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Sunday, December 27, 2009

The BLTN Series, 3: {The Hugo Finalists, Part 6 - The Novels: Anathem, by Neal Stephenson}



This should have been the Hugo winner in 2009.

There is no other way to put it.

Nobody is disputing Gaiman´s absolute mastery of the genre. Which genre? Every genre he decides to write, of course. From the great fantasy-cum-mythology mix he first presented to us with the Sandman series to the revamping of Rudyard Kipling´s Mowgli with 2009 Hugo Award-winning novel The Graveyard Book (read my review here). What I´m saying, however, is that Anathem should have won the Hugo.

Why? Because Anathem is a major undertaking at worldbuilding - it´s many novels in one. The story of Fraa Erasmas, an avout of an order of mathematicians and scientists in the world of Arbre, and the dangerous times in which he lives, is a melting pot of genres. What starts at a rather slow pace, like a 21st-version of A Canticle for Leibowitz (without the nuclear holocaust), takes us in a mathematical-astrophysical-philosophical journey, many times by means of dialogues not dissimilar to those written by Plato, and that´s a compliment - for those of you who may by any chance be yawning at that, rest assured that these dialogues are everything but boring: they are intriguing and mind-boggling. They recapture the sense of wonder that not every SF novel manages to transmit to the readers these days.

But not everything in the 900+ pages of Anathem is reduced to dialogue - there´s also plenty of action and destruction. There´s road trips through arctic regions, there´s high-tech, there´s intrigue, space travel, and also lots of jargon specific of the world of Arbre - a world similar to Earth in many things, but not the same.

And there´s surprises all along the story. For Anathem is a page-turner, despite its size. It´s weird to write so small a review in order to describe a novel of this magnitude, but the truth is: there´s only two ways one can write about Anathem properly: via a short review with no spoilers or a big scholarly paper analyzing the complexity of Stephenson´s prose. This novel deserves it. And you, reader, deserves to read it.

(And, come on, how could we have missed the opportunity to listen to Neal Stephenson read the acceptance speech in Orth (one of the major languages of the people of Arbre)?

(Published originally in Post-Weird Thoughts)

2 comments:

CroakerBC said...

Sorry but I just don't get it. You started off by talking about Neil Gaiman then suddenly it becomes a review of Neal Stephenson's Anathem?
Is this some sort of gimmick or something? Some new reviewing device? I am completely puzzled. Or maybe I smoked too much and the last of my brain cells just died 5 minutes ago :)

CroakerBC said...

Oh right, silly me. I got it now. Sorry about all that. The guy told me "this is very strong weed" but I didn't believe him. He was right and so are you!! My bad!!

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