Anathem

Anathem coverMy review of Anathem has been published in this month’s IROSF:

One repeated theme, for instance, is how much can be figured out from very limited knowledge by the systematic application of logic and reason: how accurate a picture is possible from a limited number of facts. But at this point, I run into a problem not dissimilar to that facing reviewers of Ian McDonald’s Brasyl last year, which is to say that the specific nature of the story being told is a withheld revelation that it would be unfair to spoil. Suffice it to say that it’s a familiar kind of sf narrative, and that although from one perspective it’s a version of that narrative that takes an extraordinarily long time to get to the point, from another it’s the most detailed working-out of the theory underlying that narrative for many years. This is, of course, what many people said of The Baroque Cycle. I am not one of them: in fact, my reaction to Quicksilver is handily summed up by Raz in this book, who is at one point sentenced to the standard punishment of his Order, to copy out a number of chapters from a tome whose contents are said to have “been crafted and refined over many centuries to be nonsensical, maddening, and pointless … The punishment lay in knowing that you were putting all of that effort into letting a kind of intellectual poison infiltrate your brain” (157). But while on one level I’m ready to acknowledge that Anathem simply engages with a cluster of ideas that are more interesting to me, I think it is also a better book.

See also Liz’s review; and elsewhere in that issue of IROSF, Nick Mamatas on “Why Horror is the Odd Man Out in Genre Fiction“, and Ruth Nestvold and Jay Lake asking “Is it the Age of Fantasy?“, among others.

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