A nice book review, and not as long as some of my rubbish

In many cases, if asked to pick a favourite of some kind of thing, I will reply evasively. I have been heard to avow that I don’t believe in them, which is generally the case.

Not so in literature. I have a favourite author – Kurt Vonnegut, and a favourite book. Which is not by him.

Neal Stephenson’s “Anathem” is one title that has truly guided me over the few years since I read it, and I think some of its messages have coalesced somewhat for me.

Here’s what I think he is talking about: The great, aeons-long war between Socratics and Sophists. Jazz and Pop. Satirists and copywriters.

Buggering around as a means of finding truth, or establishing powerful methods of communication to serve a decided upon truth.


Is it a war, as he frames it? Sun Tzu suggests the avoidance of war as being the warrior’s first strategy, and Stephenson moves his narratives through warlike frames whilst his characters find ways to rewrite the collective narrative to an optimally peaceful conclusion.

He also is talking of community. The setting starts in one of a distributed network of cloistered colleges organised on monsatic lines. A discussional culture drives, and our initial protagonists are very much Socratics – truth is sought through agreed on and examined lines of reasoning.

I have to allow that I am in some ways a Socratic. I can generate strategy to effectively accomplish any reasonable aim, but I feel most comfortable doing so for aims I believe in and have taken time to investigate.

A global catastrophe arises, and the real purpose of the network of monasteries is revealed as they rapidly take their immense knowledge – having been around for uncounted aeons undisturbed – and Socratics, Sophists and all save the universe.

In a nutshell.

Here’s the mechanism: The Sophists take over the running of things, and manoeuvre the Socratics out, so the Socratics go guerilla.

A philosophical college of ninjas get involved.

True love happens.

The Sophists are revealed to be trusted allies, and hook the Socratics up with a space mission invented from first principles.

And they save the universe by literally mucking around with the quantum mechanics using their Socratically-trained brains and change the story to the right ending after examining a possibly infinite number of alternate timelines.

As you do.


About seanmurgatroyd
Library (Shared blog): http://diligentroom.wordpress.com/ Personal including infoculture, book reviews: http://diligentroom.wordpress.com/ Music: http://seanfishmusic.wordpress.com/ Last.fm band page: http://www.last.fm/music/Seanfish @seanfish

One Response to A nice book review, and not as long as some of my rubbish

  1. Pingback: Bracing news, and a meme | The Discourse Analysis Cure

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