Review: Anathem

Jacob Allred

I just finished reading Anathem by Neal Stephenson a few days ago. At 960 pages, this was a pretty hefty book and took a few weeks to read, but the read was well worth it.

Anathem is a hard book to describe without ruining the reading experience. I was fortunate enough to read it while having absolutely no idea what it was about, but I’ll give you a pinch of info on it. The book takes place on another world, similar to Earth and populated with beings similar to humans. The author has created several words that are different enough to help you remember that you aren’t on Earth, but close enough to the words you already know that you won’t have to keep a special dictionary handy to look the terms up.

The people of this world, Arbre, and divided into two major groups: the Saecular (the normal everyday people) and the Mathic (the unusually smart scientists). The Mathics are interested in expanding and preserving knowledge, whereas the Saeculars are interested in the same things we are (fast food, cell phones, work).

The two groups get along fine most of the time, and the beginning of the story is mainly character development and new-world acclimation for the reader, but suddenly and (to me at least) unexpectedly, a plot twist is thrown in. Just when you start to get used to the twist, BAM! You find out the twist isn’t what you thought it was.

Anyways, I don’t want to ruin it for you in case you decide to read it. It is a pretty good deal at only $19.77 at Amazon for a 960 page hard cover.