Set on a planet called Arbe (pronounced “arb”), Anathem documents a civilization split between two cultures: an indulgent Saecular general population (hooked on casinos, shopping in megastores, trashing the environment — sound familiar?) and the super-educated cohort known as the avaunt, or “auts,” who live a monastic existence defined by intellectual activity and circumscribed rituals. Freed from the pressures of pedestrian life, the avaunt view time differently. Their society — the “mathic” world — is clustered in walled-off areas known as concents built around giant clocks designed to last for centuries. The avaunt are separated into four groups, distinguished by the amount of time they are isolated from the outside world and each other. Unarians stay inside the wall for a year. Decenarians can venture outside only once a decade. Centenarians are locked in for a hundred years, and Millennarians — long-lifespanners who are endowed with Yoda-esque wisdom — emerge only in years ending in triple zeros.
Stephenson is a prolific Sci-Fi writer and not only has he predicted and coined terms like, “Cyberspace” he also has an almost academic understanding of physics, sociology, philosophy, etc. Stephenson’s best work, in my opinion, is Snowcrash.
The United States Open tennis tournament begins today in Flushing, Queens and former world number one is not the favorite. George Vecsey of the NY Times has an excellent article on how Federer has turned into a mere mortal over the last 2-3 big tournaments.