Enjoyed Anathem - A Few Non-Spoiler Quotes

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I'd picked up Neal Stephenson's Anathem a while ago, but didn't really venture past a few pages until my friend Joel Franusic highly (re)recommended it, and told me it changed his life.

I have a lot of respect for Joel (we've had quite a few upsightful dialogs) so I decided to give the book another go. I picked up the mass market paperback at The Booksmith and have been reading it during flights, Caltrain, MUNI, and a few late nights here and there. Other than some minor annoyances at the lack of rigor on multicosmic theories, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I'm not ready to call it life-changing just yet. However, there are practices, cultures, and systems in the book that I'm still considering, analyzing, and trying to figure out what may make sense to try in our world. With that said, rather than a book review, here are a few quotes from Anathem that will provide a feeling for it without spoiling the story.

Pinprick maths

"Pinprick maths?"

"Some are no more than a one-room apartment with an electrical clock hanging on the wall and a well-stocked bookcase. One avout lives there alone, with no speely, no jeejah. Perhaps every few years an Inquisitor comes round and pokes his head in the door, just to see that all is well."

Ambiguity: troubles or relief?

The only shard that lodged in my memory was his concluding line: "If this all seems ambiguous, that's because it is; and if that troubles you, you'd hate it here; but if it gives you a feeling of relief, then you are in the right place and might consider staying."

Interface not made for literate people

I went into the shade of the great roof over the canal and sat on a stack of wooden pallets, then took out the cartabla and figured out how to use its interface. This took longer than I'd expected because it wasn't made for literate people. I couldn't make any headway at all with its search functions, because of all its cack-handed efforts to assist me.


"Here it's all about the messals. The maximum head count is seven. That's considered to be the largest number you can fit around a table such that everyone can hear, and people aren't always splitting off into side conversations."

Skyscraper math

"She's the Warden Fendant of a small math on the top of a skyscraper in a big city that is in the middle of a sectarian holy war."