Monday, Nov. 03, 2008

Anathem by Neal Stephenson

There is only one kind of novelist left who takes seriously the idea that complicated intellectual ideas can be the basis for an enthralling narrative. That is the science fiction novelist. In order to write Anathem Stephenson created an entire planet from scratch, a world in which mathematicians live in monastic cloisters, sealed off from the chaos of the secular world, except in times of dire, disastrous need. With this setting at his disposal Stephenson stages a visceral and even moving thriller driven by philosophical and quantum-physical theories about alternate universes. It's a scheme that makes considerable demands on the reader, and returns even greater rewards.