It has been pointed out that my normal mode of speech involves rambling down stray trains of thought, elaboration of long conversations I’ve been having in my head, long orbits around the star of an idea that would blind us if we looked directly at it, etc. This could be used to describe Neal Stephenson’s writing in general, but is about the only way to describe Anathem. Lots of convoluted details that resolve into a very vivid whole. At the core of what I’ve read so far is a group that isolates themselves from everyone else in order to preserve knowledge as civilizations rise and fall external to the isolated group. They’ve developed a complex system of language, philosophy and ritual to keep the pure knowledge separate from everything else, and it’s through their eyes that the story is told.
One small piece of the larger whole: Stephenson describes a building and a large mechanical device inside … it turns out to be a machinists wet dream. The description takes a few pages, but it’s not until the end product is removed from the machine that it’s clear that the machine is a 3D printer of sorts. The rambling description carves a path through a VERY vivid world. There’s a poetry in the very way the narrator thinks about the world, and I’m excited just thinking about reading some more. But the object that’s made and the people involved in making the object and the people the object is made for — all of these things are just as important as the description of the machine making the object.
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