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VINE VOICEon 20 July 2017
John Hackworth, nano-technologist, makes an illegal copy of an interactive book that he has designed for his employer, "A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer". He intends it for his daughter, but it is stolen from him and falls into the hands of a young girl called Nell. This unexpected disaster has far reaching implications, not just for John, but for all of society.
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.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 23 November 2014
This is probably not exactly steam-punk, but it shares a fondness for the victorian era, a hefty length and esoteric vocabulary. Once it gets going it spins a telling yarn about nano-technology and the educational power of fiction. I can struggle with a cluttered or over-busy narrative, but this managed to juggle all the various balls with aplomb.

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.
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on 19 August 2013
The Diamond Age is set in a vividly-conceived nanotechnological future in which nation states have ceased to exist. The Young Lady's Illustrated Primer of the sub-title is a nanotechnological marvel, an interactive book, initially the only one in existence, which falls into the hands of Nell, a young girl trapped in the underclass with her street rat brother and feckless, drunken mother. The Primer, obeying its design specification, sets about educating Nell, matching her progress as she flees her background and tries to survive in a complex and hostile dystopia. The book, a complete mythography in one package, tells Nell stories that enable her to grow, to mature, and deal with the increasingly challenging situations she faces.

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.
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on 22 July 2010
Yet another magnificent creation of Stephenson's, set to inspire and make one think.

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.
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on 20 May 2011
I guess I must have read this book roughly 10 years back, must have been soon after it came out, I had read Snow Crash & realised Neal Stephenson was a god & the internet was young.

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.
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on 4 April 2018
Ultimately a frustrating book. The premise sounded excellent, but the author gets bogged down in superfluous detail. It was my first time reading Stephenson so perhaps this is his style. It has put me off reading any of his other books.
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on 26 April 2014
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. Lots of ideas to mull over and excellent writing. It doesn't all stand up to rational analysis however.
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on 31 August 2015
Not a fan of sci-fi or it would get a 5. It's full of fascinating ideas. The characterisation can be a bit thin, but I'm told that goes with the sci-fi territory. We did it in our book group and wished we had taken 2 sessions instead of one, it is so dense with ideas on society, parenting, learning, love...
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on 18 September 2017
Not what I expected from the writer of the Baroque Trilogy, but if you like fantasy and magic this is for you: I don't!
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on 10 October 2015
The use of fairy stories and myth to develop the main character and the plot is both charming and original, though perhaps carried a little far. The vision of future society is seriously bizarre but fairly believable, with some grounding in the past. Altogether a very good read though perhaps not quite top form.
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