I am trying to remember a book I read a while ago. It is about a boy who lives in some sort of special mathematical conclave that only opens its doors to the outside world every few years. An alien spaceship is discovered orbiting earth and the boy, along with a few others, travel to space to take over the ship.

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    Mathematical conclave? As in, they were organised along mathematical lines or they had to observe maths rituals or what?
    – Valorum
    Jul 2, 2015 at 21:53
  • I'm convinced this is a dupe. Was the boy a member of a mathematical religious sect that worshipped the plane (e.g. wedges)? He was released by his sect to become an engineer and got brain implants?
    – Valorum
    Jul 2, 2015 at 21:58
  • Marked as a dupe to a newer, more comprehensive, question and answer.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Sep 6, 2019 at 11:27

1 Answer 1


This sounds very much like Neal Stephenson's Anathem.

Special mathematical conclave:

In the novel, avout follow a life path called the Discipline, sometimes referred to as Cartasian Discipline, after Saunt Cartas, the founder of the mathic world. It is a set of rules governing what is (and is not) allowed for avout to know and/or do, and was codified centuries before the time of the story in the Second New Revised Book of Discipline.

Chief among these is that the avout are separated, both mentally and literally, from the Sæculum, or outside world.

The boy and the alien spaceship:

The narrator and protagonist, Erasmas, is a fraa at the Concent of Saunt Edhar (Saunt, abbreviated St., is a corruption of the ancient word savant and is a title bestowed on influential intellectuals of the past). His primary teacher, Orolo, discovers that an alien spacecraft is orbiting Arbre — a fact that the Sæcular Power attempts to cover up. [...] The avout team boards the ship [...]

(emphases mine)

  • You are correct! That is the book I was trying to remember. Thank you!!
    – Nicole
    Jul 3, 2015 at 22:45
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    @Nicole Glad to be of service! You can click the checkmark next to the answer to mark this as the correct answer :-)
    – Rand al'Thor
    Jul 3, 2015 at 22:51

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