Neal Stephenson is one of my favorite authors. I got hooked on him when my friend Elisa lent me a copy of Snow Crash, which is often compared to Gibson's Neuromancer. I had no idea what to expect at the time, but a day or two later, I'd finished reading the book (I got through Snow Crash much more quickly than I did Neuromancer, Stephenson's writing style is a lot easier to get into than Gibson's for me). I quickly moved onto The Diamond Age (of which there is a magnificent unabridged version at audible.com) and then I started the Goliath that is Cryptonomicon. I admit, it took me longer to get through Cryptonomicon, in part because the story was a lot more...complicated, or involved, but it also was due to the fact that the book is over 1,000 pages long. From there, it was a short jump to the books of The Baroque Cycle: Quicksilver, The Confusion, and The System of the World. Interface was another book of his that I read later, as was Zodiac, though Zodiac was in my esteem his weakest novel. These books, as a whole, represent to me what good science fiction should be: just on the edge of believability and a story that sucks you in. Stephenson is one of the authors I compare other science fiction authors to as a measure of how good they are.
Via slashdot, I came across an article on the TIME (the magazine) blog touting Stephenson's return. His new book, Anathem, is already available for pre-order on amazon.com, with a release date of September 9, 2008. The TIME blog quotes the story description, "Since childhood, Raz has lived behind the walls of a 3,400-year-old monastery, a sanctuary for scientists, philosophers, and mathematicians—sealed off from the illiterate, irrational, unpredictable "saecular" world that is plagued by recurring cycles of booms and busts, world wars and climate change. Until the day that a higher power, driven by fear, decides that only these cloistered scholars have the abilities to avert an impending catastrophe. And, one by one, Raz and his cohorts are summoned forth without warning into the Unknown."
I don't know if there are any other Stephenson-lovers out there, but this is definitely on my "must get" list.