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The Diamond Age by Neal. Stephenson
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The Diamond Age (original 1995; edition 1995)

by Neal. Stephenson

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8,874144339 (4.11)221
Member:Robert3167
Title:The Diamond Age
Authors:Neal. Stephenson
Info:BANTAM. (1995), Paperback, 455 pages
Collections:Your library, Sc-Fi
Rating:*****
Tags:Sci-Fi, Nanotechnology

Work details

The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson (1995)

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I first read the novel soon after it was released. It has aged very well. Stephenson's inventive and clever extrapolation of technological trends makes for a fine tale, and indeed still does, even though of course, many of the speculations shall never come to pass.

The kernel of the story is 'what if we got nanotechnology and matter compilers working?'. The speculation runs from this seed (well feed), as Stephenson tells of 21st Century Shanghai, where the world is split into tribes (phyles), as traditional nation states have disintegrated. And so we are introduced to the neo-Victorians, one of the more successful groupings(so disciplined and hard working don't you know), where nanotech engineer John Hackworth has great ambition. He has been seconded to a special and private project by equity Lord Finkle-MacGraw. This project is to produce a one off 'smart' book, destined to guide the education of Finkle MacGraw's granddaughter. He seizes the opportunity to duplicate this resource, for the benefit of his own daughter. With the aid of black-market matter compilers in the Celestial Republic, a copy is made. But Hackworth meets with foul play in Shanghai, and the purloined copy ends up in the hands of street urchin Nell, through the agency of her brother Harv and his gang.

And so we learn of the effect of the stolen book 'The Young Ladies Illustrated Primer', on the life of Nell. The strands of the story follow Nell's real life experience, and in parallel, her life as 'Princess Nell', in the Primer.



I reread as an audio book, listening is short swatches on the way to and fro from work. The audio version was rather well read.

( )
  orkydd | Feb 2, 2017 |
A prodigious feat of science fiction extrapolation that left me feeling like I could almost, but not quite, fit together all the pieces. Since many of the pieces are microscopic nanotech structures, this was pretty darn good.

While deeply impressed by Stephenson's vision of a world refashioned by nanotechnology, I was even more intrigued by his imagined 21st Century political milieu. The Nation State has met its demise, replaced by world-wide tribal affiliations evolved along racial and cultural lines. The pendulum has swung from the "decadent moral relativism" of the 20th Century to hierarchical societies with codes of behavior rigidly enforced. Most prominent in the story are the Neo-Victorians of New Atlantis and the Han Chinese of the Middle Kingdom, who have driven out even Communism as a depraved Western influence in favor of a Confucian system presided over by Mandarins. Wow.

The Victorian era is echoed in the title (cf "Gilded Age") and also in the lead character, Nell, a poor child of the streets with a big destiny (cf. Dickens' prototypical Victorian heroine, Little Nell). Throw in a few airships and a rampage of impoverished Chinese peasants at the climax, and you see late Victorian-Edwardian history repeating itself in a higher octave.

I did struggle more than once to understand what was going on, and would have welcomed more clear information. And while the big-picture historical and technological events are powerfully conveyed, I found a distressing inattention to individual people. Characters seem to exist only to serve larger purposes (like ants or nanobots), and key figures leave the scene without us ever knowing how their stories end.

Still, these qualms aside, The Diamond Age is a stupendous piece of immersive SF, for the reader with the circuitry to handle it.
( )
  JackMassa | Nov 23, 2016 |
Try as I might, I could not get into this and left it unfinished after about 15% in. The characters and setting failed to interest me and the story simply wasn't enjoyable. I won't rate what I don't finish.
  DLMorrese | Oct 14, 2016 |
Snow Crash is my favorite Stephenson novel, but this one comes close!! ( )
  GeetuM | Jun 3, 2016 |
Great nanotech world. I loved Dr. X. I reviewed it at http://scififantasyfiction.suite101.com/article.cfm/the_diamond_age_by_neal_step... ( )
  ndpmcIntosh | Mar 21, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (12 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Stephenson, Nealprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Jensen, BruceCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wiltsie, JenniferNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
By nature, men are nearly alike;
by practice, they get to be wide apart.

- Confucius
Dedication
First words
The bells of St. Mark's were ringing changes up on the mountain when Bud skated over to the mod parlor to upgrade his skull gun.
Quotations
The difference between ignorant and educated people is that the latter know more facts. But that has nothing to do with whether they are stupid or intelligent. The difference between stupid and intelligent people--and this is true whether or not they are well-educated--is that intelligent people can handle subtlety. They are not baffled by ambiguous or even contradictory situations--in fact, they expect them and are apt to become suspicious when things seem overly straightforward.
It is upon moral qualities that a society is ultimately founded. All the prosperity and technological sophistication in the world is of no use without that foundation.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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The story of an engineer who creates a device to raise a girl capable of thinking for herself reveals what happens when a young girl of the poor underclass obtains the device.

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Audible.com

5 editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 014027037X, 0241953197

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