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Julian Meynell's Books

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Stephenson's Anathem

Anathem - Neal Stephenson

This is a funny book to reviewwith lots of good and bad things about it.  

First the bad:  The entire first half of the book is in many ways redundant and can be gotten rid of.  That's a really big problem.  The last 100 pages are written very well and fast, but the book very slowly reaches that pace.  I'm not criticizing the long philosophical discussins, which are fine, but could have built character better.  It has a lot of original terminology some of which is good, but some of which is very irritating.  For instance, video cameras are speely-captors and smart phones are jeejars.   However, the philosophical invented terminology is much better.  The characterization is poor and the prose lacks magic.

The actual story is clever and gets more and more clever as it goes along.  The book is an adventure story of ideas where the ideas are really the main characters.  The ideas themselves are sophisticated and get more and more sophisticated as they go along.  The book also has tremendous world building.  The world that is created is a fascinating one, with science and philosophy constrained within a monkish discipline.  I don't know that that is a realistic possibility for a world, but that does not really matter.  The book breaks into philosophical discussions frequently.  I think that is a very good thing and something that is lacking from modern literature.  Its perfectly legitimate and I'm glad to see it back, but I would have preferred more character development.

Its a clever innovative and thoughtful book, that is far too long and has many deficiencies.  On the balance though, it is a good thing not just for science fiction, but fiction as a whole.