Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Philosophy! Theology! Global catastrophe! Adventure!

That's the title of a review of the latest book I got from the library - Anathem by Neal Stephenson, inspired in part by the work of mathematical physicist Roger Penrose, about an alternate universe's planet where philosophers and scientists live non-religious monastic lives debating the merits of Platonic realism vs mathematical formalism, until aliens arrive. Here's the Publishers Weekly blurb ...

[...] 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 the concent at age eight and now a decenarian, or tenner (someone allowed contact with the world beyond the stronghold walls only once a decade). But millennia-old rules are cataclysmically shattered when extraterrestrial catastrophe looms, and Raz and his teenage companions—engaging in intense intellectual debate one moment, wrestling like rambunctious adolescents the next—are summoned to save the world. Stephenson's expansive storytelling echoes Walter Miller's classic A Canticle for Leibowitz, the space operas of Larry Niven and the cultural meditations Douglas Hofstadter—a heady mix of antecedents that makes for long stretches of dazzling entertainment occasionally interrupted by pages of numbing colloquy.

The book must be long in print because in audio it's 28 discs! I'm just at the beginning but so far I like it. You can read the book review I mentioned above at ..... Philosophy! Theology! Global catastrophe! Adventure! ... and here's an Authors@Google video of Neal Stephenson discussing the book ....


Blogger Matthew said...

Neal Stephenson, yay yay yay! (Try Cryptonomicon if this one doesn't suit you.)

10:21 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Mathew,

Thanks for the recomendation :) So far I've resisted reading him. If this turns out ok, I'll try the others too.

10:27 PM  
Blogger Deacon Denny said...

Wow -- I read the whole review. It sounds overwhelming. I love SF, though, and maybe this is a good candidate for my next vacation reading.

10:22 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Denny,

It is overwhelming/complicated - glad I'm listening to it instead of reading it.

1:15 PM  

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