ugh... can't bring myself to bring out the fourth star. stephenson is stretching more and more out as he gets older. now I admit i started diamond age at 3 and had to concede, finally, a solid 4, but I'm pretty sure i won't be making the same jump... it's all the fantastic ideas and thought just really really spread out like a pat of butter on a slice of bread...Anathem, short for 'Anathema', is set in a religiously-inflected, "post-post-apocalyptic" world where research/maths/philosophy are carried out by hermetically sealed clans that open every year, decade, century, or even millenium. the book is rife with invented terms for the various sanctions, cooperations, metaphysical systems
involved, leading to a dense, dense, and very long work that provides excellent value-for-dollar in one sense, but drains the reader in another and sometimes seems more an exposition than a narrative.
if [b:The Diamond Age|827|The Diamond Age|Neal Stephenson|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1320415915s/827.jpg|2181158] at least had sexy settings, we are now left with something between [b:da vinci code|968|The Da Vinci Code (Robert Langdon, #2)|Dan Brown|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1303252999s/968.jpg|2982101], in the name of the rose, brave new world, plus a little [b:sophie's world|10959|Sophie's World|Jostein Gaarder|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1343459906s/10959.jpg|4432325] in the inimitable stephenson style.
but whereas fanboys are rife; and favorable favorable reviews are springing up like mushrooms on this entry, surely there is some room for the literarist who says, "three stars! enough~!"
Neal Stephenson bibliography
b. 1959, Fort Meade, Maryland
1981, B.A. Boston Univ., geography (age 21)
1984, "The Big U" campus satire novel (age 25)
1992, "Snow Crash" post cyberpunk (age 33)
1995, "Diamond Age" another hit (age 36)
1999, "Cryptonimicon", pretty good, but decling (age 40)
2003/4, Baroque cycle; fanatics only (43-44)
2008, "Anathem"; NS definitely in decline (49)
so, Stephenson is the Mozart rather than Beethoven of cyberpunk/futorology; burns early, and has started to fade. the opposite of DeLillo (b. 1936, Americana 1971- age 35; best book either White Noise (1985) or Underworld (1997) (age 49, age 61) by 2007 (age 71) clearly in absolute and relative decline