Anathem

By Neal Stephenson,

Book cover of Anathem

Book description

Since childhood, Raz has lived behind the walls of a 3,400-year-old monastery, a sanctuary for scientists, philosophers, and mathematicians. There, he and his cohorts are sealed off from the illiterate, irrational, unpredictable "saecular" world, an endless landscape of casinos and megastores that is plagued by recurring cycles of booms and…

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Why read it?

3 authors picked Anathem as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

A science fiction tale couched in the language of a novel study of academia, Anathem by Neal Stephenson describes a world in which monk-like academicians ensconce themselves away in “maths” which shut their doors to the world for a day, a year, a decade, a century, or a millennium. 

A marvelous vision on what it means to study something, to understand it, and, thus to see the world from a different perspective.

Anathem is one of my favorite Stephenson novels, full of “big ideas” about post-apocalyptic academia. Like Station Eleven, this post-apocalypse story is not a Mad Max story about the dissolution of the institutions that hold society together returning us to a time where life is “nasty, brutish and short,” but instead, it is about sometime later, when institutions have had time to rebuild. As an academic myself, Stephenson’s story of an alternative academia is an illuminating funhouse mirror into my world, and the strange ways we as a society construct knowledge.

Anathem is remarkable for having a gripping plot and fantastic, epic-fantasy-grade worldbuilding, while uncompromisingly exploring philosophical questions ranging from Platonic Idealism to string theory, to phenomenology, and much else. It’s rare for a novel to be so entertaining without sacrificing its intellectual commitments. At times, it reads like a giant love letter to philosophy. It was a joy for me to find endless references to the history of philosophy and science, often in the guise of alternate-universe versions of the relevant philosophers, with different names and histories, but enough that is familiar to make the informed reader point at the…

Tidelands: Ghosts and Monsters

By Gareth J. Southwell,

Book cover of Tidelands: Ghosts and Monsters

Gareth J. Southwell

New book alert!

What is my book about?

In a flooded city on the brink of collapse, the arcology provides a high-tech haven – for those who can afford it. Here, safe in her pampered confinement, Eva longs for escape. But each day she is made to play The Game, a mysterious virtual environment that seems more designed to monitor and test than to entertain.

Outside, life is a different story, where unregulated tech spawns nightmares to rival those of fairtytale and folklore – ghosts and monsters, the no-longer-human and the never-should-have-been. Here, Squirrel is a memory thief, eking out a fraught existence in service to the criminal…

Tidelands: Ghosts and Monsters

By Gareth J. Southwell,

What is this book about?

Tidelands is an ongoing sci-fi and fantasy serial. Set some years in the future, it is a dystopian blend of cyberpunk, first contact, Lovecraftian horror and dark humour.

In a flooded city on the brink of collapse, the arcology provides a high-tech haven – for those who can afford it. Here, safe in her pampered confinement, Eva longs for escape. But each day she is made to play The Game, a mysterious virtual environment that seems more designed to monitor and test than to entertain.

Outside, life is a different story, where unregulated tech spawns nightmares to rival those of…


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