I recently read Anathem by Neal Stephenson. Overall, I give it a out of 5 – an excellent read. It is an
interesting story presented at a reasonable pace and, most
importantly, it introduce me to a couple of intriguing ideas. I definitely scrimped a bit on my sleep while I read it, not something I often do. Unfortunately, it does have one major flaw.
Neal Stephenson has a gift for, or perhaps an obsession with, explaining interesting and complex math and science topics in his books. That is one of the thing I like about reading them. In “Anathem” these topics – namely configuration spaces and the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics – are presented in appendices, but in the same voice as main story. I like this approach a bit better than when they appear in the middle of the story. It makes the material accessible without distracting from the plot.
That major flaw I mentioned earlier… It is just too freakin’ long. 935 pages to be exact. Really? He need almost a thousand pages to tell this story? It is a good story but would be a better book if it 2/3s, or better yet, half, as long. Most of Stephenson’s recent work is about this length. He must like this format. I just cannot help thinking that after he got famous his editors have gone soft and that has not improved his books.