Posted by: Peter Hall
I’m making a conscious effort to divert the flow of strict science fiction from the likes of this site until a time in which it makes more sense. There are, however, times in which I can’t bite my tounge. ANATHEM is one such case.
I actually began a review of it before running in to a dilemma: What is the proper protocol regarding book reviews? At what length into a work does spoiler territory begin? The written word, unlike those dangfangled motionized pictographs, knows no trailers and as such expectations are tempered. Accordingly it is tough for me to talk about ANATHEM, which pushes 900 pages without the glossary. Stephenson’s story is sooo far reaching that I don’t feel comfortable even hinting at the novel’s trajectory. Of course, some plot must be disclosed…
ANATHEM is written from the perspective of Fraa Erasmas, an individual of an indeterminate time line belonging to a world close to, but not quite Earth. He is a Decenarian living in one of many maths spread around the world, which is to say that Erasmas lives inside a giant clock designed to keep time forever. The concent is isolated from the rest of the world by a series of gates which open depending on the mathic order. Erasmas, being a Decenarian, is free to interact with the outside world every ten years.
As the book begins, our inexperienced protag is on the verge of his first Apert, at which point he will break from his ten year long isolation spent theorizing about a host of scientific principles and see what has become of the saecular lands beyond the walls.