My rating: 5 of 5 stars
On a world called Arbre, monasteries are filled with an intellectual elite who devote their time to solving science and math problems. Outside of the monasteries a modern yet highly religious society enjoys the fruits of their accomplishments. A young monk named Erasmas and his friends discover a possible cover-up of an odd astronomical event. Things eventually escalate and Erasmas finds himself on a mental and physical odyssey that will have cataclysmic consequences for everyone on Arbre. Anathem is a sprawling saga that deftly examines topics from philosophy to quantum physics while being a page-turning adventure. Stephenson’s world building is an amazing feat, with a complete history and lexicon. Nevertheless, other than its length (over 900 pages), Anathem is relatively easy to comprehend, as the foreign sounding, made-up words are either defined in section headings or contextually obvious (there is also a comprehensive glossary in the back of the book). This book is intellectually challenging and thus probably not everyone’s cup of tea, but if you let yourself be immersed in this strange, yet oddly familiar world, you will have one of the best science fiction reads of your life.