Neal Stephenson has a new book to be released Sept 3 2008 (pre-order on Amazon).
Wired.com writes about Stephenson’s motivations and where the ideas came from for this 960 page novel.
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 centers his narrative around a crisis that jars this system—a crisis that allows him to introduce action scenes worthy of Buck Rogers and even a bit of martial arts. It’s a rather complicated setup; fortunately, there’s a detailed timeline and 20-page glossary to help the reader decode things.