The 3/3 is rather a trick answer to a trick question.
"Anathem" hasn't that much *math* content (and most in the
appendix), but the *meta*mathematical theme is prominent.
Literaric Quality? That's an even tougher one. I hate books
that collapse to black holes under their own weight, and I
more hate James Joyce and his whole ilk. (Hey, Stanislaw Lem
fully agreed with me...or so I infer from his works :-)
We must imagine the following scene:
Neal: "Hey $Editordude, I just finished my new book!"
$Editordude: "Swell. So what's it about?"
Neal: "In three words? Postapocalyptic math monks."
$Editordude: "Ehmmmm...thats sounds awfully close to
a Tentacle for Leibowitz."
$Editordude: "Whatever. How many pages?"
$Editordude: "Even worse. Hey, I have an idea. Do you
have 'Bestsellers for Dummies?'"
Neal: "Does a robot follow Asimovs laws? Waitaminnit, I fetch it..."
$Editordude: "OK. Open it at a random page."
Neal: "How random?"
$Editordude: "Random random, dammit!"
Neal: "Check. It says: 'Method Joyce. Pepper with neologisms
and gratituously expand to quadruple size. The more
hermetic it gets, the better. The professional recensents
will love it. The mob will (or will not) buy your name anyway,
you can't influence that.' Yeah, sounds good. I call back in
And thus "Anathem" was born. But the reader desperately wishes
himself back into the time where SF was short and monsters
were tentacled. Funny, I must have a tentacle obsession today :-)
Anyway. I'm not even half through the book, and if had no
literaric quality, I had had thrown it into the edge by now,
and it contains a few lulz making my day (the explanation of
a "thatcher" is a subtile riot), but I can't really recommend
the book unless you are sentenced for 20 to life. Wish me luck,
I have to read on now...
Thus endeth another bookcontent-devoid Meta-Review from
Hauke Reddmann. :-)