Nice Work Review of Books: Anathem

First the bad news: Neal Stephenson’s eagerly awaited new novel, Anathem, is only 937 pages long.

Stephenson’s fans, among whom I count myself, hoped for twice that, but, to be fair, the fellow’s got to eat and sleep and whatnot. We must be satisfied.

Are we? Does Anathem meet the high expectations raised by Stephenson’s previous works, Cryptonomicon and the Baroque Cycle? This is a tricky question for me to address, not yet having read the book. I bought it only yesterday. And the Nice Work editorial policy is strict on this point. Before opining on a book the reviewer is required to have read it, or read about it, or at least read the jacket blurb or, in a pinch, heard someone mention it on a podcast. In the case of Anathem, this reviewer fails every test.

Yet I still give Anathem all praise and honor: Four Stars, Four Forks, a chorus of For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow and a muscular banging of a four foot brass gong.

How now? you protest. How can this be? Easy: I’m a fan.

It’s not that Neal Stephenson can do no wrong. He can do plenty wrong, but I don’t care. No matter what, I will enjoy the novel with perfect pleasure. I will shape my mind to absorb any defects. Call it fannishness if you like; call it denial. Call it silly monkey Bozo. I dismiss such invective with an airy wave. Even if the book has been rigged with a boxing glove on a spring that punches the reader midway through, I know I’m in for a Good Read, and so are you.

UPDATE (2/20/09): I loved Anathem. Loved it. I look forward to the day when enough time has passed for a second reading.

by Neal Stephenson
(William Morrow & Company, Hardcover, 960pp.)


2 responses to “Nice Work Review of Books: Anathem

  1. LOL I’ll have to tackle this one some day. Are the others shorter?

  2. Stephenson writes by the pound.

    For some shorter stuff — really good poetry — check out this web log: Pilgrim Soul.

    In particular, don’t miss Kipling’s Seal Lullabye

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