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5 Minute Review: Anathem by Neal Stephenson

Anathem is the first Neal Stephenson book I’ve ever read, but after finishing it I’d like to read more. I think I’ll need to wait at least a month, though, to give me time to digest the ideas presented in Anathem.

Narrated by Erasmus, an Avout* living on the planet Arbre, Anathem is an exploration of consciousness. It explores the idea every possible/plausible organization of particles exists, and that these states of existence are tied together by consciousness into narratives. Or something like that. In addition to getting me interested in Stephenson’s other work, reading Anathem also makes me want to read up on quantum mechanics.

The story is fascinating, but it’s not what I would call a page-turner, and it’s quite long. I read it on the iPhone Kindle app, and often found myself wanting to flip back to earlier in the book to confirm some detail of the story, but the Kindle app isn’t built for that.

If you like to think about consciousness, and enjoy emerging yourself in speculative worlds, Anathem is a great read.

*An an Avout is someone who adheres to the Discipline. You’ll learn what these words mean when you read the book.

Update: The Amazon page for Anathem has two great videos of Stephenson: one of him reading from the book, and another of him giving an introduction to the story.

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