I’ve finished Anathem, and I’m happy to report that it’s not just Hogwarts with math. There’s a whole lot of other stuff going on in there, and it’s fun. You have to like Stephenson’s style, and you have to enjoy learning and thinking about a whole new planet. Luckily, the planet is based on principles of cultural evolution familiar to anyone who has studied the history of technology, media, and religion on planet Earth. So it’s not too hard to understand what’s happening.
Another fun thing about the book is that it plays with language, introducing Orth (the language of the characters). Instead of forcing the reader to learn Orth, Stephenson chooses words from Latin, French, and English roots. There is a fair amount of wordplay at play, which is fun for someone like me who enjoys words.
Finally, I’m pleased to tell you that Neil Stephenson has finally solved his “ending like a crash test” problem. The end of the book ties up enough and sets up enough of a future for the characters that you feel satisfied. The love interests even manage to get married, which might be taking things too far. I mean, Neil, come on, really… were you just trying to cynically give the critics everything they asked for, just to mess with their minds?
As I mentioned before, Anathem is a book that panders to its audience. If you are not in it’s audience, it will turn you off. If you are in it’s audience, you’re REALLY in it. I’m in it. Are you?
PS: Here’s a nifty marketing thing from the book’s publishers: