I read Anathem, by Neal Stephenson, primarily because it was sitting on our shelf and my husband said I might enjoy it (although he felt only lukewarm about it). I didn’t really know what to expect, but I expected something more than I got. It is very long, almost 1000 pages, and it actually felt long. The story is science fiction; it takes place in a world similar to Earth but different, one with a longer human history and in which the academics live separated from everyone else, in monastery-like enclaves called “maths”. The premise is unique, but I didn’t feel that Stephenson did as much with it as he could have. He draws on a large variety of ideas from philosophy and physics to construct a complex plot, but he doesn’t go anywhere with it. It felt like a big jumbled hodgepodge of philosophy, like Stephenson was just having fun with himself and trying to pull in as many different things as possible, but without going very deep into anything or taking ideas to their logical conclusions. As the book progressed it felt like it became more and more like a typical sci-fi novel and lost the uniqueness that it started with.
Stephenson’s writing is not bad, but not great. During the action- or dialogue-packed parts I was quite engaged, but I actually got bored during some of the (quite long) descriptive passages. It took me awhile to get into the book as well, as the beginning was not very exciting and I had no idea where it was going. I was also quite annoyed by the way Stephenson made up words that sounded similar to English words and were clearly meant to describe an object or concept in his made up world that was more or less than the same as the concept in our world with the similar-sounding name. I think I get the point, that he didn’t want to use the English word since he meant to imply something that was not quite the same as the English concept, but for some reason it annoyed me and felt neither here nor there.
Anyway, as you can probably tell, I don’t particularly recommend Anathem. I wonder if his earlier work is better.