Here is another instance of my last December’s book buying spree: Neal Stephenson’s Anathem. I loved this guy’s Cryptonomicon.
While being compelling Stephenson’s books also have a big downside, they are huge tomes. It takes ages to finish one – or rather you are so captivated that everything else is afflicted. I do not think that I will start his Baroque Cycle any time soon for that reason.
Yet, Anathem made it on my reading list. In contrast to Cryptonomicon it’s more obviously science fiction even though both novels won the Locus Award for the best science fiction novel. Anathem’s story does not even take place on Earth. Also in contrast to some of his other works it does not relate to (the advancement of and effects of) technology, its focus is much more philosophical. Thus, as a side effect you’ll learn something about Philosophy.
I’d like to point to a similarity and contrast to a completely unrelated work. As Tolkien did, so does Stephenson. Both invented a new language that is spoken in their fictional worlds. Both authors like to sidetrack from the actual plot and include lengthy elaborations. Granted, Stephenson did not go to the same length as Tolkien when inventing a new language, his diversions are, however, certainly not shorter. Yet, they do not feel like diversions at all. They are integral for the story. And this is something that many (me not included, though) do not seem to feel about Tolkien’s detailed elaborations on Middle-earth’s landscape. I think this clearly speaks in favor of Stephenson.