Usually when I review a book I spend most of the reading time thinking about how I'm going to review it. Anathem was a little different, I feel like there are alot of things to say and none of them have come together to form a cohesive review in my mind, so I'm gonna start at the beginning and try to get it all down.
Anathem has a rather interesting concept at it's core. Set on a fictional planet called Arbre, the story revolves around 'avout' , monks who live in monasteries for philosophers, scientists, and other intellectuals. Each monastery (which the book refers to as concents) segregates it population into groups that are allowed access to the outside world for a few days every one, ten, hundred, or even thousand years. More than that would really be giving out spoilers.
This book was really, really difficult to get into. The plot took a super long time to take off. I was about 160 pages in before I felt like something was going on. The first thirty pages or so were particularly difficult and confusing.
And then there are the made up words. On a fictional planet far from Earth its absolutely logical to assume they are gonna use different words for stuff, but really? I don't really think most people would notice or care. Stephenson makes up words for EVERYTHING. The whole f'ing thing is littered with them. Every. Single. Page. Whats a jeejah? A speelycaptor? Drummon? Mobe? Ugh... Luckily Stephenson included a glossary in the back of the book. I just wish I wasn't halfway through the book when I found it.
So whats good about this book? When it does take off it does become engaging albeit at a slow pace. Stephenson treats the plot as kind of science mystery crossed with a bit of an adventure story and sprinkled with lots of complex discussions between characters.
Complex discussions you say? Have you ever wanted to read a discussion of the Many Worlds interpretation of quantumn mechanics wrapped in the format of a novel? No? Consider yourself normal, but if this doesn't sound like a total turn off continue reading. This sort of thing is ALL OVER this book. What doesn't help at all with these discussions is that even though Stephenson stayed true to his source materials he swapped out all the important words for his own bullshit ones. Just because theoretical concepts weren't confusing enough already for most people.
Oh and I should also mention this book is freaking LONG. 930+ pages kind of long. In the spirit of this blog its not really epic either. It could have been, but its just not. If you want skull bashing, blood boiling badassery this is not it. But it might make you think if your willing to the effort into it.
General rating 3 1/2
Epic rating 1 1/2