The Diamond Age: Or, a Young Lady's Illustrated Primer Paperback – 29 Aug 2002
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A nanotechnologist, John Hackworth, breaks the moral code of his tribe, the neo-Victorians. He has made an illict copy of a device called "A Young Lady's Primer". Its purpose is to raise and educate a girl capable of thinking for herself, but Hackworth's copy has fallen into the wrong hands.
About the Author
Neal Stephenson has published four novels: The Big U, Zodiac, Snow Crash and The Diamond Age. For the last of these he won a 1996 Hugo Award. He also writes (with J. Frederick George) as 'Stephen Bury'. Their books are Interface and Cobweb. Most of his books are published in Penguin. He lives in Seattle, where he is at work on other novels.
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I was disappointed with this. The first part was incredibly slow and I was close to giving up before the story properly got underway. It felt like the author was more interested in his own cleverness (eg using obscure words) than in telling a story.
If I had to criticise, the chinese characters are often quite stereotypical, and typos do start to creep in towards the end of the book. There also seems some ambiguity as to whether the reader of the Primer can effectively go back a few moves, or is committed to any decision she makes.
You have to enjoy luxuriating in a book like this, and certainly there is a huge amount here to savour. It could have been a third of the length, but then you would miss so much good stuff. The narrative picks up the pace towards the conclusion, and I was thinking about a five star marking. But for me, the actual ending felt a little too abrupt, with a few too many loose ends.
Well worth reading and re-reading.
Author Neal Stephenson (Cryptonomicon, the Baroque Cycle) harnesses the power of storytelling to tell a story about the power of storytelling. The Primer is a kind of interactive Brothers Grimm, revealing to Nell the dark archetypes of the human experience and giving her the tools to cope via ever more sophisticated parables. As ever with Stephenson, this is far more than science fiction, though he delights in the extrapolation and potential of technologies - this is myth employed as Jung saw it, as revelation, as route to self-actualisation and ultimately, as Princess Nell leads her unstoppable army into a Shanghai in flames, of paradigm cultural change.
The Diamond Age is also a meaty, multi-layered read with startling imagery, lucid characterisation and Stephenson's trademark wryly-observed wit. I cannot recommend this novel highly enough.
From a comment by the head of a corporation / country that "the most successful people have had _interesting_ lives", comes "A young lady's illustrated primer", an interactive book that, in short, challenges and educates its reader.
We follow the adventures of Nell and the other characters in the book in a futuristic world, not too far from what we may be living in within a few decades. The "Victorians", as they are called, aren't too far from our contemporary steampunk movement, for one.
Altogether a great adventure, with intriguing characters, in a world that never ceases to surprise. And in which I can't help but want to live.
Having bought a Kindle some months back a friend mentioned how great she thought Diamond Age was & I thought it wouldn't hurt to re-read. I slightly expected to be disappointed, as Stephenson's work has a lot of "rush", dynamic flashy writing & I thought maybe I'd see gaps this time round & limitations given how much technology has moved on.
Quite the reverse. The book does have faults of a certain kind ... it rambles & many of the events are simply too fantastical ... one of the main protagonists falls through a hole in the sea-floor into a world of drumming humans & stays there for 10 years ... HUM. However, I love it all & faults included it rates an easy 5 stars.
The core of the book is inspirationally powerful ... Stephenson loves the idea that natural human creativity & curiosity are right, good & correctly channelled result in amazing things & he manages to convince the reader of this even within a future distopia that is ambiguous, dirty & painful to inhabit. The central concept of a futuristic re-imagined book is passionate & beautiful & the parallel stories of different characters mesh well, without being showy.
There is naivety & exaggeration, but they have a wonderful, convincing flow & are a pleasure to fall into. I will be recommending this book to others & may well read it again in another 10 years.