Saturday, April 14, 2012
By Neal Stephenson
Any one who has read anything by Stephenson will be aware of his ability to weave vast amounts of complex details into a story and may well approach this novel with some trepidation, but fear not. Not only are the complex details in this book presented in a readable and enjoyable fashion, but for once Stephenson's characters are drawn in a way that makes them both understandable and likable. I will go as far as to say that this was easily my favourite Stephenson novel to date and its a great shame that my old debating friend Wertz, who was a big Stephenson fan, will never have the pleasure of reading it for he died a few years ago.
The novel begins in what I originally took to be a sort of monastery devoted to the study of mathematics ("Oh great" I thought, "just what I need, a novel about religious math!") but which I soon realised was something else entirely different. The protagonist, named Erasmas lives in a monastic community, called a Concent where he studies the intellectual and philosophical history of his world (named Arbre). He has a number of good friends and together with them, he is drawn into an adventure of epic, yet entirely believable proportions. Erasmas himself tells the story in retrospect, and Stephenson has managed to make the character work well, both in his descriptiosn of self and how he regards his friends.
Oleg is reading the book at the moment so I'll be interested to hear his take on it, but for me, what really made the story work was the interaction between the protagonist and his friends. I enjoyed the book immensely and was sad when it ended. This was by far the best book of 2012 so far.