Anathem by Neal Stephenson - LinuxLefty tutoring UnrulySun and kgodey

Snak75 Books Challenge for 2012

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Anathem by Neal Stephenson - LinuxLefty tutoring UnrulySun and kgodey

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Redigeret: jan 24, 2012, 5:48 pm

This will be a tutored read for Anathem by Neal Stephenson

feb 10, 2012, 6:38 pm

Just popping in to say, I really am reading! I'm only about 30 pages in so far, and it's a little slow-going. I hope it picks up for me once I get my bearings a little more.

I understand what's happening physically, and I can sort of get an image of the environment, but here's where I'm missing something:

This is set in the future on another planet, right? Do they have any concept of Earth? Aside from the language (which is explained in the intro), they seem to be living a pretty standard neo-medieval lifestyle. They also have what seem to be cell phones and computers and watch movies on screens.

And, are the "extramuros" citizens an assortment of people? I mean, are they ALL the other people who are not chosen to live inside the cloister? "Extramuros" is defined as implying prosperity and yet, if they are everything else... wouldn't they run the gamut of wealth, success, and influence?

feb 13, 2012, 1:21 am

I haven't started reading yet, have a few books to finish off first, but do want to try and get my copy read while you all are working on it. It will probably be the best part of a week before I get started.

feb 13, 2012, 7:35 pm

Well Roni, it's veeerrryy slow going for me. It's interesting, and I'm getting through the language (which is off-putting), but there's SO MUCH world-building and not a lot of action. So if you start next week you'll probably catch right up with me. :)

feb 14, 2012, 10:02 am

Yes, Anathem moves really slowly. I'm rotating it with a couple other books when I need some action, haha

The setting of this story is on another planet. I'm not sure what time time reference is compared to right now as they use a totally different dating system than our BC/AD. As far as I know (I'm only about 1/4 way through the book), they don't have any concept of our Earth.

And yes, Extramuros citizens refers to everyone living outside the cloister

feb 14, 2012, 12:16 pm

I'm a few pages in, but keep getting distracted by other books. I will probably make a significant dent in the next couple of days sometime, though.

feb 19, 2012, 7:01 pm

OK- I'm moving right along, about 200 pages now. It's mostly philosophical repartee and descriptions of the extramuros areas, but I find it rather intriguing. Some questions, in no particular order, that I have been musing on:

1. We have Tenners (also called Decenarians, right? or is this a different group?), Hundreders (Centenarians?), and Thousanders (Millenarians). The Tenners get to come out every 10 years, the Hundreders every 100, but I guess the point of becoming a Thousander is to prove your repudiation of everything secular?

2. And at one point it is mentioned that a newborn baby is already too "touched" to become a Thousander, so how does anyone become one then?

3. At first I assumed the mathic concent would be atheistic, but then we have a strangely Catholic heirarchy of Saunts and Primates, strict histories and mythologies and rules and rituals with hymns and homilies... and then again the mention of any sort of "god" is frowned upon. They believe in evolution but has there been any mention of their origin theory? Do they have any sort of "creator"?

4. Are the Edharians the same as the Thousanders? Are the groups divided by their commitment first and schools second, or the other way around?

5. The Unarian school accepts anyone, for a year at a time. Are they allowed to wander the rest of the concent? I can't seem to figure out if there are Unarians mingling in, say, the mess hall or the classrooms.

6. Do we know what happened to the planet? Apparently at one time it resembled modern Earth quite closely, but something destroyed the buildings and now there is this sort of odd techno-medieval thing going on. There are forests, but wood is not allowed or is unavailable? Even stone is outdated?

feb 19, 2012, 11:29 pm

What is a tutored read?

I read Anathem a couple years ago, and on #5, no, each group (Unarians, Decenarians, etc) are kept separate from each other. Decenarians only eat with others (except when the gates open every ten years); they are physically separated. They can all be present for group services, but walled off from each other.

feb 20, 2012, 9:00 am

quinaquisset, check out :)


wow! You're really tearing through this book. I've been moving so I haven't had much time to read :(

#1 yes, there are varrying degrees of cutting yourself off from the outside world. The hundreders segregate themselves for the rest of their lives, thousanders do so for multiple generations

#2 As far as I can figure out, I believe one has to be born inside of the cloister and has never ventured out

#3 I'm still trying to figure out their religion ... sorry, I don't have any definite answers yet. To me, it seems like their religion is a fusing of new age and Catholicism. They have the monastery vibe, but then no real idea of God.

#4 They are two different things. You align yourself with a group ( which defines where you fall politically and what your field of study will be ) and also pick a amount of time you commit yourself to be inside ( ten, hundred, thousand )

#5 Thanks quinaquisset :)

#6 I believe there has been multiple world-wars that ravaged the planet. This is part of the reason the cloister was created

feb 20, 2012, 9:02 am

How is anyone born inside of the cloister if everyone is sterile?

Redigeret: feb 20, 2012, 6:22 pm

I finally got a bunch of reading done today - I've just finished Part 5 (321 pages.) I hope you don't mind if I take a stab at your questions, UnrulySun, in addition to LinuxLefty and quinaquisset's answers.

#1 and #2: I'm not quite sure how the Thousanders work, but I think we will find out more about them. The newborn baby being too "touched" seemed to be because its umbilical cord was cut – maybe only newborns that have not been touched by anyone but the Thousanders get to join them. I am not sure what the point of the Thousanders is, since I don't think they live that long, but it's been stated that they publish their research every 1000 years.

#3: As far as religion goes, I think that the concents are dedicated to scientific research, but their belief in God varies. Different chapters seem to lean one way or another – it's mentioned that depending on your chapter, it's unseemly to voice certain opinions even if you do believe them. I think the monastery-like organisation is just to show that it is a formal organisation with rules, etc. All their mythologies and hymns etc. are based on science.

The legend of Cnoüs and his vision is mentioned, with his daughter Deät interpreting his vision as religious, and his other daughter Hylaea interpreting his vision as the beauty of pure geometry. The religious churches etc. trace their history from Deät and the maths from Hylaea. But it's also stated that some people in the maths think of it as a myth, and it's also mentioned that some people are working towards reconciling the two systems. So I think there's a wide range of opinions, both within and outside the concents.

#4:There are "chapters" (Edharian, New Circle, Reformed Old Faanian etc.) that are groups that you commit yourself to for your time in the concent. Each chapter has a political and philosophical leaning, and does certain kinds of research. I kind of think of them as houses in Hogwarts, except that you choose which one to join, and you join them after you've grown up a bit. Then there are Unarians, Decenarians, Centenarians, etc. and that's just how long you pledge to be in the concent for. As I understand it, each higher grade has increasingly stiff requirements for acceptance.

#6: I think the planet has been going through all sorts of stuff naturally – world wars, other disasters, rebuilding, etc. The concents seem to be created for the express purpose of preserving knowledge, regardless of what's going on in the world outside.

Redigeret: feb 21, 2012, 2:31 pm

I've got a question, but it's about something that happens after page 750 (in Part 10.) What do I do? My question was answered by one of the supplemental calcas at the end of the book.

I've finished the book! I'm waiting for it to sink in a bit – I know I have questions.

feb 28, 2012, 6:17 pm

I am still reading! I can't believe kgodey finished a week ago, she must have superpowers! Or lots of free time. :)

I'm right at the halfway point, and while it's making sense, I have a few issues with what seem to be conflicting ideas.

*SPOILERS*(for the lurkers)

1. I still don't quite get how anyone joins the Millenarians, unless perhaps invited. It was mentioned that they took in a few of the collected children. The umbilical stump falls off at about one week so they had to be brand new. I just don't see how they can keep their numbers up just by taking in 2 or 3 kids every decade. Sure, they are living extraordinarily long, but they obviously can't procreate. And every other group has certain criteria for acceptance, but the strictest and most venerable group just takes a chance on random babies? That doesn't pass their own rationality test!

2. The extramuros people know about the alien craft, and although the secular governments are all in a tizzy about it, the regular people aren't? Some are ready to volunteer their time and resources to the convox-bound avout but there hasn't been much impact on them otherwise? It seems to me, if there were definitive proof that aliens were hovering above us, Earth's people would be rioting and stockpiling food.

3. And, it's been mentioned that the Millenarians can replicate their DNA sequences, to live longer. Fraa Jad seems to have a good handle on many secular things, and claims to be well over 100 years old. I'm hoping we'll get more details on this later. But for all the technology that doesn't surprise Fraa Jad, he's still making grass thatch to cover nuclear waste? I guess that's some of the humor but it doesn't quite mesh.

mar 1, 2012, 12:58 am

13: I did have a lot of free time last week, and the book really drew me in!

mar 18, 2012, 8:50 pm

Errr... I finally finished the book!

I'm sorry this didn't turn out to be much of a tutored read, but rather more of a group read. I was thinking I'd need much more help along the way with the math and physics, but the author did such a good job of making it accessible and explaining everything as we went along (almost too much!).

But thank you everyone for the attempt. :) I'm happy to discuss the book with anyone who may have questions or comments. I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed the story, and highly recommend it.