(minor spoilers may be present – I’ll try to be vague in reference to specific events)
Finished up Neal Stephenson’s latest tome, Anathem, and at 980 pages and nearly 3 pounds, it was a hefty read. My thoughts and appreciation of the book changed rather dramatically over the course of reading it, so perhaps a chronological review is in order.
Pre-Purchase – I was hopeful this was going to be a good book. After loving a number of his novels, he lost me with the Baroque Cycle. While the content was interesting, I felt that the books could have been much shorter. I know others will disagree with me. They are wrong. I knew ahead of time that this was going to be a long book, so I hoped for the magic of Cryptonomicon to return.
First 40 pages – Egads… Is this is in english, latin, or hopelandic? Is it spec-fic, fantasy, or a manual on how to wind a clock in a monastery. Hopes for a good experience plummeting.
Pushing through to 150 pages or so – Ok. I’m getting into it. After the rush of the initial nelogisms, he’s calmed down and is actually telling a story.
Evocation – Aha! We have a plot – and a mystery! At this point, I was rather enjoying the book.
Road To Orithena – Hmm Valers? I get it. I liked them, but this is the first indication of a fairly unique variation on a concent. Nevertheless, travel adventures are usually fun. Considering the terrain was as foreign to the characters as it was for me, much was explained.
Orithena and the Laterran – Again, really interested still. Pacing was good.
Convox – Hmmm… again with the noncohesive mathic community. While I understand it and accept it, it seemed a little forced, perhaps so that the messalans could take place. So much time spent on the plurality issue. Perhaps that was just me though. As someone who already understands configuration space and the Wheeler Everett Graham model, it was overkill. On the other hand, for a layperson, trying to decipher it, while having to deal with “Procian” and “Halikaarnian” flavors of it, it may have been too cryptic. Regardless, still completely invested at this point.
Orbital Ballet – Zzz… wha?! oh, are they still out there? Ok, wake me when they land.
Contact – Can we get a couple dozen of the pages spent on explaining orbital calculations back to actually see more of this interaction. Perhaps all of the built up explanations of plurality can get a payoff here instead of a couple pages of lip service.
Resolution – Wait… the book is over? Whatchoo talkin’ bout, Erasmus?
Seriously, this book felt like it could have been twice as long or a third shorter. It felt like so much time was spent in world building and context, while major plot points were glossed over. Maybe I’ll throw Cryptonomicon back in the queue so I can regain some Stephenson love.