Anathem by Neal Stephenson

I’m amazed this was a bestseller – not because it’s bad but because it’s so difficult. “A brilliant playful tour of the terrain where logic, mathematics, philosophy and quantum physics intersects, a novel melding wordplay and mathematical theory with a gripping human adventure,” says the blurb and the only part of that assessment I’d take issue with is the “gripping” part!

I don’t really do (or get) science fiction and often this felt like reading a novel in a language I had only studied for six months. Things were constantly going over my head. I was wearied by the abundance of exposition. Pages and pages of it while the plot is put on hold. So many characters too were little more than talking heads. In fact there’s no character development to speak of in the novel; merely an assembly line teenage romance. Stephenson has an amazing visual imagination (not unfortunately coupled with much of an emotional imagination) – perhaps too much so for my liking because it often led to very lengthy descriptions of physical objects that I was still unable to visualise three pages later! The main characters were like high school kids with consequent juvenile humour and emotion. There’s a good twist at the heart of the book but I found it essentially rather soulless and bereft of insights into human nature.


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