Thursday, September 30, 2010

Anathem by Neal Stephenson (GRADE: C)

I just finished Anathem by Neal Stephenson.  It was recommended to me by my esteemed colleague AB.  I wanted to like this book but at the end of it, there were too many weaknesses in the narrative.  This book gets a grade of C.

I found the following review:

It pretty much sums up the way I feel about the book.  Check it out if you want a more thorough review of the book (and a better written review).

The story is essentially this:  This earth-like world is divided in two ways: saeculars and the avout (or monks).  The monks in this world don't worship God but worship mathematics and science.  The main character is a young avout named Erasmus.  A space ship is seen in the sky with telescopes and is seen to be a possible threat to the world.  The book is about the discovery of the space ship, elucidating information about the space ship and eventually confronting the spaceship.

The main weakness of this book was the exposition.  There was simply too much of it.

The writing was good but the pacing was very poor.  At times, the story was engaging but frequently, the story or plot would be halted by philosophical talk about multiple universes or philosophy.

The book could have been about 300 pages and very good but instead it was 900 pages and relatively boring.

Don't get me wrong.  Stephenson's book is very intelligent and even clever at time and I can imagine that it was very hard to write but he forgot the first rule of storytelling.  You always have to serve the plot!  You always have to serve the story!  I feel he got enamored by the world that he created and spent too much time on things that didn't serve the plot.

Overall, I do not recommend the book.  At times it was engaging but the pace for most of the book was slow and it dragged, a lot!  I grade this book a C.  I really wanted to like it but I just couldn't get past the poor pacing.  Sorry Mr. Stephenson.  And sorry AB, my recommender.

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