Reviews Coming in of Neal Stephenson’s Anathem

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Laura Miller — who may be even more of a Stephenson superfan than I am — weighs in here at the L.A. Times. The Wall Street Journal reviewed it today. Both raves. The only negative piece I’ve seen is in the Washington Post, where Michael Dirda compared it to Harold Brodkey’s Runaway Soul, which I think is totally unfair, and anyway you’d have to be a massive book nerd to even get the comparison. Dirda also called the book “much anticipated, in places quite brilliant, but ultimately grandiose, overwrought and pretty damn dull.”

I’m only a quarter of the way through Anathem, and I’ll certainly allow that the learning curve is steep. It took me a few chapters to become fluent in the terms and references of Stephenson’s alterna-Earth, and I didn’t especially relish that process. But you know, reading Neal Stephenson is basically what I do. There aren’t many writers whose prose I enjoy more, and whose interests jibe so closely with my own. So now that I’m through the hard part, I’m cruisin’ at full speed.

If you’ve never read any Neal Stephenson, I wouldn’t start here. I’d start with Cryptonomicon. But if like me you’ve read every other word he’s written — um, except the bits of the Baroque Cycle I skimmed — I wouldn’t hesitate. It’s out today. Write in if you’re reading it too. It’ll be like a book club!