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Sneak Peek At Neal Stephenson's "Anathem" 140

Shawn M. Smith writes "Neal Stephenson (Cryptonomicon, The Baroque Cycle) has a new novel coming out in just a couple weeks — Anathem. Boing Boing has an excerpt from the amazing glossary (including a definition for 'bulshytt') so take a peek at a copy of an abridged glossary of neologisms and language-bending goodies from the book."
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Sneak Peek At Neal Stephenson's "Anathem"

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  • by SputnikPanic ( 927985 ) on Friday August 22, 2008 @03:58PM (#24711025)

    Amazon has a 12-page preview and a short video segment with Neal Stephenson here []

  • Uhhhh (Score:1, Insightful)

    by malkir ( 1031750 )
    This guy used way too much energy
  • Hope (Score:3, Funny)

    by spykemail ( 983593 ) on Friday August 22, 2008 @03:59PM (#24711041) Homepage

    I hope it's as good as Snow Crash!

    • I was wondering where Snow Crash was in the summary :(

      • I'm a little ways into reading Snow Crash right now and am lukewarm about it. It may be because I've encountered some of the concepts in the book before, and encountering them in print 16 years too late is making them seem more dated than they would have been in 1992. I haven't read any of Stephenson's books before and was wondering, does it get better? How does it compare with his other books, like the ones mentioned in the summary?
        • Re:Hope (Score:5, Informative)

          by FiloEleven ( 602040 ) on Friday August 22, 2008 @05:11PM (#24712015)

          Depends on who you talk to. Since I'm responding, I'll say that Snow Crash is a fun romp with some cool ideas. I like it, but I know lots of people who are very "meh" about it, and after 3 readings the shine is wearing off for me. For a book with a somewhat similar flavor but a much, much more interesting world, check out The Diamond Age. That is my favorite Stephenson book.

          Cryptonomicon is probably his best book, a must-read for geeks, and the best place to start if you're not afraid of 800+ pages. Where else will you find modular arithmetic explained in the narrative through a bent spoke and dented chain link forcing Alan Turing (who is keeping track in his head) to stop every X*Y pedal cycles to adjust it and keep the chain from falling off? You'll get a pretty polarized set of opinions on that one, and the usual non-endings (which you have yet to experience!) apply. Still a mighty fine slice of culture, if I do say so myself.

          • Snow Crash is fun, but it's a bit on the immature side. Both The Diamond Age and Cryptonomicon are superior.

            The Baroque Cycle is more ambitious than any of these, but has serious issues.

            • Snow Crash is fun, but it's a bit on the immature side. Both The Diamond Age and Cryptonomicon are superior.

              The Baroque Cycle is more ambitious than any of these, but has serious issues.

              Pretty much agreed. I actually liked Zodiac too. In fact, I liked everything except the Baroque Cycle books, which I found boring. About 300 pages into the first book I realized that nothing had happened, and there are only so many times that hearing about how scientists back in the day used to drink quicksilver can amuse.

              • I forgot Zodiac. It was great fun, but not exactly deep.

          • I agree with you about 'the diamond age', it is one of the most interesting pieces of near future sf written in a long long time.

            Those are the books that serve as inspiration for a generation of scientists and technology people and I really hope to see some of it's visions realized during my lifetime.

            The main attraction of snowcrash was the 'street', the whole neural assembly language thing (with all the 'evidence' to support it) was a creative tour the de force but nothing that links with reality.

        • by Yokaze ( 70883 )

          My personal view:
          Snow Crash - Fun, when Matrix wasn't a movie (or at least had no sequel) and computers weren't so mainstream, that you could identify yourself with hacker-rebel / cyberpunk attitude.

          The Diamond Age - In some way the anti-thesis to Snow Crash (no more cyber-rebels), in other ways the continuation (fragmented society). In my eyes a better depiction of what globalisation and nanotechnology can mean (E.g. Socially, not locally separated societies, a reevaluation of the worth of resources (like

          • My personal view: Snow Crash - Fun, when Matrix wasn't a movie (or at least had no sequel) and computers weren't so mainstream, that you could identify yourself with hacker-rebel / cyberpunk attitude.

            There is a page in snow crash where Stephenson describes the feds in detail. Anonymous guys in suits with secret service style ear pieces. I reckon the agents in the matrix are derived from the feds.

            Compare the experience of YT's Mother being interrogated by the feds with Neo being interrogated by agent smith.

        • by zobier ( 585066 )

          Chapter 36, Paragraph 1.

  • by ilovesymbian ( 1341639 ) on Friday August 22, 2008 @04:00PM (#24711051)

    Maybe I cannot understand this, but why can't people just speak regular plain old English? Doesn't the adage "Caesar cannot change English" apply anymore? This is bulshytt!

  • Hmmm.... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Otter ( 3800 ) on Friday August 22, 2008 @04:01PM (#24711059) Journal
    For people wondering whether this book was going to be breathtaking like Snow Crash or excruciating like the Baroque books -- apparently it's going to be more like Quicksilver-meets-The Silmarillion. I'm thinking this is at best a "Wait to get it from the library" book.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      I've got my hold placed already and I'm looking forward to getting my hands on it. I'm re-reading Cryptonomicon right now and I very much hope that Anathem represents a returning to form for Stephenson.

      I slogged through most of Quicksilver before a busy time at work gave me the excuse I needed to put the book down. There was some particular quality to the writing in Cryptonomicon -- I can't quite put my finger on it, but it seemed to be missing from Quicksilver. For instance, there's this passage in Cryp

      • Re:Hmmm.... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by samkass ( 174571 ) on Friday August 22, 2008 @04:23PM (#24711313) Homepage Journal

        I read all 3 Baroque books, and I don't know why but I found them immensely entertaining while everyone else I know stopped somewhere in the first book (which in subsequent publications was itself turned into 3 books). They were like a kid's serial novel from the 1800's or something. Like reading an entire narrative based on all the "150 years ago in Scientific American" sections. The only thing that frustrated me about the books at all was not knowing whether I actually knew any accurate history after reading them, since large portions of the events and characters are fiction with enough reality thrown in to make it interesting. (Kind of like some of the Illuminatus Trilogy that way.)

        • Agreed. I loved the Baroque Cycle. I'm hoping that I'll find another 6 months to read through them all again someday.
        • Re:Hmmm.... (Score:5, Interesting)

          by radarsat1 ( 786772 ) on Friday August 22, 2008 @04:36PM (#24711471) Homepage

          I felt the same way. I absolutely loved reading the Baroque Cycle books, I couldn't put them down. Now I'm reading that lots of people didn't enjoy them, which is too bad, but I really found them, if not profound, then really fun to read.

          Particularly the last book, when he got into the history of economics, which I found both fascinating and entertaining. It felt like I learned a lot, maybe not about factual history, but about the history of how people have thought about things like money and politics, and how this history might have affected how we currently think about these things.

        • I totally agree. The trilogy really didn't pick up until the second book, and then it got really great. And I too went away wondering if I knew any accurate history after reading them.
        • by kochsr ( 144988 ) *

          i am reading the baroque cycle right now (in the middle of the confusion) and i am finding it very intruiguing.

        • I always wondered if the book having more words then are necessary, and having Baroque in the title, was some kind of sick, elaborate joke that no one gets but him.
        • by Cyberax ( 705495 )

          So? Just fire up your browser, navigate to [] and check the facts.

          I actually liked it in Baroque cycle.

      • Re:Hmmm.... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by iplayfast ( 166447 ) on Friday August 22, 2008 @04:32PM (#24711429)

        While I agree that the Baroque Cycle trilogy was a more difficult read then Cryptonomicon I felt that it stood on it's own as a good and accurate historical fiction.

        I thought that describing the diseases available at the time was interesting. We get kidney stones, they get bladder stones, which do not pass and will kill you.

        The scene where Westinghouse is going through the flea infected rooms during the plague in order to pick up some experiment for Robert Hook was really creepy. (You could hear them ticking off your boots...)

        Yes there was more to digest, and didn't have as much action/adventure it did have a fair share.

        How about the intelligence test, where they were trying to get through a country. They were taken to the side one by one and shown a gun. If they knew what the gun was, they were immediately drafted into that countries army. If you were intelligent you would feign ignorance and be rejected for use in the armed forces.

        There was a lot of good stuff in those books. You just can't read them over a weekend.

        • There was a lot of good stuff. Unfortunately, it was intermixed with about 750 pages of completely tedious stuff.

      • There was some particular quality to the writing in Cryptonomicon

        What worked on Cryptonomicon is that you got to know and feel for the characters. I too slogged through Quicksilver that had all the life of a card board box. I didn't bother with the rest.

        I have read most of his other work and Cryptonomicon is his best work.
      • Re:Hmmm.... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by VoidEngineer ( 633446 ) on Friday August 22, 2008 @06:13PM (#24712825)
        You didn't get to the Confusion, where Jack sails around the world and gets all the gold. That's the heart of the story and where the plot really starts to pick up and get interesting. The Baroque Cycle is one of those rare trilogies where the second book is probably better than the first. And without doubt, Quicksilver is merely a setup so everybody can get to where they need to be.

        You just didn't read enough into it.

        p.s. There was soooo much going on in those first 500 pages that you have no idea about because you didn't finish the trilogy. If you get to System of the World, you'll be going back-and-forth between all three books, cross-referencing journal entries and passages, trying to figure out where all the gold is. I won't give spoilers, but there's a lot of hidden information in those first 500 pages, which is part of why it's so dry. Most encrypted messages require some additional material to obfuscate with. :)

        That being said, Baroque Cycle is definitely his most sophisticated and challenging read. It may well be his War and Peace.
        • by spevack ( 210449 ) *

          The Baroque Cycle is probably my favorite set of novels, period. I've read the entire trilogy 3 or 4 times now, and I *still* notice new things each time through, new passages that I enjoy, and plot foreshadowings and connections spread throughout the books.

          It's impossible to absorb and appreciate it all in one reading. That's both good and bad, depending on what sort of reading you want to do.

        • by PCM2 ( 4486 )

          If you get to System of the World, you'll be going back-and-forth between all three books, cross-referencing journal entries and passages, trying to figure out where all the gold is.

          No. No I will not, because that would imply that I still gave a shit after slogging through the unholy tedious mess that is Quicksilver. It will also be difficult to cross-reference given that I ritually burned my copy of Quicksilver after finishing it, and fed it to the neighbor's cat.

          That being said, Baroque Cycle is definitely his most sophisticated and challenging read. It may well be his War and Peace.

          In the sense that most people who start it will never get past the first couple of sections, and when they ask somebody what's so great about it their friend will explain that they really should have read Anna Karenina instea

      • by Shihar ( 153932 )

        Quicksilver is probably the slower of the three books. That said, I think it takes a certain personality trait to really appreciate the whole Baroque Cycle. The books are a little slower, but, in my opinion, more than make up for it with exceptional action, interesting politics, and an absolutely fascinating look at the philosophical changes taking place in that time period.

        Things like Snow Crash and (to a slightly lesser extent) Cryptonomicron are good quick and dirty reads. I think you can take his wor

      • Oh so close! My favorite is the next line:

        All around him, middle-aged women are thudding down onto their knees, as if the place has just been mustard-gassed.

        • Oh, and I love the part where Woe-to-Hice is ankle-deep in the Pacific ocean, wondering of the Japanese can detect him by his patterns disturbing the sea.
          • Oh, and the part where Sergeant Graves is explaining how his Organ Pipes are getting Blown Out:

            "you can't blow out the rusty pipes of your organ unless you have a nice little assistant to get the job properly done."

            Do you get the idea that I love this book?

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      excruciating like the Baroque books

      Interesting.In no way did I find the Baroque Cycle "excruciating". But then, I'm on the far side of 50, and I possess a well-developed attention span. Something sadly lacking in the current generation it seems...IMO, the Baroque Cycle is the best historical fiction written in the last 20 years.

      • by PCM2 ( 4486 )

        IMO, the Baroque Cycle is the best historical fiction written in the last 20 years.

        But that ain't saying much.

        Seriously, if you limit your scope to that range, you conveniently leave off The Alienist, the best of Umberto Eco, and most (but not all) Patrick O'Brien. And then, what is historical fiction anyway? How "historical" does it really have to be? Does Kavalier and Clay count? Does Carter Beats the Devil? What about Cormac McCarthy?

        Meanwhile, the Baroque Cycle pretends to be historical fiction, but half the "history" presented in the book is either flat-out made up, or else twisted

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Maximalist ( 949682 )

      Well, I for one happened to like the whole of the Baroque Cycle... but then again I'm from that strangest faction of geeks, the historians of science.

      If history of science doesn't do it for you, then I can see not loving the Baroque as much as Crypto, which covers the whole '90s boom startup thing, which may be more familiar to most /. readers.

    • Re:Hmmm.... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by red_dragon ( 1761 ) on Friday August 22, 2008 @04:33PM (#24711445) Homepage

      My belief is that Stephenson still hasn't found a way to finish a novel properly, so he keeps writing them longer and longer, trying to find the ending.

      • by fuzzix ( 700457 )

        My belief is that Stephenson still hasn't found a way to finish a novel properly, so he keeps writing them longer and longer, trying to find the ending.

        I don't think Cryptonomicon would have worked if any shorter but then, I preferred the longer version of Stranger In a Strange Land simply because there was more of it...

        ..but I did once think that about Stephen King's stuff (until I just stopped reading it). Pretty compelling, edge of the seat stuff until the last 30-40 pages where it all winds down with a tedious predictability.

      • Actually Anathem has an ending. 3 of them actually!

        I know, i know, totally unexpected, but it actually has a real ending.

        Of course the FIRST 300 pages of the book are hard to get through but then the story takes off (literally lol) and comes to an interesting conclusion and makes you really think about long term projects.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by 7Prime ( 871679 )

        I get the feeling that, as a small child, Neal Stephenson was once raped by a falling action, and therefor refuses to aknowledge the existance of this litterary device.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Quicksilver-meets-The Silmarillion

      The Silmarillion proved that Tolkien would unforunately never have enough time on earth to record the complete history of his fantastic world. The Baroque Cycle proved that Stephenson unfortunately had plenty of time to record the complete history of his.

    • Re:Hmmm.... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by solinari ( 69433 ) on Friday August 22, 2008 @04:46PM (#24711647)

      I was able to pick up an advanced reader copy and I've already read it cover to cover 3 times. I was asked not to relate any spoilers, so I'll stay away from any specifics. However if you're holding out for a return of Reason or hoping to find thugs with implanted skull guns ... I'm afraid you'll be a little disappointed.

      There is a definite break from the action style of the Baroque cycle (which I also enjoyed). While Anathem is quite heavy compared to Stephenson's early works, the areas of hard theory transition smoothly into action and character development (rather than, say, having a chapter break and switching off Waterhouse with Half-@%^* Jack ;))

      If I was going to compare it to any of his other books, I think it's the closest a rewrite of the Cryptonomicon with a focus on linguistics and philosophy rather than cryptography. Instead of a dissertation on quantom physics, you may simply find that Raz is both alive and dead ...

      Oops, I may have said too much! ;)

      So if you are into philosophy or linguistics or you liked Cryptonomicon without being a cryptography geek, you will definitely enjoy Anathem. Oh and don't forget the CD full of monk chants ... I highly recommend having them ripped and ready to queue up for the appropriate spots of the story because you won't want to leave your chair to go find them.

    • I miss my hometown library so much. They got such huge endowments for acquisitions that they bought multiple copies of almost any author that sold more than 12 copies of anything. They will have these ready to go 3 days after release.

      Crap. Of course, they didn't have any money for staff, but that just means we volunteer some, and wait in line a bit.

    • Re:Hmmm.... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by ideonode ( 163753 ) on Friday August 22, 2008 @05:54PM (#24712585)

      I can provide a quick review. I read my copy (a pre-release ARC) a month or two ago.

      First things first - the accompanying CD isn't brilliant. If you want some atmospheric music to listen to while reading the book, then get some Gregorian chant.

      The book is a departure from both the post-cyberpunk sci-fi of Snow Crash and the historical counter-factuals of the Baroque Cycle. If nothing else, at least Neal Stephenson is keeping fresh in his narrative direction.

      I'm not going to go into spoiler territory here, but I will say that my guess is that it will disappoint a lot of geeks. The book is actually very heavily based around philosophical concepts, with not a great deal of action, and technology itself playing an ancilliary role to experiments of the mind.

      Does Stephenson end this novel well? Yes, far more cleverly than in previous novels. Note: I didn't say "more satisfactorily". How the narrative strands of the novel tie up at the end is well thought out.

      I think it was Umberto Eco who said that the first 100 pages of his novel, The Name of the Rose was a challenge, and only dedicated readers who persevered would be rewarded. I think that this applies equally to Anathem. The comparisons to Eco don't end there - this is very much a novel of ideas. Not all of them original, but certainly originally executed.

        If it were a drink, it'd be a complicated whisky. Not to everyon'e taste, and certainly needing to be appreciated in small doses with adequate contemplation. But ultimately rewarding.

      • by antic ( 29198 )

        "If it were a drink, it'd be a complicated whisky. Not to everyon'e taste, and certainly needing to be appreciated in small doses with adequate contemplation. But ultimately rewarding."

        I was going to buy the book, but I had a bad drinking experience with whisky early on and can't even stand to smell the stuff now. Thanks for the warning. ;)

  • Please. Please. Make it stop.

    It was a lot of fun in Cryptonomicon.
    It was my first clue to not even bother starting to read the Baroque Cycle, and opinion reinforced by pretty much everything I later heard about the books.

    • by olclops ( 591840 ) on Friday August 22, 2008 @04:27PM (#24711363)

      Here's an opinion to add to your dissenting column:

      The Baroque Cycle is brilliant. Well worth the read. The philosophical argument that the differences between Leibnitz's worldview and Newton's still infect the discourse of modern american politics and religious thought - that alone is brilliant enough to make it worthwhile. On top of that, it's also damn fun.

      • by argent ( 18001 )

        I had to force myself to finish the first volume. It read like a "swiss family robinson" renaissance-punk alternate history, with "Mary Sue" characters that would have seemed unlikely even in 1632 fanfic.

      • by Free the Cowards ( 1280296 ) on Friday August 22, 2008 @05:09PM (#24711981)

        That whole Baroque Cycle thing is extremely strange. Some people really enjoy it and some people really don't, and I can't figure out what makes the difference.

        I'm in the "really don't enjoy it" column. I'm a big Stephenson fan. I loved Snow Crash, The Diamond Age, Cryptonomicon, and even Zodiac. I even found a copy of The Big U, although I realized my mistake relatively quickly.

        So of course when Quicksilver came out I got a copy immediately, hardcover, and started reading.

        Well, it was a real slog. I finished it, but I wasn't real happy with it. I kind of gave up on the rest of the series.

        Of course later on I read about how The Confusion was better, so I picked up a copy. Same story. Now I was really discouraged with the whole thing.

        But the story had enough grip on me that I couldn't just let it go. So finally, not too long ago, I got a copy of The System of the World out of the library and set about finishing the series.

        I got about halfway through that book before I decided that there was absolutely no way I was going to finish, I couldn't possibly care what happened to any of these people, and I was done.

        And here we are today.

        So I'm cautious about this whole Anathem thing. I really hope it's a return to form, but if it's anything like the Baroque Cycle then I'm going to let it go.

        • by jilles ( 20976 )

          Dito, though I haven't found my way the big U yet. The big trilogy took me a whopping two and a half years to complete with me putting off reading parts two and three for long periods of time. I basically read part three in increasingly longer bursts spread over nearly half a year until finally racing through the last four hundred pages in two days. Basically it is a lot of information to digest and you need a pretty good overview of all the events to enjoy the wacky plot twists and elaborate digressions. A

        • by RobinH ( 124750 )

          I had a similar experience. I liked Snowcrash and loved Cryptonomicon, but it took me about 2 years to read through the Baroque Cycle trilogy without many breaks reading other books. Since I finished a year ago, I've read at least 10 more books (not Stephenson though).

          I just found that the Baroque Cycle books (especially the middle one) were just overly descriptive, particularly about the setting, and I just didn't care. I've seen enough period pieces to have a decent idea of what London looked like in t

      • by dargaud ( 518470 )
        I did like the Baroque cycle a lot, although something escapes me entirely in the dynamics between the 3 main characters. Shaftoe/Eliza relationship is a complex impossible love story, but it makes sense. But I don't understand why those two seem to be friend with Waterhouse the few times they meet him (something like 3 times) while everything should oppose them. And the denouement, albeit satisfying, is... weird.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Ra Zen ( 924419 )
      Funny, I couldn't get through Snow Crash after trying several times. But the Baroque Cycle is one of favorite series (an experience much enhanced by the language). In any case, whether you like Stephenson's earlier books or his later books, he is inarguably one of the more daring speculative fiction writers out there. If authors don't experiment then literature goes nowhere. I am very much looking forward to this book.
    • by arth1 ( 260657 )

      I read the first two of the Baroque Cycle. The first one was bearable, although way too long-winded. The second one was dreary. The third one was never opened. I'd rather read the European Union's directives on rabbit farming.

      Cryptonomicon started out fine, and was at times a hell of a read, but the deus ex machina ending left a lot to be desired. Like a proper ending.

      I still prefer The Diamond Age -- despite the also somewhat unsatisfactory ending, at least there are no Waterhouse(brain) and Shaftoe(b

      • by dpilot ( 134227 )

        Shaftoe and Waterhouse were a lot of fun in Cryptonomicon, and I liked the way they recurred and interacted in the two-era setting. It's just when you put them both in what is temporally, if not thematically, a prequel that I had a problem.

      • > I'd rather read the European Union's directives on rabbit farming.

        that's so funny it should be illegal :)

        Which, in fact it is: []

        (the rabbit farming, not having an excellent sense of humor).

  • I thought Jake Sisko wrote that.

  • "Extramuros" is a spanish word, so i guess there's not a lot of "bending" in it...

  • Here's a textual copy of the PDF.

    Anathem: (1) In Proto- Orth, a poetic or musical invocation of Our
    Mother Hylaea, which since the time of Adrakhones has been the
    climax of the daily liturgy (hence the Fluccish word Anthem meaning
    a song of great emotional resonance, esp. one that inspires listeners
    to sing along). Note: this sense is archaic, and used only in a
    ritual context where it is unlikely to be confused with the much
    more commonly used sense 2. (2) In New Orth, an aut by which an
    incorrigible fraa or suur is ejected from the math and his or her
    work sequestered (hence the Fluccish word Anathema meaning intolerable
    statements or ideas). See Throwback.
    â"the dictionary, 4th edition, A.R. 3000

    Extramuros: (1) In Old Orth, literally âoeoutside the walls.â Often used
    in reference to the walled city- states of that age. (2) In Middle Orth,
    the non- mathic world; the turbulent and violent state of aff airs that
    prevailed after the Fall of Baz. (3) In Praxic Orth, geo graph i cal regions
    or social classes not yet enlightened by the resurgent wisdom
    of the mathic world. (4) In New Orth, similar to sense 2 above, but
    often used to denote those settlements immediately surrounding
    the walls of a math, implying comparative prosperity, stability, etc.
    â"the dictionary, 4th edition, A.R. 3000

    Saunt: (1) In New Orth, a term of veneration applied to great thinkers,
    almost always posthumously. Note: this word was accepted only
    in the Millennial Orth Convox of A.R. 3000. Prior to then it was considered
    a misspelling of Savant. In stone, where only upper- case
    letters are used, this is rendered SAVANT (or ST. if the stonecarver
    is running out of space). During the decline of standards in the decades
    that followed the Third Sack, a confusion between the letters
    U and V grew commonplace (the âoelazy stonecarver problemâ), and
    many began to mistake the word for SAUANT. This soon degenerated
    to saunt (now accepted) and even sant (still deprecated). In written
    form, St. may be used as an abbreviation for any of these. Within
    some traditional orders it is still pronounced âoeSavantâ and obviously
    the same is probably true among Millenarians.
    â"the dictionary, 4th edition, A.R. 3000

    Bulshytt: (1) In Fluccish of the late Praxic Age and early Reconstitution,
    a derogatory term for false speech in general, esp. knowing
    and deliberate falsehood or obfuscation. (2) In Orth, a more technical
    and clinical term denoting speech (typically but not necessarily
    commercial or po liti cal) that employs euphemism, con ve nient
    vagueness, numbing repetition, and other such rhetorical subterfuges
    to create the impression that something has been said. (3)
    According to the Knights of Saunt Halikaarn, a radical order of the
    2nd Millennium A.R., all speech and writings of the ancient Sphenics;
    the Mystagogues of the Old Mathic Age; Praxic Age commercial
    and po liti cal institutions; and, since the Reconstitution, anyone
    they deemed to have been infected by Procian thinking. Their frequent
    and loud use of this word to interrupt lectures, dialogs, private
    conversations, etc., exacerbated the divide between Procian
    and Halikaarnian orders that characterized the mathic world in
    the years leading up to the Third Sack. Shortly before the Third
    Sack, all of the Knights of Saunt Halikaarn were Thrown Back, so
    little more is known about them (their frequent appearance in
    Sæcular entertainments results from confusion between them and
    the Incanters).

    Usage note: In the mathic world, if the word is suddenly shouted
    out in a chalk hall or refectory it brings to mind the events associated
    with sense (3) and is therefore to be avoided. Spoken in a moderate
    tone of voice, it takes on sense (2), which long ago lost any vulgar
    connotations it may once have had. In the Sæculum it is easily confused

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by hansamurai ( 907719 )

      Note: I hate slashdot messing around with the extended characters, and I'm too lazy to fix that ****.

      Figured that was a feature of the book.

  • I know it's probably not necessary to say, since "no one RTFA on /.", but advice I share to you from my librarian-girlfriend (who got an advanced copy at the ALA) is DO NOT READ THE GLOSSARY. She says a lot of the enjoyment she got from the book was first encountering the neologisms in context. The glossary is there for reading afterward, or if you really just can't figure out the meaning of something and feel like you're missing out.

    (She's done with the book, I plan to pick up her copy soon.)

  • Seems like a good book. I'll read it.
  • From the reviews, sounds kind of like Foundation.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by city ( 1189205 )

      From the reviews, sounds kind of like Foundation.

      Foundation? From the amazon reviews it sounds to me much more like A Canticle for Lebowitz.

      From the Publisher's Weekly review: "Stephenson conjures a far-future Earth-like planet, Arbre, where scientists, philosophers and mathematicians, a religious order unto themselves, have been cloistered behind concent (convent) walls. Their role is to nurture all knowledge while safeguarding it from the vagaries of the irrational saecular outside world. Among the monastic scholars is 19-year-old Raz, collected into t

      • The general setting described in the first two sentences does sound somewhat similar to the early parts of the Foundation stories: The larger culture is irrational, secluded science types preserving knowledge, surrounding "barbarians" treat them as religious leaders.
    • by steevc ( 54110 )

      The bit about 'monks' being shut into chambers that do not open for 10/100/1000 years sounds a bit like something I remember from the Heliconia trilogy (I think) where people went into chambers in a huge wheel and were trapped until it completed a rotation.

      I'm looking forward to it. I was one who enjoyed the Baroque Cycle. It was hard work, but rewarding.

      • by dargaud ( 518470 )
        Argh, Heliconia... I hate it when they present a book a shitty fantasy as science fiction. Wasted my time and there's only 5 pages out of 2000 that can be called SF in it.
    • Or Hesse's The Glass Bead Game. Very difficult read, but exceedingly rewarding if you're bookish, academic, and into tabletop role playing games and character design. (i.e. metaphyisics, life history narrative construction, I-Ching, and so forth).
  • 50% (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Evildonald ( 983517 )
    Hi.. I'm a Slashdot reader and I either LOVE anything by Neal, or I don't understand what the fuss is about. 50/50 split. I called it.
  • by the_weasel ( 323320 ) on Friday August 22, 2008 @05:45PM (#24712451) Homepage

    I have a copy of this I picked up about 6 weeks ago at a genre bookstore in Southern California. It is clearly marked as a reviewers copy, and not for sale. I have no idea how it made it onto the shelves for sale.

    Fortunately, the person working the desk wasn't really paying attention, and happily sold it to me.

    The book even came with a CD containing original chants composed according to the aesthetic and mathematical premises outlines within the novel. A nice touch, and one I am not sure will be present in the final shipping product.

    Of course, unless you enjoy gregorian and byzantine chants already, I would skip the CD. (Lovers of ambient music will probably find it interesting as well)

    The story is slow to start (not abnormal for a large Stephenson book) and has a few pacing issues. On the whole I found the premise of the monastery a bit contrived, but well constructed. I had less sympathy for the main character than I did for Randy in Cryptonomican, but it's naturally easier for me to connect with a dissatisfied hacker than with an aesthete monk.

    If you are a fan of stephenson for the more humerous and modern Snowcrash and Zodiac. This may not be the novel for you. Its a much more serious book, with a deeply philosophical and mathematical bent.

    Where Cryptonomican explored mathematics, currency and the defenition of criminal (IMHO), this novel explores seclusion, mathematics and philosphy instead.

    Considering how long ago this reviewers copy must have been printed, I am hesitant to talk about pacing problems. I suspect what I have was not a final edit, and much of the story could be improved with intelligent editing.

    In short, i enjoyed this book, but i doubt its going to have as broad of an appeal as previous books. I haven't explored the barouque cycle books at all, but I think Anathem might have more in common with them.

    Reading this book made me think of Umberto Eco - more cerebral than action, and a bit weak on character development - with lots of clever discussions and wordplay.

  • Read an early proof (Score:4, Informative)

    by mad zambian ( 816201 ) on Friday August 22, 2008 @05:48PM (#24712485)
    I have had been lucky enough to have read a publishers proof of Anathem. And am currently re-reading it. I have read all of his books, from Zodiac to the System of the World. Cryptonomicon being my favourite.
    Anathem is different. It is not Snow Crash or Diamond Age, although it does feature some themes from both and explores ideas raised there. It is not historic like The System of the World trilogy.
    It is another thick book, some 935 pages including 40-odd pages of glossary, timelines, and math theorems called Calca.
    There are new words. Lots of new words. 19 pages of them in the glossary. Initially this got in the way of the story, but once you got used to seeing them, it was fine. Now that I am re-reading it, I am enjoying it rather more.
    What it it about? How do you do justice to an almost 1000 page novel in a couple of paragraphs?
    Have you heard of the 10,000 year clock project? Anathem is based around the idea that these clocks were built, and run by an order of mathematicians, scientists, historians, philosophers etc with the aim of protecting knowledge whenever civilisation broke down, and have been doing so more or less continuously for several thousand years. The story feature Fraa Erasmas, one of the residents of one of these institutions and his tribulations and adventures when aliens visit the planet.
    Do not think of bugeyed aliens in faster than light starships though. This is not that sort of SF. In fact, some of the aliens are from Earth.
    Obviously there is much more to it than that, but I am not even going to attempt a précis here.
    Buy it. Read it. It is worth it.
    For those of you who didn't like the Baroque cycle because you thought it was too long, bad news. Anathem is a long book, and does not rush things. There is a lot of background to set up and explain, being set on another planet and all, but it absolutely is worth it.
    Summary. Although a have a proof copy, I will be buying a hardback copy when it comes out next month, and it will go alongside my hardback Baroque Cycle. A worth addition to my library.

    Slashdot is full of Ita. Slines with jeejahs are everywhere, unfortunately. Read the book, you will agree with me on this.
    • yes but are the ITA bad, i can never really get this. It seems to be a break between Theorists and practical usage of theory.

      Other than some of the things the millenarians do, the ITA are just as important of a group as the people in the concents in the book.

      Or is it the idea that the ITA don't make new things?

      It would be much cooler to be an ITA than an Avout.

      But then I think about it, I am a programmer, so I guess that explains things.

  • I've already read the book. Its quite good, starts out a little slow, but I certainly enjoyed it. I would highly recommend it.

  • Wired article (Score:2, Informative)

    by glitch23 ( 557124 )
    For those who don't get Wired but are interested, in the latest issue of Wired is an article about Stephenson. The online version is here []. The story of how Anathem came to be is included in the article.

They are called computers simply because computation is the only significant job that has so far been given to them.