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The Diamond Age: Or, a Young Lady's Illustrated Primer

The Diamond Age: Or, a Young Lady's Illustrated Primer [Kindle Edition]

Neal Stephenson
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)

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Amazon Review

Decades into the future, near the ancient city of Shanghai, a brilliant nanotechnologist named John Percival Hackworth has broken the rigorous moral code of his tribe, the powerful neo-Victorians, by making an illicit copy of a state-of-the-art interactive device called "A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer". Seattle Weekly called Stephenson's Snow Crash "The most influential book since ... Neuromancer."


A brilliant, tricky, twenty-first-century version of Pygmalion (Guardian )

A wealth of hip, social and technological riffs, stories-within-stories and not a few good jokes. Invest (Time Out )

The Quentin Tarantino of postcyberpunk science fiction. Stephenson has upped the form's ante with rambunctious glee (Village Voice )

A new era in science fiction. People will walk around slack-jawed for days and reemerge with a radically redefined sense of reality (Bruce Sterling )

Establishes Stephenson as a powerful voice for the cyber age. At once whimsical, satirical, and cautionary (USA Today )

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More About the Author

Neal Town Stephenson (born October 31, 1959) is an American writer, known for his speculative fiction works, which have been variously categorized science fiction, historical fiction, maximalism, cyberpunk, and postcyberpunk. Stephenson explores areas such as mathematics, cryptography, philosophy, currency, and the history of science. He also writes non-fiction articles about technology in publications such as Wired Magazine, and has worked part-time as an advisor for Blue Origin, a company (funded by Jeff Bezos) developing a manned sub-orbital launch system.

Born in Fort Meade, Maryland (home of the NSA and the National Cryptologic Museum) Stephenson came from a family comprising engineers and hard scientists he dubs "propeller heads". His father is a professor of electrical engineering whose father was a physics professor; his mother worked in a biochemistry laboratory, while her father was a biochemistry professor. Stephenson's family moved to Champaign-Urbana, Illinois in 1960 and then to Ames, Iowa in 1966 where he graduated from Ames High School in 1977. Stephenson furthered his studies at Boston University. He first specialized in physics, then switched to geography after he found that it would allow him to spend more time on the university mainframe. He graduated in 1981 with a B.A. in Geography and a minor in physics. Since 1984, Stephenson has lived mostly in the Pacific Northwest and currently resides in Seattle with his family.

Neal Stephenson is the author of the three-volume historical epic "The Baroque Cycle" (Quicksilver, The Confusion, and The System of the World) and the novels Cryptonomicon, The Diamond Age, Snow Crash, and Zodiac. He lives in Seattle, Washington.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By Richard
First and foremost, 'The Diamond Age' is a fantastic novel and a yardstick of Post-Cyberpunk fiction. The writing is superb, the characters are compelling, and the universe that Stephenson describes is a fascinating extrapolation of our own. It starts off promisingly with the cheeky demise of an archetypal Cyberpunk protagonist, setting the scene for the emotional and intellectual development of his child Nell via an interactive, nanotechnological book - the 'Primer'. The Primer acts as an electronic tutor, storyteller and protector that guides and oversees Nell's education and entry into adolescence.

The scope of the text is astounding, painting a portrait of a world where the ubiquity of nanotechnology has irreversibly altered human society from entertainment to warfare to economic worth. Stephenson's future is a world where nation states have collapsed to be replaced by 'phyles', socio-economic groups that partition cities into the differing communities and which cooperate under a global economic law. Foremost among these are the Neo-Victorians, an atavistic and economically advantaged phyle with a rigid social structure by whom the Primer is developed. After the engineer who covertly created it loses a copy, warfare begins to brew while little Nell is caught in the middle with her illicit Primer.

If the novel suffers from anything it is an overabundance of ideas that leaves the overall image somewhat muddled and susceptible to Occam's razor. The different storylines, gripping as they are, never weave together in a satisfactory conclusion and some characters seem to vanish along the way.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Book great - e-transcription poor 10 Mar 2011
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is one of the best of Neal Stephenson's books - long enough to be interesting but not excessively so as later books become.

BUT the e-book seems to have been scanned and OCR'd rather than taken from the original copy. The subsequent proof-reading is very sketchy and possibly done by someone less literate than NS (or his fans) who does not know all the words. At all events there is a wholly unacceptable number of silly mis-readings that are sometimes hard to guess (so one has to consult the paper copy!).

The publishers should be ashamed of themselves!
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Particularly interesting SF, with some flaws 17 Jun 2001
By Richard
I'm not a Sci-Fi fan but, after reading Drexler's fascinating Engines of Creation: the coming era of nanotechnology, I was curious to see what future Stephenson had imagined with this revolutionary technology. The author envisions an impressive number of interesting applications, some fairly predictable (e.g. matter compilers fed by water and air purifying stations, "smart" multimedia paper), some a lot less so (e.g. skull guns, lighter-than-air shields, nanotech-enhanced actors). But it becomes clearer and clearer that what the author is most interested in is computer science in general, and artificial intelligence in particular. Given the fact that Stephenson has also written In the beginning... was the command line, this shouldn't be such a surprise, and, far from being regrettable, it is in fact what gives the book its true dimension.
As the subtitle (A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer) suggests, this book is about a very special kind of book, for the Primer is so "intelligent" that it can adapt its fully interactive on-going didactic narrative to the needs and wishes of its owner, gradually developing his or her own ability to adapt and solve problems to the maximum. I found this to be a brilliant theme, because it depicts future technology as a means of improving the minds of people, eventually allowing them to reach their greatest potential. Stephenson appears a little narrow-minded, however, when it turns out that the Primer's tutorial only culminates with lessons on computer science and nanotechology.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant 12 Mar 2005
Various comments for this run as 'good but not Snow Crash' 'great but flawed' 'good but not Cryptonomicon'. This book is simply superb. I thoroughly enjoyed all of his other books, but for me this is the pinnacle. A world struggling to get to grips with the differences that seperate us, uses a tribal approach to create regions for people to live their chosen lives. This politcal world is imbued with Stephenson's usual array of amazing technology, and extraordinary concepts. The most powerful of these is a book with the ability to adapts its lessons instantaneously to its reader's needs, and a little girl with power to reshape everything. I loved the (for me very real) possiblities D/A opens up, and I want one of those books!!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Gem of a Book 31 Dec 2004
From the other reviews on this site, much has obviously been made of the fact that this book contains 'racist' themes. I've now read this book three times, and have never got the impression that the author's intent was to cause any offence to any country, race or culture.
In fact, Stephenson pokes as much fun at the 'Neo-Victorians', and their overly pompous pastiche of 19th century British life, as he does at the other 'philes' featured in the book. What he creates is a rich cast of futuristic characters which, to my mind at least, represent caricatures, rather than indictments, of various regional personalities and their inherent traditions. In doing so he fashions something far more feasible among the fantasy genre than many other, more extreme utopian/dystopian, visions.
The range of ideas explored is fantastic, ranging from the moral to the philosophical to the scientific. Although the ending is indeed disappointing and somewhat unbelievable - even for a science fiction book - in the context of the rest of the story, the main body of the tale should keep you more than a little hooked.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book! Interesting fusion of cyberpunk and historical references
Great book! Interesting fusion of cyberpunk and historical references, with a rich and vivid world. Fans of Stephenson's work won't be disappointed.
Published 1 month ago by Heners
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Read
Loved the nano tech and mash up of historical and cultural groups. A fully realised world that was a delight to live in.
Published 4 months ago by Jason Poley
5.0 out of 5 stars Love it!
Second time I've read this. First was paperback, back in the day... Absolutely love the author's use of language. The book is full of mind blowing scenarios.
Published 5 months ago by Diane Robbins
4.0 out of 5 stars A mix of brilliant ideas and fantasy story-telling
An enjoyable read, mixing lots of nano-technology ideas with a nearly fairy-tale like fantasy story-line and a very harsh real-world combining steam-punk and neo-China. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Max Speed
4.0 out of 5 stars Great ideas and characters, some some gaps
Coming to Neal from the giant that is (sadly was) Iain M Banks, I was both pleased and slightly (but only slightly) disappointed in this book. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Fleecy Moss
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read
Definately a classic that I will read again.Some intriguing philosophies, though I would have liked a bit more coverage of some of the supporting characters..
Published 7 months ago by Mr. John R. White
5.0 out of 5 stars Primer Motive
The Diamond Age is set in a vividly-conceived nanotechnological future in which nation states have ceased to exist. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Steven Wyatt
5.0 out of 5 stars I love this brilliantly thought out, quirky book
Amazingly enjoyable! Incredible story line and ideas.


I love the main character Nell and enjoyed reading about her as she grew up, but with a really... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Booklover
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth your time
A book that explores ideas wrapped in a well written narrative. People seem so dismissive about this genre of writing, but hey I don't like Jane Austin: "Smart people talk... Read more
Published 18 months ago by Mat Buch
3.0 out of 5 stars Ok, but not great
I have read a couple of Stephensons books, and was really looking forward to reading this.

It started really well, they future he imagines of a neo Victorian Asian... Read more
Published 18 months ago by Half Man, Half Book
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