Science Fiction fans and critics love Neal Stephenson. His recent novels are expansive, epic, and bold. The premise of his latest, Anathem, caught my attention four weeks ago. What if monasteries existed not for religious people, but for scientists and philosophers? Nine hundred pages later, I’m a believer.
And yet, I can’t quite jump on the bandwagon of unqualified gushing. True, Stephenson writes a complex and engaging work. True, his plot twists leave a reader roller-coaster-dizzy. True, excellent ideas and true, excellent characters–even romantic ones. It might be that I’m not engaged by long philosophical discussions. When I read a novel, I want to be told a story, not receive a lecture in philosophy.
It’s probably the mark of a great writer that he can spend ten to twenty percent of a book in dense discussions on very, very deep material and overall, I still like it. Good thing the action sequences are snappy, exciting, and engaging.
A hard-core sf reader probably needs to read a Neal Stephenson book to get introduced. A novice sf reader would get a skewed view of sf authors reading this book. You’d get an author much more skilled than average, and more ideas that you would usually find in the most imaginative fiction.
Here’s a question: how many books have a video trailer?