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Anathem

Length: 32 hrs and 25 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (304 ratings)

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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

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    3 out of 5 stars
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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.

3 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.

1 person found this helpful

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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!

1 person 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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Love this.

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

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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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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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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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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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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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  • SpiderGrrl
  • 08-10-19

I love Neal, but Good lord... ugh!

I love Neal Stephenson... Snow Crash, Necronomicron, Diamond Age, The Fall, Reamde, etc... But getting through the first hour of this thing was a labor of love...and like pulling teeth. The completely ridiculous "other earth" lexicon slathered all over the entry text...? The *constant* descriptive extrapolations in every dang sentence (see above: weaving in of intentionally 'obscure' world refs... But oh wait!! Lol, there's literally an intro that tries to insult you into overlooking that -- "if you don't like to figure things out for yourself, let me explain all the terms and the world they are extracted from... it's not Earth..." yada yada yada. Seriously.. there's an into saying that. Wtf Neal, seriously.

9 people found this helpful

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  • K. F.
  • 02-07-20

Unbearable

I think I'm about 45 minutes into the book. The narration so far has consisted almost entirely of fetishistically detailed descriptions of labyrinthine architecture, occasionally interspersed by technobabble that is mostly composed of made-up words and is mostly incomprehensible. There are also occasional excerpts from a fantasy dictionary, read by a different guy who has no business recording anything. I assume that some sort of plot develops at some point but don't think I can force myself to stick it out that long.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Cory
  • 26-01-18

Probably My Favorite Book

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes, but with reservations. I had already read Anathem in paperback form years ago and wanted to revisit it as a performance. The audiobook is well done, but it is a very, very complicated book (Stephenson basically invents his own language, along with 7,000 years of fictional history). The physical book itself has a dictionary for reference, and a clear timeline of the world's history, which are invaluable resources while making sense of everything. The audiobook makes it more difficult in that regard.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Anathem?

I don't want to spoil anything, so I'll just say: the dialog.

Which scene was your favorite?

Messel. Intense speculative analysis.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

This book literally changed my ideas about the nature of consciousness and cosmology.

Any additional comments?

This is one of the best speculative fiction novels ever written. The only real choice you have is whether you want the audiobook or the paperback. Or both. I own both and I don't regret either purchase.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Yehuda Gilead
  • 21-04-20

A literary Masterpiece with an Amazing production!

This one is a book for intellectuals with flexible minds. It is so intimate with the reader it tingles. I drew an additional portion of fun having read other Stephenson’s books before. This way, you — dear reader — will have more insight and deeper connection with the genius author. Recommend!

4 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 28-07-20

Pretentious failure to bring on the intended state imho

This book has no serious issues. It is well written, nicely narated albeit a bit to slow gor my taste. However it is not your usual epic sci-fi story with lots of tech and or otherworldly species. It tries to bring on the “feel” of a different type of civilization by twisting words and their meaning enough to be different but not as is required to be familiar, thus creating an effect of “differenceness”. Additionally it mixes various dialectics which apparently in that world caused earth shattering conflicts and shaped civizations. The problem with this, is that these specific dialectics do not carry such power, for even the casual reader of true philosophy, This brings me to the last thing about this book: It tries to present a number of worldviews and systems of thought and philosophies in a very naive and shallow way. If I wanted to learn philosophy I ‘d read Aristotle and Kant and if I wanted a basic science instruction I’d pick up a science book, if I wanted to etymologize and do wordplay, I’d get a book on those things. I wanted sci-fi and so I picked this up, but the “dose” was not strong enough it had all those other things in there. In the end I do not think that presenting a mosaic of philosophy using slightly twisted words and imaginary dialectics brings on the intended state. Instead I was left wondering if the author was simply trying to present us with a display of how many words he knows well enough to manipulate and how many philosophical concepts he can encompass into a narration. In the end, the means of this work has obliterated the goal.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Jude
  • 20-06-20

Could not stop until the end

A very imaginative description of the truth. Well written and narrated. Perfect balance of logistic science and spirituality.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Evan Jones
  • 13-04-20

A little lengthy but really gets moving at the end

I enjoyed this book quite a bit. It is, however, quite lengthy. I found myself irritated at the speed (or lack thereof) at which things moved sometimes but it is worth it.

2 people found this helpful

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  • jeremiah
  • 18-02-20

Hard Audiobook to read

I’ve got over 200 audiobooks and this is one of 3 that I never finished... until now, years later. The story and narration was so bland and hard to get into via the audio format. So, I borrowed a paper copy from a friend after he praised it (and reviews were good) and followed along the audio reading with reading the pages.. and finally the book took on a clarity that was lacking with only audio.. some of the concepts of the book just came out cleaner with visual aid of the words... so enough of that; Excellent book, great world... some vagueness and a rushed ending it seemed a whole additional book could be written of equal length to summarize the outcome of the convex and ————- of Saint Orolo. Maybe 700 years later ;-). -Good like writing a sequel Neal!!

2 people found this helpful

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  • JG
  • 14-11-19

Are the high ratings a viral prank?!

Gave this a good effort, but found it impenetrable - at least in audio. The worst part was the language creation/use and being lost for a reasonably large percentage of many sentences. Might have been different if being read, but I'm not going to give this any more time. Indeed, it felt soooooo good when I quit. Thank You Audible for accepting the return. The high ratings are baffling. At one point I thought those must be some kind of viral prank/hoax - perhaps intending to lure others in as a joke! Sometimes a great narrator can save a story- not here, since narration is flat, at best, and with hard-to-describe annoying inflections driving the last nail into this literary coffin.

2 people found this helpful

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  • T
  • 07-05-20

good listen. always enjoy some Stephenson

narrator was good. enjoyed the story, characters and views of philosophy and theology and how these can change. Reminded me loosely of A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr.

1 person found this helpful