I just finished Neal Stephenson’s Anathem—highly recommended! Like most of Neal Stephenson’s novels, it is full of little gems. There were none that stood out as much as the passage in The Confusion where Stephenson manages to place his protagonists in a situation where it is completely natural for one of them to say “I certainly did not expect the Spanish Inquisition”, but here are a couple I just had to share.
On why people stopped building particle accelerators:
Erasmas: “I always tend to assume there’s an infinite amount of money out there.”
Arsibalt: “There might as well be, but most of it is spent on pornography, sugar water, and bombs. There is only so much that can be scraped together for particle accelerators.”
On the balance of power between the protagonists’ civilization and their ostensibly extrasolar and probably hostile visitors:
Cord: “Do you need transportation? Tools? Stuff?”
Erasmas: “Our opponent is an alien starship packed with atomic bombs. We have a protractor.”
Cord: “Okay, I’ll go home and see if I can scrounge up a ruler and a piece of string.”