Neal Town Stephenson is an award-winning American writer and game designer known for his works of speculative fiction. His novels have been variously categorized as science fiction, historical fictioncyberpunk, and “postcyberpunk“. Other labels, such as “baroque“, have been used. The hero of Zodiac, an early work, is an environmental activist taking on a huge chemical corporation – perhaps trite today, but on point in 1988, when it was published.

The The Baroque Cycle is a series of novels by American writer Neal Stephenson. It was published in three volumes containing 8 books in 2003 and 2004. The story follows the adventures of a sizeable cast of characters living amidst some of the central events of the late 17th and early 18th centuries in Europe. Despite featuring a literary treatment consistent with historical fiction, Stephenson has characterized the work as science fiction, because of the presence of some anomalous occurrences and the work’s particular emphasis on themes relating to science and technology. The sciences of cryptology and numismatics feature heavily in the series, as they do in some of Stephenson’s other works.

Anathem 2008 is perhaps the most brilliant literary invention to date from the incomparable Neal Stephenson, who rocked the world with Snow Crash, Cryptonomicon, and The Baroque Cycle. Now he imagines an alternate universe where scientists, philosophers, and mathematicians live in seclusion behind ancient monastery walls until they are called back into the world to deal with a crisis of astronomical proportions.

But Stephenson’s latest book, Seveneves, reviewed by John Gilbey in this week’s issue, hinges on more conventional sci-fi subject matter. It follows an assortment of people selected to try to survive the total destruction of all life on Earth. This “tale of straight-up global disaster”, Stephenson explains in the acknowledgements, is “an opportunity to showcase many of the more positive ideas that have emerged, over the last century, from the global community of people interested in space exploration”. Many of the “big hardware ideas”— which Stephenson noted in a Q&A as dear to his heart — will be familiar to sci-fi fans, he admits.

For the scientifically inclined, the real delight of reading end to have elaborate, inventive plots drawing on numerous technological and sociological ideas at the same time. This distinguishes him from other mainstream science fiction authors who tend to focus on a few technological or social changes in isolation from others. His Novel is the clear joy he takes in a scientific idea and its application.