Side Notes


Neal Stephenson's newest book, Anathem, is probably already in the hands of many people (who work at book stores) by now . He's one of my favorite authors because of the depth at which the books are written. Today Tomorrow (9/9/2008) is the official release date for Anathem and I'm very excited to head to the book store and pick up a copy after work as soon as I wake up. Wikipedia gives a nice overview of the plot or at least... the premise of why you're supposed to even attempt to read a nearly 1000 pages of pure awesomeness:
The novel is set on a planet called Arbre, where the protagonist, Raz, is among a cohort of secluded scientists, philosophers and mathematicians who are called upon to save the world from impending catastrophe. The novel's description on and a First look from the publisher, explain further that Raz has spent his entire life inside a 3,400-year-old sanctuary. The rest of society — the "sæcular world" — is described as an "endless landscape of casinos and megastores that is plagued by recurring cycles of booms and busts, dark ages and renaissances, world wars and climate change." Resident scholars, including Raz, are unexpectedly summoned by a frightened "sæcular power" to leave their monastic stronghold in the hope that they may prevent an approaching catastrophe.
As a side note, Stephenson's previous trilogy, The Baroque Cycle, has been split from its monstrous form since I last read it and has been re-released as 8 separate books, so you don't have to feel intimidated by the hefty page numbers. Just make sure you start with the thinner version of Quicksilver. Another side note: recently fired most of their writers of the original online content and are now almost exclusively pulling content from their sister publication Wired Magazine, which ran a beautiful spread and article on Anathem, and it's re-published over at as well. The article is a great read because it bounces perfectly between describing the author and the book, in a careful balance that doesn't reveal too much about the book, doesn't turn into a biography, but keeps you enthralled no matter if you already knew the little facts hidden because the article is a narrative itself:
But before the members split for the night, they detour to the basement to see Stephenson's workshop, where he has an impressive assortment of metalworking tools to help him on his current DIY project: a scary-looking steel helmet to protect the shiny Stephenson noggin from accidental scalp removal while indulging in his recent passion, Western martial arts. This is the polite term for going medieval with swords and daggers. It's a hobby the author picked up during research for the Baroque Cycle, his three-volume, 2,688-page tribute to 18th-century science, philosophy, and swordplay. ... Only a few months ago, another epic bubbled up from his basement. Anathem, Stephenson's ninth novel, is set for release on September 9. The Nealosphere, of course, is over the top with anticipation. This time, Stephenson has given himself the broadest stage yet: a world of his own creation, including a new language. Though he's been consistently ambitious in his work, this latest effort marks a high point in his risk-taking, daring to blend the elements of a barn-burner space opera with heavy dollops of philosophical dialog. It's got elements of Dune, The Name of the Rose, and Michael Frayn's quantum-physics talkathon, Copenhagen.
Of course, BoingBoing linked up a preview of the glossary for Anathem about a week ago, and Neal Stephenson shows up in a video on doing a short reading from the book as well. And for a parting thought: a fantastic but failed appeal to have a comment un-disemvoweled showed up in a separate but related BoingBoing post about Anathem.