world might look like

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3 people found this helpful

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Love this.

Love the story. The performance. Everything. I want to live in a Mathe on Arbe.

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3 people found this helpful

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Thought provokingly intense

Slow to start but gripping nonetheless. a mastery of philosophical thought and storytelling. This story manages to induce emotion and logical thought in equal measure asking you to further ask more questions about the mysteries inherent in the universe.

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    2 out of 5 stars
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Hmmmmm

I normally love Neal stephensons books. This one left me wishing it was over! The last 3 hours was incredibly disappointing and there were sections I think I zoned out during!

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3 people found this helpful