Anathem by Neal Stephenson
Reviewed by GGGinny
What I drank: White wine. And honestly, I think I need to pour another glass of something to talk about this piece of shit book that stole like three weeks out of my life (while also living a happy life and reading probably 10 other books).
Fraa Erasmas 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 outside “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 violence born of superstition and ignorance has invaded and devastated the cloistered mathic community. Yet the avout have always managed to adapt in the wake of catastrophe, becoming out of necessity even more austere and less dependent on technology and material things. And Erasmas 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 fraas and suurs prepare to venture beyond the concent’s gates—at the same time opening them wide to welcome the curious “extras” in. During his first Apert as a fraa, Erasmas 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 brink of cataclysmic change.
Powerful unforeseen forces jeopardize 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, Erasmas and his colleagues, teachers, and friends are summoned forth from the safety of the concent in hopes of warding off global disaster. Suddenly burdened with a staggering responsibility, Erasmas finds himself a major player in a drama that will determine the future of his world—as he sets out on an extraordinary odyssey that will carry him to the most dangerous, inhospitable corners of the planet . . . and beyond.
Drunk Overview: Fraa (which means brother) Erasmus lives in a concent (aka convent) that focuses on the philosophical study of math. (pause to poor beer because I ran out of wine) Basically something funky is going on and the world outside of the convent needs smart people (aka nerd) assistance. Did I mention this book is over 900 pages long and I’ve basically described what happens up to page 300? Our main character goes on an escapade with a whole group of people and some how aliens…
Drunk Thoughts: HOW DID THIS BOOK MAKE ALIENS AND MULTI-VERSES BORING???!??!!!!!!
- Some background. i read Seveneves by Neal Stephenson and thought it was a fascinating book. So I was excited to try something else
- AND I WAS WRONG!!!!!!!
- God this book sucked
- First off, there was no need for this book to be 950 pages long.
- It read like Victor Hugo and the guy who wrote Moby Dick decided to get together to write a book.
- there were so many details that were completely unnecessary.
- And the style this was written in just didn’t mesh with me. The whole “this is written for posterity” was introduced early on but didn’t made the mind-numbingly boring conversations any easier to deal with.
- Next up. There’s like a total of three women in this book.
- you’re writing a sci-fi epic almost 1,000 pages long and your female characters are mostly: Sister, love interest, love interests best friend, and like three other women, at least one of whom is mentioned mostly out of sexual interest from other male characters.
- I know this book was written in 2008, but really, what the fuck?
- That being said, there were some characters that I came to care for, but I don’t think they were the characters I was supposed to love…. Like, I didn’t really give a shit about the main character. His love interest had little character beyond “IMPORTANT,” and Erasmus’ mentor was such a generic “smart old man” that when he SPOILER died, I really didn’t care.
- But there were also SO MANY people to track. Every few hundred pages, new people were being introduced, and while I can give a brief stereotype to maybe 10 different characters, that’s not nearly enough to actually give you an idea about the cast.
- The idea to have a group of the youngins to act as the audience stand it was nice.
- It was still irritating when “let me teach you things” speeches happened. (although the book did include a few explanations as footnotes and those were incredibly helpful if you give a shit about math – I read them and liked them, but they weren’t necessary to understand what was going on).
- There was also a whole lot of certain characters directly not sharing information, which could make sense from a plot device but felt more like “hahaha I’m old and smart and you dont’ need to know this shit because hahaah I ‘m old and smart and will take care of it”
- LOOK when it comes down to it this book actually had some really interesting theorys and a plot that could have been so much fun.
- But after hundresd of pages arguing the difference between what is known being physical versus metaphysical, it makes it really hard to care.
- Again, teh plot was, eccentric person from a hermitage (functionally) gets sent on a wild chase to try to find the person who contacted aliens from a “different narrative” (aka universe) and bring them to the group of people who are trying to figure out how to communicat with ssaid aliens, before using the multi-verse to send warnings to said aliens about how to avoid negative outcomes. and somehow that became boring.
- Even the parts where a group of characters were in space became a little bit boring because this book was so involved in the nitty gritty that sometimes in couldn’t seem to see the whole plot!
- Again, the world was FASCINATING. There’s a history involved in this book about a small organization using math and science to advance farther than anyone outside of said organization could understand.
- And all of these wars and arguments beetween the outsiders and those in a concent.
- And the technology that was used both inside and outside had these fabulous connotations for what the rest of the world was like.
- And We learned about different orders of this mathic structure (some that were more on teh austere side and ones who practiced these intricate rituals, and others that lived in luxury).
- There was so much in this book that could have been interesting.
- But NO we need pages long philosophy about whether or not there is value in worrying/ measuring the potential for unlikely things becoming true and being worried about.
- Clearly I’m angry about this book (again, it was over 900 pages), but that’s mostly because there was so much in this book that could have been good.
- And the ending fit with that perfectly.
- It’s hopeful and all, and fits with teh math worlds focus on creating things that will outlive the individuals, but god how frustrating.
What it Pairs With: I looked up complicated drinks and there’s one called the Commonwealth that has a total of 71 ingredients. And Sure, that works. This book is overly complicated so you can’t enjoy any one part and just wish that the whole had been more satistying.
Rating: 1.5/5 this book is the definition of wasted potential.
2 thoughts on “DRUNK REVIEW: Anathem by Neal Stephenson”
Your Victor Hugo/”Moby Dick” comparison caught my attention the most. Damn.
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Thanks! I usually go through a book or two a week and this one took nearly a month. What a whale.
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