Arbre is a planet where scientists and mathematicians are cloistered behind monastery walls in order to preserve knowledge from disasters. Their millennia-old rules are shattered when a mysterious extraterrestrial event is detected. Raz, an acolyte about to be selected for an Order, and his companions are drawn out of the cloister and into the center of the planet threatening crisis. Fans of Stephenson (I’m one!) know that his work is often more concerned with examining philosophical themes than rapidly forwarding a plotline. Anathem is more successful than some of his recent works in balancing a great story and intriguing intellectual explorations.