Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Books Media Sci-Fi

Neal Stephenson's "Anathem" Due In September 248

Posted by timothy
from the not-a-moment-too-soon dept.
Alexander Rose writes "Neal Stephenson's new novel, ANATHEM, germinated in 01999 when Danny Hillis asked him and several other contributors to sketch out their ideas of what the Millennium Clock might look like. Stephenson tossed off a quick sketch and promptly forgot about it. Five years later however, when he was between projects, the idea came back to him, and he began to explore the possibility of building a novel around it. ANATHEM is the result, and will be released on September 9th, 02008." Read Rose's complete posting for more information about the release of the book, which he describes as set "in a genre bending alt-future-retro world where mechani-punk technology meets space opera in a blend of the best of Snow Crash and the Baroque Cycle."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Neal Stephenson's "Anathem" Due In September

Comments Filter:
  • But much like a parachuting bear with a bazooka, that sounds really awesome to me.
  • by edremy (36408) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @09:08AM (#24288753) Journal
    Will he write an ending for it, or will it just sort of stop in mid-page?
    • by jayhawk88 (160512)

      You know, when his endings can be a river of molten gold saving the day, I think I'm OK with him just skipping that part.

      • by alienmole (15522)
        I always thought that had to be a satire on happy endings. Taken that way, you can almost forgive him for it.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by SatanicPuppy (611928) *

          Nah, it was just fucking postmodern. That's one of the rules of postmodern writing: Don't resolve anything.

          The secret to reading postmodern fiction is trying to figure out what he was really talking about. The gold was a metaphor: if they were really trying to remove the gold from the mountain, that was about the worst way to do it, and, on top of that, remember that there were jewels and artwork in there as well, which would be destroyed by such a method.

          The "pumping the mountain full of gas" thing was rem

      • by STrinity (723872)
        The river of molten gold wasn't an ending either. It was just a convenient stopping place until the sequel, which he doesn't seem to have any intention of writing.
    • by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @09:37AM (#24289127)

      Will he write an ending for it, or will it just sort of stop in mid-page?

      Wait... Neal didn't write the final episode of The Sopranos, did he?

      No, no... he wrote the secret alternate final episode where Tony sets up a data haven in East Orange, New Jersey in order to get at the Civil War gold hidden by steam powered robots that fled Sicily in 1860. He puts his son in charge, but A.J. whines like a bitch until even his own sister, Meadow, finally has enough and whacks him herself. And then there's a four hour monologue by the ghost of Big Pussy.

      • Ouch, that is a scathing review, and sadly, kind of accurate to the kind of batshit craziness that is Neil.
    • by Kostya (1146) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @09:41AM (#24289193) Homepage Journal

      Amen, brother. I can't figure out if Stephenson thinks it artistic or something to end his books like that. For me, it's just a sign of bad writing. There are all sorts of stuff you think are artsy until you improve your craft--and then you realize you were just excusing crap work under a label of "artistic."

      For once, I'd like a Stephenson book with a decent ending. I think the only quasi-ending he has ever written might be the ending of the Baroque Cycle. But is that an ending or beating a subject matter to death so thoroughly that there is nothing left to say? ;-)

      I say this all as a big fan. For me, his books are great right up until the end, where I am promised a very dissatisfying, unresolved end to the book. And for no good reason as near as I can tell. Doesn't stop me from reading them--but it also doesn't stop me from complaining either :-)

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Deathdonut (604275)
      Stephenson is definately more about the trip than destination in most of his books. The worst offender was Diamond Age. He spends the time to develope a compelling world and empathetic main character only to hand the book off to his 11 year old nephew to write an ending. (You must write AT LEAST 3 pages, Johnny!) Snow crash was almost as bad. By the time Cryptonomicon rolled around, he finally started to get an idea that the ending should be planned in advance and seemed to do a reasonable job, though
    • I just finished reading the 900-or-so pages of my "advanced reader's copy."

      There's definitely a clear end. It might be nice to have a bit more denouement, but it's not like some of his other books. It's a reasonably satisfying ending.

  • Urgh... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TechnoBunny (991156) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @09:08AM (#24288763)
    "a genre bending alt-future-retro world where mechani-punk technology meets space opera in a blend of the best of Snow Crash and the Baroque Cycle." Sounds horrific.
    • Re:Urgh... (Score:4, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @09:12AM (#24288805)

      You don't like Snow Crash? Get the fuck out of here. Your Slashdot license has been revoked.

      • Looks like you missed the few dozen words preceding Snow Crash. I agree, that description makes it sound horrible, but I know it will be at the very least halfway decent. Got my pre-order in.
  • by tb()ne (625102) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @09:09AM (#24288771)

    I read Cryptonomicon and Snow Crash and thought both were great, except for the endings. I thought the endings were rushed, as if he spent a years carefully writing each novel until his publisher suddenly showed up at his door and said "Dude, you've got 24 hours to finish this novel." I'm waiting for a specific review of the ending of this one before I decide whether to buy.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by maxume (22995)

      Just pencil in "and they all lived happily ever after". Problem solved.

    • I've not read everything that Stephenson's written so far, but as I understand it, Cryptonomicon had the most ending-like ending.

      Great endings, bad endings, no endings -- regardless, the ride with Stephenson is fun so I'm definitely going to be picking up Anathem.

    • The Diamond Age had the same problem.

      Reading a Neal Stephenson novel is like strapping yourself into the back seat of a converted jet trainer to tour the Grand Canyon. For a lot of people, by the time they've gotten used to dodging pillars of rock at half the speed of sound and they're really enjoying the view the pilot flips over the rim and... that's all, tour's over.

      I get used to the view pretty quick, and I've come to accept the endings, so I'll be picking up ANATHEM anyway.

      • by smellsofbikes (890263) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @11:01AM (#24290279) Journal

        Yes he does.
        Read "The Big U".
        It has a very nearly perfect ending, after being hundreds of pages of crazy raving that only a very bright writer desperately homesick for dorm life would find worthwhile.
        And then this wonderful ending.

        I think he spent his lifetime supply of wrapping-up on that one book, and now he's stuck with the rest of his books ending like life: just sort of wandering off aimlessly.

        • by HardCase (14757)

          I read The Big U when I was in college, so I guess that it was a little more situationally applicable (or whatever other multisyllabic terminology applies).

          Snow Crash and The Diamond Age are also favorites of mine. But something bizarre happened after that. It's as if Stephenson began a torrid, years-long relationship with an unabridged thesaurus. Either that, or his publisher started paying by the word.

          • It's as if Stephenson began a torrid, years-long relationship with an unabridged thesaurus. Either that, or his publisher started paying by the word.

            Or maybe Stephen R. Donaldson has been using the Neal Stephenson persona all along, and the mask has finally slipped. Or maybe I need to stop smoking catnip. Seriously, though, if you think the Stephenson abuses his thesaurus, check out Donaldson's "Thomas Covenant" books.

            • by HardCase (14757)

              I read the Thomas Covenant books when they were first published. Maybe that's the third option - he's channeling Donaldson.

    • The butler did it. There, I said it.

    • by dubl-u (51156) *

      as if he spent a years carefully writing each novel until his publisher suddenly showed up at his door and said "Dude, you've got 24 hours to finish this novel."

      My interpretation has always been that he just got sick and tired of the whole project and said, "Fuck it! What's the shortest path here between me and a payday?"

    • by Blakey Rat (99501)

      Snow Crash lost me on about page 3, where it turns out the hero's name is actually "Hiro Protagonist."

      I don't know what kind of art-house BS that is, but talk about breaking the fourth wall. I saw it through to the end, but the book seemed to be mostly just gross-out scenes (do we really need the detailed description of the piked police officer?), terrible puns ("maybe they'll listen to Reason"), and juvenile humor/stuff a 12-year-old would find cool. Oh, and it turns out that Hiro Protagonist is not only a

    • by h3llfish (663057) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @12:50PM (#24292093)
      Endings are for children. The Little Engine That Could has an ending. I don't mean to insult you for preferring that the narrative wraps itself up in a tidy package. There is something satisfying about that, but I think that more adult and more complex stories don't lend themselves to that kind of storytelling. Endings, whether happy or sad, are always somewhat artificial. There is always more story to tell. I really didn't mind the way that Diamond Age ended at all. Sure, there were plenty of narrative loose ends to wrap up, but from a thematic standpoint, the story was over. The author's point(s) had been made.
      • by tb()ne (625102)

        You apparently misinterpreted my post. I never stated that they didn't have endings (although many others have stated just that). I indicated that the endings seemed rushed, which is independent of whether every plot element is neatly resolved.

        Even with my infantile intellect and love of children's books, I don't require that all plot elements be neatly resolved at the end (last page) of a novel to enjoy it. But I also won't assume that a novel with a crappy ending must just be adult and complex.

    • I said it above... I just finished the review copy.

      I think there's a pretty decent finish. Depending on how you count it, maybe 40-50 pages worth. I won't spoil the ending to say much more, but I doubt it was written in 24 hours and it wraps up a number of questions.

  • GAH (Score:5, Insightful)

    by _KiTA_ (241027) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @09:10AM (#24288787) Homepage

    Read Rose's complete posting for more information about the release of the book, which he describes as set "in a genre bending alt-future-retro world where mechani-punk technology meets space opera in a blend of the best of Snow Crash and the Baroque Cycle."

    My god, I've gone cross-eyed.

  • Geez (Score:5, Funny)

    by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @09:28AM (#24289035)

    in a genre bending alt-future-retro world where mechani-punk technology meets space opera in a blend of the best of Snow Crash and the Baroque Cycle."

    Wow. I'm already bored.

  • Jesus fuck... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by famebait (450028) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @09:39AM (#24289155)

    Will all the leading-zero whiners please take 0.5 fucking seconds to think about what a "millennium clock" might be?

    Seriously, get your act together, people. This is supposed to be news for nerds, here.

  • People in LibraryThing [librarything.com]'s Early Reviewers [librarything.com] program were able to get advance copies a few months ago in return for posting reviews [librarything.com]. The length of the reviews runs from really short to fairly long.

    Alas, I didn't win one.

    While you're there, sign up for a lifetime membership, or, if you're cheap or broke, a free membership. It's only fair, since my posting this might cause all their bandwidth to be eaten up.

  • by Illbay (700081) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @10:42AM (#24289985) Journal
    ..."ATALAS SHRUGGED." It was very good, but not quite on par with his first novel, "THE FOUNTAINAHEAD."
  • less is more (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Von Rex (114907) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @10:45AM (#24290047)

    I found out all I wanted to know from Amazon -- the book is 960 pages long. The guy still doesn't have an editor with the balls to say no. Until he finds one, I can't get too excited about a new Neal Stephenson novel.

    Snow Crash was great. Cryptonomicon would have been great if he'd cut at least 300 pages of fluff. I didn't even bother with the Baroque books.

    He's very self-indulgent as a writer.

    • Re:less is more (Score:4, Interesting)

      by InfoHighwayRoadkill (454730) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @10:54AM (#24290199) Homepage

      Amen to that brother.

      Though Stephenson is not as bad a Douglas Coupland putting about 10 pages of digits of pi in Jpod.

      It seems a lot of modern writers do this sort of thing. IMHO it doesn't move the story along its literally filler. Ask them to write a tight, fast paced short story or novella and their minds would explode.

      I think I might sponsor a new literary competition....

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by FlyingBishop (1293238)
        So would the whole of Russia. Honestly, you're just too lazy to try to sit through 1000 pages. Which is why you sit on Slashdot and read paragraphs that hardly begin to cover what they're talking about. So, if anything, modern writers do exactly the opposite of this: try to skim something down into a soundbite instead of giving it proper, deep treatment. Thank God some people can keep the fire alive.
    • Re:less is more (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ScentCone (795499) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @11:22AM (#24290573)
      The guy still doesn't have an editor with the balls to say no

      Sorry, no. He's got a publisher with the balls to let him write what he wants to, and willing to sell it to people who appreciate it. I would have missed any single paragraph removed from the Baroque Cycle, and remain grateful that he won whatever stare-down might have been necessary to get an editor or publisher to let him have it his way. It's wonderful work, and if you're in such a hurry to get back to your Wii, just limit yourself to comic books or something you can handle while in the bathroom. I hope that he doesn't give a moment's thought to lightening up. 960 pages? What's the big deal? Maybe for people with gnat-sized attention spans and shallow vocabularies. It's not meant to be fast - his stuff is meant to be savored.
      • Re:less is more (Score:4, Insightful)

        by dubl-u (51156) * <2523987012@@@pota...to> on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @12:17PM (#24291535)

        Sorry, no. He's got a publisher with the balls to let him write what he wants to, and willing to sell it to people who appreciate it.

        I don't buy it. Although I loved Snow Crash, I think there were editing problems all over that thing. And for Diamond Age, any editor with starch would have looked at the last chapter and said, "Seriously? That's how you're going to end this? Take two weeks of vacation and then we'll talk." That wasn't meant to be savored; it was meant to get him done with the book ASAP.

        The upside of a weak editor is that we get a lot of nice bits that another editor might have cut. The digression in Diamond Age into the label of the steak sauce in the pub during lunch with Napier and the Duke was one of those that pleased me particularly.

        However, at some point one has to trim enough to get a manageable book out the door. A fine French meal is meant to be savored, too, but there's a reason none of them run to a 230 courses over a continuous 48 hours at the table. I know a lot of heavy readers, serious readers, and 75% of them didn't even bother starting the third volume of the Baroque Cycle. After two volumes, they'd had more than their fill.

        just limit yourself to comic books or something you can handle while in the bathroom

        Was there some particular need to be a prick about this? The other guy's comment seemed like a reasonable statement of personal preference.

        • Re:less is more (Score:5, Insightful)

          by ScentCone (795499) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @12:29PM (#24291721)
          Was there some particular need to be a prick about this?

          Maybe not. I guess I'm tired of people who see a long book (which they haven't even bothered to pick up!) and simply default to saying it, or the author, or editor have failed. It's what's wrong with a great deal of our culture these days, and speaks volumes (if you'll pardon the pun) about the diseased state of our collective attention span. It's why people can't get through a two-page science article and draw some useful conclusions. It's why people can't vote sensibly. It's why so much potentially great entertainment - in all media - is chasing its own tail down the drain, searching for the lowest common denominator. Spanking Neal Stephenson and his editors for the length of the Baroque Cycle is to utterly, completely miss the point of that piece of work (and indeed of Stephenson's purpose for writing it and his choice of style).

          I loved Snow Crash, I think there were editing problems all over that thing.

          Yup. Likewise with Cryptonomicon. By the time he got to the B.C., he'd come a long way, I think. Greatly improved. I'll always admire T.S. Elliot for saying, "I'd have written you a shorter letter, but I didn't have time." Brevity - well used - can be a delight. But that isn't the only delight. People who don't like the Baroque Cycle probably couldn't make it through a Dorothy Dunnett novel, either (to say nothing of the series of them needed to actually tell a complete tale). It's a style one likes, or one does not. But not liking something meant to last you through many long evenings of reading doesn't mean that the author or his editor have somehow failed.
    • by dickens (31040)

      Thanks for adding that detail. I'm now that much more eager to see it. Stephenson's books are long, but they have the numbers of characters, subplots and details to match. To my mind, they are free of fluff, crap or padding. In particular, the multiple narratives of of "The Baroque Cycle" really demand super-sizing.

      I can't argue with the point about the endings. Maybe if he wrote 1200 instead of 900 pages the end would be more satisfying. But the unsatisfying endings are not what I remember about his bo

  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @11:15AM (#24290473) Homepage Journal

    Bruce Sterling (coined the term "cyberpunk" for associate William Gibson's SF style that he imitated) promoted the Millennium Clock (Clock of the Long Now, from the Long Now Foundation) on his "eco-future design revolution" Viridian movement [wikipedia.org] mailing list. We discussed it at length, but everyone missed the point.

    The #1 design problem in a Millennium Clock is how to be sure that people 10,000 years from now (and along the way) will be able to "read" the clock, make sense of the clock's striking. Knowing that it's a "clock", knowing that it struck before at regular intervals, that it will strike again. "How to tell the time?" is a problem more for the uncontrolled people the clock is designed to signal, than it is for a clock that can at least theoretically be controlled from its beginnings across millennia.

    Mechanical failures or 100% success is irrelevant if people as far in the future from now as we are from shortly after the end of the last Ice Age, twice as distant as the people whose ancient Egyptian and Sumerian writing is decipherable only by the most learned experts, can't recognize the clock enough that they know it's marking time.

    So I proposed that we concentrate on that problem. After all, we've already got a giant, maintenance free, frictionless and durable clockwork flying around the sky every day. The Sun, Moon, Earth, planets and stars are all marking time every day. Their alignments at each year, century and millennium are evident to everyone on Earth, distinctive, and already "built". What we need to do to ensure our descendants can read any clock through the next 10,000 years is exactly the same task for inventing a mechanical clock we build and encode with time symbols, and for discovering how to use the existing "clock" (that humans have already used as timekeeper for our whole history).

    Maybe we should indeed build some monuments pointing at the "clock". Maybe to indulge our current fetish for precision matter engineering in the service of information manipulation, we sould build precise models of the sky at each time the clock strikes. Maybe we should spread thousands of Volkswagen sized synthetic diamonds, into which glowing radioactive doped renderings of the sky at each "gong" are obvious to everyone. Perhaps with a "Rosetta Stone" embedded inside, showing how we presently represent those times at those gongs (eg. "00:00 January 1, 2000 AD") also embedded in there, the privilege of the builders. Perhaps we should launch satellites (redundant - 10,000 years is a long time, even in the near-vacuum of orbit), powered by solar panels, that laser down to some such markers, burning away debris that might cover them, but passing through the readable, transparent monument. Perhaps we should carve the sequence of images into a circle on the face of the Moon, so anyone can glance up and compare the century/millennia arrangements in the Lunar pictures to the sky framing it.

    But building a clock that can be stolen, lost or broken, and which could easily become an unreadable enigma even if still available and moving in 10,000 years, is a distraction. In fact, our obsession with building that clock, rather than learning how to communicate with our distant descendants, shows just how important such a project is to its real goal: changing our naive approaches to longterm thinking. The failure of Version 1 of this Millennium Clock is a perfect expression of why we need to learn to devise a clock that succeeds.

    We missed the 2000 AD launch of a clock that people will recognize striking in 12,000 AD (or whatever they call it then). Lucky for us, we have 992 years to figure out how to do it right before the next deadline for what could become its first consecutive strike, that 10 millennia hence people will still know was a "clock" that started "now".

  • I quite liked it (but I like almost everything else by Stephenson, though I couldn't abide Quicksilver). Yes, the book is long, in that it has nearly 1000 pages (probably over, if you include the glossary and a handful of math proofs / dialogs at the end). But it didn't _feel_ long to me. You only even get a hint at what the plot is, maybe 200 pages in. Everything up until then was basically world exposition and character development. But again, it didn't feel slow-paced to me (like Quicksilver did).

If the facts don't fit the theory, change the facts. -- Albert Einstein

Working...