To give you a thin sample of this overreaching heterogeneous brew, I took from pages 461 487 2 random consecutive chapters all the words that would intrigue young science fiction fans in the year 1995 This book nails the pimple faced, horny, just starting to get facial hair demographic I ll have to say about this list In mostly chronological order, and exactly quoted from the text THINGSFaery KingScriptoriumEnchanted ArmiesKing CoyotePrincess Nell The Book of the BookMermaidsDjinnKhanRoyal bloodCarved onyxShock wavesTidal wavesPoison dartRebellionDiscoLying in a puddle of his own urineRevolution ConstableHoplite ArmyTortureNightgownNudityGirl with a whipMatter CompilerAboriginal ShamanSwordKnifeProdigious amount of bloodElevator surfingDojoBooby trapsDr XShinto templesBarbariansDivine WindNunchuksA mouse armyCowboy bootsCarl Hollywood Fire axeZulu warriorsSkull gunFists of Righteous Harmony200 story buildingRadar scopeBayonetteVomitNight visionIdentical twinsPEOPLE PLACESNipponeseHindustaniNew ChusanNew AtlantianCelestial KingdomCoastal RepublicIsraelBosnia Outer TribesUrban HomeboysNeo VictorianBoersEconomic ZoneDisenchanted LandLand BeyondWORDSmediatronicphylesmemesnanobladesnanotechThere it is folks A taste of only 17 pages in The Diamond Age The other 483 pages are almost exactly the same, but with additional pimply faced and creative buzz words At some point there is a rainbow and a pony and Carmen SanDiego, and in several places there is a unicorn, and characters named Duck, Dinosaur, Peter Rabbit, and Purple so even young girls may find some traction herein.
I am not an objective critic of science fiction because I don t read enough of it I know it s not supposed to be real I got it But I want to dabble in the genre to be a well rounded reader, and this book won the 1996 Hugo Locus Awards So, bringing no prejudice into this book except an award winning expectation, I was greatly disappointed Just by the list above you can see the author was all over the place, like birdshot, with his themes He s forward in time he s backwards in time he s science he s fantasy he s grounded in 1995 technology with some small steps to near future, coincident with great leaps into distant future he s mystery, drama, fable he references too many cultural items from the late 1980 s and 90 s, like dreadlocks, and homeboys and bitchin dude He suddenly introduces a whole new technology with no backstory in order to press through a few lines of text If Stephenson needs to invent a word to impute something that sounds tech y, there s numerous prefix suffix mash ups he can turn to nano, micro, mega, giga blade, gun, saw, tube, villi so that it s possible to create Nanotechagigaswordebladetubule There s a slow, building progression toward a denouement for the several separate threadlines, but toward the end it s rushed, short, and unfulfilling.
And please, how many times in 100,000 appear the words anfractuous, ramifying, and fractal 15 Really Not buying it Good words, but way overused.
I wish there was a scatter plot of science fiction genres along an x y axis, because for my next science fiction book, I d move a couple values to the right, and up one.
5 stars rounded up I credit the second star merely because Stephenson had a form and stuck to it throughout He never wavered The narrative is way too schizoid for me, but it is a distinct style with a very mature despite being teenybop vocabulary.
New words afflatus, lacuna, farrago, cyalume, besprent, sinter, decussate, demesne, fl chette, neap tide.
Christmas 2010 I realised that I had got stuck in a rut I was re reading old favourites again and again, waiting for a few trusted authors to release new works Something had to be done.
On the spur of the moment I set myself a challenge, to read every book to have won the Locus Sci Fi award That s 35 books, 6 of which I d previously read, leaving 29 titles by 14 authors who were new to me.
While working through this reading list I got married, went on my honeymoon, switched career and became a father As such these stories became imprinted on my memory as the soundtrack to the happiest period in my life so far.
Not long after starting my Locus Quest, I crossed paths with a fascinating purple brick of a book, by the name of Anathem We hit it off spent many happy hours together and I sealed our love affair by naming a kitten after Anathem s protagonist, Erasmas.
Then along came Cryptonomicon a different kind of beast Initially, I was less convinced where is the sci fi element But that fat historical war novel grew on me slowly and as it was so long it had plenty of time to work its magic so I found myself a fan by the end.
Third but by no means final Stephenson to step up to the plate is the steampunk nanotech extraordinaire,The Diamond AgeWeighing in at a dinky 500 pages compared to its heavyweight kin,The Diamond Agehits the ground running and had me grinning from the get go.
There s no point bushing around the beat, it s time to put my table on the cards and wear my sleeve on my heart I loved this book As with Anathem , this book deserves a sixth star from me It makes me want to downgrade other books to 4 star just to make it stand out further Anathem is a book with substance the kind of girl your grandmother calls a keeperThe Diamond Ageis a book with flair the kind of girl your grandmother calls a bad influence.
What your Grandmother isn t telling you, is that sometimes bad influences grow up to be keepers The same soul runs through these books, but Anathem is just a little older and wiserThe Diamond Agenaive and impulsive.
You can easily find a list of major characters in this book Nell, the Hackworths, the Finkle McGraws, Judge Fang, Miranda but odds on they wont mention the star of the show The Primer Oh, the Primer Oh, sweet bejesus, the Primer I wish I had a Primer as a child I wish I had a Primer now, to give to my son The Primer is perfect It s like a fully formed idea you were already aware of, that hadn t been articulated yet It was on the tip of my tongue now I know what it s called the Primer The Primer is perfect It is what everyone who s banged their head on the desk through educational software wishes it was, and then some I could read a whole encyclopaedia about Nell s lessons with the Primer then go back in time, finish my AI design degree and devote my life to making the Primer a reality Everything else in this book is window dressing fascinating, imaginative, playful, funny, adventurous and evocative window dressing, for sure A lot of people get frustrated by the second half of the book and the ending I am apparently in the minority When Nell s view spoiler Mouse Army come to rescue hide spoiler 3.
5 stars Review originally posted at www.
Neal Stephenson s The Diamond Age is set in a near future that is unrecognizable in some ways and disturbingly familiar in other ways Nations have dissolved and people now tend to congregate in tribes or phyles based upon their culture, race, beliefs or skills Nanotechnology has upended society, and even the poorest people have access to matter compilers that create clothing, food and other items from a feed of molecules Still, the lack of education and opportunities for the underclass has created a wide division between them and a wealthy phyle like the Neo Victorians, who have adopted the manners and society of the British Victorian age.
John Hackworth is a brilliant nanotechnologist who lives with and works for the neo Victorians He is approached by one of the leaders of the clan, Lord Finkle McGraw, to secretly create an interactive smart book for Finkle McGraw s young granddaughter Lord Finkle McGraw fears that the neo Victorian society is too hidebound and commissions Hackworth to use his skills to create a children s book that will develop a educated and inquiring mind Hackworth develops this book, the Young Lady s Illustrated Primer, but can t resist the temptation to illegally create a copy of it for his own young daughter.
Unfortunately for Hackworth, Dr X, the Chinese black market engineer whose compiler Hackworth used to create the copy of the Primer, wants a copy of the book for his own purposes as well Hackworth is mugged on his way home with the Primer by a gang under Dr X s direction, but the young thug who grabs the book gives it to his 4 year old sister Nell rather than to Dr X The education Nell gets from the interactive Primer ends up changing her life drastically While Nell s life is benefited immeasurably by the Primer, Hackworth runs into serious trouble, caught between the pressures exerted by both Lord Finkle McGraw and Dr X, both of whom are aware of his crime and both of whom are using Hackworth for their own interests and goals.
The first half of The Diamond Age was fascinating, alternating between Hackworth s adventures and Nell s, interspersed with stories told to Nell by the Primer that pull from Nell s own life her stuffed animals and toys play a major teaching role in the stories and encourage her to think in new ways Stephenson has created an intricate and marvelous future world, with both amazing achievements and alarming pitfalls Stephenson s writing doesn t coddle the reader, but he writes so well that even when his future world is confusing, it s still entrancing.
At about the halfway mark, the plot weakens as it digresses to some new, less appealing plot lines the Drummers, who create a subconscious hive mind through sexual orgies and abandons some interesting characters and plots, such as the humorous but ruthless Judge Fang and his assistants, and the mysterious, powerful CryptNet organization.
The ending of The Diamond Age was even weaker, as yet another group, the Chinese Fists of Righteous Harmony, takes center stage and reenacts the Boxer Rebellion, putting Nell and other characters in grave danger Then the novel abruptly ends, answering a few questions but leaving most of the threads hanging and the fate of the characters unclear It s an inconclusive and disappointing ending.
Overall, despite its weaknesses, The Diamond Age is still a worthwhile read for those who appreciate brain challenging science fiction.
5 stars for the first half 2 to 2 1 2 stars for the second half 3.
5 stars overall.
Content advisory rape and near rape Some rough language in parts, including F bombs Brief but explicit description of an orgy.
There is so much that is good about this book The initial world building, the idea behind the Primer, the main characters, these are all done brilliantly and the story proceeds really well for the first half But then other stories come into play and confusion sets in at least in my head it did and it is like a roller coaster coming off the rails and crashing very, very suddenly on the last page.
One thing about Mr Stephenson though is that he really has a way with words He uses real words which no one else has used for decades and he also makes up his own some of which are just brilliant I like words so I enjoyed all this even though it made reading a slower process than usual.
So I did enjoy much of the book, only getting really lost with the advent of the Drummers, finding my feet again for a while and then becoming totally unable to get my head around the Mouse Army But that s Neal Stephenson for you I think he just likes to make your head hurt.
Initially, I wasn t tempted by The Diamond Age, but the subtitle drew me in A book advising young women Interesting However, given a choice between this book and the classic young women s story, Little Women, I think I ll go with Little Women.
At least none of the girls are raped The Diamond Age, Or a Young Lady s Illustrated Primer was an interesting, convoluted, frustrating book packed with ideas, characters and too little plot I suspect Stephenson of being in love with his ideas and would suggest a firmer hand on the editorial wheel Far too many details on nanobots, too few details on characters Hard to put down when I was reading, and equally hard to pick up later It was eligible for a re read or at least a re listen, as I m told the narrated version is quite enjoyable until the rape and the narrative mish mash at the end.
The story revolves around Nell, a young girl living with an older brother, her mother and her mother s series of boyfriends, and John Percival Hackworth, creator of The Young Lady s Illustrated Primer There s a story within a story plot of Nell reading the interactive Primer and experiencing the fairy tale like story within A host of other characters are involved, including a minor thug who briefly dates Nell s mom her brother Harv Hackworth s patron, Lord Finkle McGraw Miranda, the actress who reads the Primer Constable Moore, war veteran and her guardian of sorts Dr X, a mysterious character who wants the Primer for unknown reasons Miranda s boss, Carl Hollywood Hackworth s daughter and a few others It s also worth noting that despite being A Young Lady s Primer, it almost completely fails the Bechdel test Because, you know it is not just about the Young Lady it is also about the creator of the book and Stephenson s technology.
When it comes to characters, Stephenson quickly creates a feeling of depth in some One of my favorites was Judge Fang, with his New York accent, his adherence to Confucius principles, and his willingness to follow the path of ethics over the path of law It reminded me very strongly of Master Li in Bridge of Birds Sadly, we lose track of the Judge Likewise, while the Miranda story was engaging and we get a glimpse of her emotions at a particular time of life, she disappears for the last third of the book While both characters tied in quite nicely with the story of the Primer and Nell, the story of other parts of the Primer took precedence.
Spoilers below, naturally, because how else can I talk about this mess Narrative Sigh, what can I say The story within story technique is interesting and often enjoyable for me In this case, it gives insight into just how special this book is and how it interacts with the child and the environment to shape response However, as Nell ages, it could have done a better job with parallels to her real life, particularly in the last half when it was teaching her about the 12 keys, which I think meant learning coding techniques I found myself raising an eyebrow once or twice Would a Victorian primer really have encouraged a child to stab someone Sure, it may have been a sign of the book not quite working or it may have been a sign of Stephenson taking the story where he needed it to go I m betting the latter.
It was a relatively coherent story up until about page 250 when the plot loses any sense of caring about characterization and moves characters around to get to where Stephenson needs them to make his ultimate thematic point Hackforth ends up in a Drummer society, where much like entering Fairyland, he has aged ten years when he emerges around page 293 and then things really turn bizarre and dreamlike Miranda decides to look for Nell and disappears from the narrative after accepting an engagement with two shady characters Hackforth s daughter appears for a bizarre live action ractive performed on a ship Nell suddenly decides to leave the Victorian society and set off for China, although we aren t sure why, and ends up in a sado maochism brothel It was a mess and only sheer stubbornness kept me reading When Nell is captured and raped by the Fists of Righteous Harmony it catapulted me out of bored confusion into rage What The Hell Unacceptable, but thanks, Stephenson, for making sure the A Young Lady s Illustrated Primer reinforces women as rape targets, because we wouldn t want to think we ve moved beyond it as a plot device Oh and then he provided a capstone with a potential rape, saved for the last two pages.
I have an entire ranty post about the use of rape in stories and believe it was completely unnecessary here To then call this book A Young Lady s Primer is insulting and makes any empowerment themes hollow You know what else I realized Nell has very few interactions with women in this book With the exception of Nell, women are pawns or dependents Except for the Vicky classroom, there no scenes of females interacting with females Because apparently the message of A Young Lady s Primer is it s a man s world and women get to live in it.
You know what this book most reminded me of That mildly drunk guy at a party who seems kind of interesting and charismatic, even though he can t keep his chain of thought straight, but who turns out to be a total asshole after he realizes he s not getting laid.
Three and a half stars for the first 250 pages, two stars for the rest and negative forty stars for the end Stick with Little Women.
This has been on my shelf a while, I think a friend sent it to me I have to admit, this is a dense read sometimes in the way that hard sci fi can be Glazing over at tech speak tech speak tech speak If you fall of the tech speak train you start to glaze over a bit and get confused, or at least I do I m sure all the technology is masterfully crafted and is visionary, I just couldn t 100% follow it It s like sometimes authors TRY to be obscure in their writing in order to be highbrow to rise about the genre or something That said, something about this book REALLY gripped me, I definitely was drawn into the character of Nell, and even though the society and tech confused me a bit, I just skimmed forward a bit and got right on track Her character was beautifully realized and very emotional I can t say why it was so riveting, it just was.
The end of the book felt a bit rushed to me, considering the pace of the book previous, but this is certainly a deeply realized and profound book I feel that one day I ll read it again and get of the nanotechnology parts I would love to read another book in this universe and about Nell considering how much work I put into absorbing it all Highly recommended.
I came to The Diamond Age with a vague idea of what the book was about Like previous steampunk books I read, there was a combination of neo Victorian sensibilities, technologies different than what we re used to, and a huge disparity between classes While that may be what gets the book labeled as steampunk by some people ,it surpasses that label and has so much.
It has cyber punk technologies It has dystopian characteristics It s part adventure story, part riddle, part allegory, part detective story, and best of all, it feels epic without losing its main characters in too wide of a scope.
Reading Stephenson is always hard for me but I always enjoy it Part of the difficulty lies in the fact that his books are not easy to skim through Go too quickly in The Diamond Age and you end up in an underwater rave wondering what the heck just happened.
The book was definitely worth reading for any fan of the author It certainly is my favorite book of his so far My only complaint was that Nell was too perfect While it could be said that it the Primer had something to do with that, if I take a step back and look at the character, her lack of faults is unbelievable.
Other than that one little complaint, I loved every part of the book from the heart wrenching stories in the Primer to the action packed lead up to the Mouse Army I also liked all the mentions of tea.
Protip Fountain pens were mentioned at least nine times in this book If Charles Dickens climbed in an H.
G Wells time machine and went forward in time and he decided to create a post cyber punk, progressively dystopian bildungsroman novel with a strong female lead and with a fascinating glimpse of a future that expands on the world begun in Snow Crash, he would have written this novel This is Great Expectations with nanotechnology The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson is to post modernist science fiction thought as what Dickens was to his era a smart, entertaining and groundbreaking new literature In this work I also see the inspiration for such books as Ernest Cline s Ready Player One and Paolo Bacigalupi s The Windup Girl In fact I think a study could be made to determine how many works Stephenson may have influenced from this remarkable 1995 publication that won both the Hugo and Locus award for best novel 2018 I need to read from Neal Stephenson, this book was so cool and sophisticated, so rich with new ideas and fresh thoughts His illustration of nanotechnology has been highly influential and his writing seems to be the state of the market for SF Good stuff.
First half of the book gets 4 stars the second half gets 2 stars Average 3 stars.
I really liked the first half of the book His description of technology is wonderful, and the relationship between Nell and the Primer are quite captivating Much to my dismay, the book fell apart at the end Characters are disposed quite expediently, conflict is introduced with little or no explanation, very illogical events occur, and then the book stops If I could give different ratings to both half of the books, I would.
The whole book is laced with tangents which I found to be rather dull I cared very little for Hackworth s mission after he created the Primer I cared very little for what Dr X was attempting to do with the Primer In the first half of the book, Nell captures most of the focus, which makes these other aspects simply minor annoyances.
In the end, I found the book to be enjoyable Although, if I knew then what I know now, I would have stopped reading as soon as the book started to go downhill My opinion of Stephenson would have been much higher, and I would have saved myself some time and effort of finishing.