Anathem:...an aut by which an incorrigible fraa or suur is ejected from the math and his or her work sequestered (hence the Fluccish word Anathema meaning intolerable statements or ideas).
Any writer who wants to create a sense of verisimilitude about an imaginary setting must wrestle with how to convey both the similarities and differences between the created milieu and the real world. In his previous novels, Neal Stephenson has faced this test while attempting to convey an amazingly deep array of ideas and situations. From the hip nearish future of Snow Crash to the nanotech-encrusted The Diamond Age, and even in such "historical" novels as Cryptonomicon and the three volumes of the Baroque Cycle, Stephenson's challenge has been making the alien real enough so that he can then explore the implications of various philosophical or technological issues, providing entertainment to the reader at the same time as he engages in a complex dialog about our present and our future. In Anathem, a stunning sprawl of a novel set on the planet Arbre, clever new solutions to the problem spring up in every paragraph, on every page -- without which not a single line of dialogue, a single character study, would convince the reader one iota.