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Publisher's Summary

Fraa Erasmus is a young avout living in the Concent of Saunt Edhar, a sanctuary for mathematicians, scientists, and philosophers, protected from the corrupting influences of the "Saecular" world by ancient stone, honored traditions, and complex rituals. 

Over the centuries, cities, and governments have risen and fallen beyond the concent's walls. Three times during history's darkest epochs, bloody violence born of superstition and ignorance has invaded and devastated the cloistered mathic community. Yet always the avout have managed to adapt in the wake of catastrophe, becoming out of necessity more austere and less dependent on technology and material things. Erasmus, however, has no fear of the outside - the Extramuros - for the last of the terrible times was long, long ago.

Now, in celebration of the week-long, once-in-a-decade rite of Apert, the fras and suurs prepare to venture outside the concent's gates - opening them wide at the same time to welcome the curious "extras" in.

During his first Apert as a fra, Erasmus eagerly anticipates reconnecting with the landmarks and family he hasn't seen since he was "collected". But before the week is out, both the existence he abandoned and the one he embraced will stand poised on the perilous brink of cataclysmic change.

Powerful unforeseen forces threaten the peaceful stability of mathic life and the established ennui of the Extramuros - a threat that only an unsteady alliance of Saecular and avout can oppose - as, one by one, Raz's colleagues, teachers, and friends are all called forth from the safety of the concent in hopes of warding off global disaster.

Suddenly burdened with a worlds-shattering responsibility, Erasmus finds himself a major player in a drama that will determine the future of everything - as he sets out on an extraordinary odyssey that will carry him to the most dangerous, inhospitable corners of an unfamiliar planet...and far beyond.

©2008 Neal Stephenson (P)2008 Macmillan Audio

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What listeners say about Anathem

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Interesting ideas...

What if we put all the scientists and mathematicians into monasteries, and only took them out, dusted them off, and used their brains when crises hit? "They have an alien spaceship and nukes - we have a protractor." "OK, I'll go get a ruler and a piece of string." The quantum mechanics is a bit dodgy, but the story is a lot of fun!

1 person found this helpful

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Only for elite hard sci fi lovers

I had to re-listen to the start of this novel ten times to get into the narrative. It's about a 6,000 year old academic/clerical community that has been kept isolated from the surrounding world the whole time. Naturally, such a community will develop philosophical, scientific and critical Ideas in their conversation. This is where the value of this Novel of Ideas lies, in the philosophical, scientific and critical Ideas that drop from time to time out of the narrative. It's 32 hours of challenging hard listening, if you're into hard listening. 32 hours is pretty good value for the money.

1 person found this helpful

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Occasionally interesting dialogue... I guess...

The author has built worlds, and with them, quite a few new terms/words, which can initially be a bit tough to navigate, and, although you come to incorporate them into your vocabulary, many of them never reveal themselves to have been necessary (or even useful) for anything more than world building.

Anathem finds its characters in near constant philosophical dialogue, which can occasionally be interesting... Or present glimmers of hope that there would be some memorable twists. But no.. overall, the story is fairly boring, and the protagonist's actions inconsequential. Leaves me unsatisfied.

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It s great in a dorky way.

I was intrigued with the constructs but found the story slow and a bit cumbersome. It's hard to blend a good novel with the intent to explicitly teach higher philosophical content.

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Engaging and intriguing alternate Earth

I first have to confess I'm a huge Neal Stephenson fanboy. love this book though.
#Audible1

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Another insightful epic

Neal Stephenson crafts another thought provoking and witty epic. It constantly amazes me how his insights often become prophetic. 5 stars for story!
William Dufris and company excellently narrate this tale. I bought this novel when it first came out in paperback and loved it so much that the audiobook was purchased so I could enjoy it during chore time 😀. All the narrators we excellent, but Dufris stood out, for me, as an excellent voice for Stephenson's style. 5 stars for the performance.
The one thing that would be an improvement would be a PDF of the diagrams and supplementary material for the math geeks like me. 4 stars, overall, since I was not able to reference their diagrams and appendixes (appendices?) without digging out my old paperback from a box in my attic.

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  • Eli
  • 2018-03-21

Drivel

Usually I'm a huge fan of Stephenson, but this is just complete garbage. Lots of words strung together, going on and on without any purpose or meaning. Like finding a teenage diary or a stream of consciousness blog of a monk

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  • K. F.
  • 2020-07-02

Unbearable

I think I'm about 45 minutes into the book. The narration so far has consisted almost entirely of fetishistically detailed descriptions of labyrinthine architecture, occasionally interspersed by technobabble that is mostly composed of made-up words and is mostly incomprehensible. There are also occasional excerpts from a fantasy dictionary, read by a different guy who has no business recording anything. I assume that some sort of plot develops at some point but don't think I can force myself to stick it out that long.

38 people found this helpful

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  • SpiderGrrl
  • 2019-10-08

I love Neal, but Good lord... ugh!

I love Neal Stephenson... Snow Crash, Necronomicron, Diamond Age, The Fall, Reamde, etc...
But getting through the first hour of this thing was a labor of love...and like pulling teeth.
The completely ridiculous "other earth" lexicon slathered all over the entry text...?
The *constant* descriptive extrapolations in every dang sentence (see above: weaving in of intentionally 'obscure' world refs... But oh wait!! Lol, there's literally an intro that tries to insult you into overlooking that -- "if you don't like to figure things out for yourself, let me explain all the terms and the world they are extracted from... it's not Earth..." yada yada yada.

Seriously.. there's an into saying that.
Wtf Neal, seriously.

27 people found this helpful

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  • Cory
  • 2018-01-26

Probably My Favorite Book

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes, but with reservations. I had already read Anathem in paperback form years ago and wanted to revisit it as a performance. The audiobook is well done, but it is a very, very complicated book (Stephenson basically invents his own language, along with 7,000 years of fictional history). The physical book itself has a dictionary for reference, and a clear timeline of the world's history, which are invaluable resources while making sense of everything. The audiobook makes it more difficult in that regard.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Anathem?

I don't want to spoil anything, so I'll just say: the dialog.

Which scene was your favorite?

Messel. Intense speculative analysis.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

This book literally changed my ideas about the nature of consciousness and cosmology.

Any additional comments?

This is one of the best speculative fiction novels ever written. The only real choice you have is whether you want the audiobook or the paperback. Or both. I own both and I don't regret either purchase.

27 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 2020-07-28

Pretentious failure to bring on the intended state imho

This book has no serious issues. It is well written, nicely narated albeit a bit to slow gor my taste. However it is not your usual epic sci-fi story with lots of tech and or otherworldly species. It tries to bring on the “feel” of a different type of civilization by twisting words and their meaning enough to be different but not as is required to be familiar, thus creating an effect of “differenceness”. Additionally it mixes various dialectics which apparently in that world caused earth shattering conflicts and shaped civizations. The problem with this, is that these specific dialectics do not carry such power, for even the casual reader of true philosophy, This brings me to the last thing about this book: It tries to present a number of worldviews and systems of thought and philosophies in a very naive and shallow way. If I wanted to learn philosophy I ‘d read Aristotle and Kant and if I wanted a basic science instruction I’d pick up a science book, if I wanted to etymologize and do wordplay, I’d get a book on those things. I wanted sci-fi and so I picked this up, but the “dose” was not strong enough it had all those other things in there. In the end I do not think that presenting a mosaic of philosophy using slightly twisted words and imaginary dialectics brings on the intended state. Instead I was left wondering if the author was simply trying to present us with a display of how many words he knows well enough to manipulate and how many philosophical concepts he can encompass into a narration. In the end, the means of this work has obliterated the goal.

12 people found this helpful

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  • JG
  • 2019-11-14

Are the high ratings a viral prank?!

Gave this a good effort, but found it impenetrable - at least in audio. The worst part was the language creation/use and being lost for a reasonably large percentage of many sentences. Might have been different if being read, but I'm not going to give this any more time. Indeed, it felt soooooo good when I quit. Thank You Audible for accepting the return.

The high ratings are baffling. At one point I thought those must be some kind of viral prank/hoax - perhaps intending to lure others in as a joke!

Sometimes a great narrator can save a story- not here, since narration is flat, at best, and with hard-to-describe annoying inflections driving the last nail into this literary coffin.

11 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Yehuda Gilead
  • 2020-04-21

A literary Masterpiece with an Amazing production!

This one is a book for intellectuals with flexible minds. It is so intimate with the reader it tingles. I drew an additional portion of fun having read other Stephenson’s books before. This way, you — dear reader — will have more insight and deeper connection with the genius author.

Recommend!

9 people found this helpful

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  • jeremiah
  • 2020-02-18

Hard Audiobook to read

I’ve got over 200 audiobooks and this is one of 3 that I never finished... until now, years later. The story and narration was so bland and hard to get into via the audio format. So, I borrowed a paper copy from a friend after he praised it (and reviews were good) and followed along the audio reading with reading the pages.. and finally the book took on a clarity that was lacking with only audio.. some of the concepts of the book just came out cleaner with visual aid of the words... so enough of that; Excellent book, great world... some vagueness and a rushed ending it seemed a whole additional book could be written of equal length to summarize the outcome of the convex and ————- of Saint Orolo. Maybe 700 years later ;-).
-Good like writing a sequel Neal!!

8 people found this helpful

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  • Evan Jones
  • 2020-04-13

A little lengthy but really gets moving at the end

I enjoyed this book quite a bit. It is, however, quite lengthy. I found myself irritated at the speed (or lack thereof) at which things moved sometimes but it is worth it.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Lori
  • 2019-07-19

Tedious!

Might be good in a movie, but I did not enjoy how slow moving it was.

4 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Jude
  • 2020-06-20

Could not stop until the end

A very imaginative description of the truth. Well written and narrated. Perfect balance of logistic science and spirituality.

3 people found this helpful