Erasmas, 'Raz', is a young avout living in the Concent, a sanctuary for mathematicians, scientists, and philosophers. Three times during history's darkest epochs, violence has invaded and devastated the cloistered community. Yet the avout have always managed to adapt in the wake of catastrophe. But they now prepare to open the Concent's gates to the outside world, in celebration of a once-a-decade rite. Suddenly, Erasmas finds himself a major player in a drama that will determine the future of his world - as he sets out on an extraordinary odyssey that will carry him to the most dangerous, inhospitable corners of the planet...and beyond.
Neal Stephenson is the author of eight novels, including the cult successes Snowcrash and Cryptonomicon. He has been shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke Award five times, winning with Quicksilver. Three of his last four novels have been New York Times bestsellers. He lives in Seattle.