Near the end of Anathem, the story posits three different "world lines":

  1. Jad and Erasmus arrive on the bridge of the invading ship;
  2. Erasmus (and, presumably, Jad) die when Jad triggers the "Everything Killers";
  3. Jad died before they arrived at the ship.

The end of the book seems to imply that #3 is the "definitive sequence" - it's the only one we see all the way through to "the end" - but if Jad died when posited in this world line, then many of the events leading up to their arrival on the ship don't make sense anymore.

Has anyone been able to reconcile this?

1 Answer 1


Even though those specific narratives aren't the ones that the main narrative follows, that doesn't mean that they didn't effect the main narrative.

It all centers around the idea of the amanuensis: Erasmus' role is largely just that of being an observer, a "Consciousness bearing system" as Jad puts it. He is present to increase the crosstalk between the narratives, so that when the E.K's go off, the bad guys in the main narrative have this horrible premonition of doom, and when Jad and Erasmus sit down and have tea with the friendly faction, their leader has quite the opposite reaction, and helps to foster the peace process.

Like with the "Parking Deck Dinosaur". It appears, then it vanishes, and, despite the fact that the narrative no longer holds it, the people who witnessed it keep the effect from disappearing even after the cause did. Since the causal chain that ended with the Cousin's ship in orbit basically started with the ships first captain having a vision of the Third Sack, it's possible (and Erasmus and Logodhir discuss this at the funeral) that the Incanters specifically provoked the Third Sack to get the second reconstitution allowing the Avout to go back out into the world.

Logodhir doesn't answer the question, but only says something like, "If they did do something like that, then wouldn't you call this a success?"

  • 3
    Thanks for that - after putting the book down, I thought I understood what had happened, but as time has advanced since I first read the book, I have grown more and more confused by the bits that managed to "stick". This is a great answer that helped put me back in that same frame of mind where a causality more fluid than what we're used to actually makes a degree of sense.
    – TML
    Commented Aug 11, 2011 at 4:33
  • 1
    w.r.t. your third paragraph: I think it is Magnath Foral who discusses with Erasmus the possibility that the Incanters provoked the Third Sack to get the second reconstitution. My thought is that the Incanters provoked the third sack in order to get "givens" to prove or disprove the Complex Protism theory: remember, when asked how you could possibly verify the hypothesis that Arbre could be the HTW of some other world Jad says "we could not, unless those worlds came to us". (pg 722, according to Kindle)
    – davidbak
    Commented Oct 5, 2015 at 18:13
  • 1
    also I should say your second paragraph really explained a lot for me: why those two specific scenes: the explosion affected the one leader and the friendly conversation the other.
    – davidbak
    Commented Oct 5, 2015 at 18:17

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