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The Diamond Age (1995)

by Neal Stephenson

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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10,562197551 (4.09)292
The story of an interactive book, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer, written by John Hackworth, a nano engineer. It helps a girl become a princess and educates an army of girls who eventually save his life. The setting is a world where molecular machines create any object desired and where nations have been replaced by cultural enclaves, in this case the neo-Victorians of coastal China. Part-science fiction, part-political thriller.… (more)
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» See also 292 mentions

English (188)  French (2)  Finnish (1)  German (1)  Italian (1)  Hungarian (1)  Romanian (1)  All languages (195)
Showing 1-5 of 188 (next | show all)
Earlier, I reviewed Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash. It was one of the finest audiobooks I'd ever heard, and I feel that this one may be even better. Snow Crash was irreverent and whimsical, and The Diamond Age is that and more, with a plot that is both epic and personal.

Nell is a little girl, 4 years old when we first meet her. Her brother, Harv, gives her a stolen copy of the Young Lady's Illustrated Primer, an interactive ("ractive") book that was designed by an engineer who wanted his own daughter to experience a bit more than the traditional education. Nell's mother flits from abusive relationship to abusive relationship, with Nell and Harv protecting themselves as they can. Nell spends more and more time with the Primer, which teaches Nell through stories told by real interactive actors ("ractors") via the Net.

The story is complex and mature. The main plot follows Nell's life, and along the way we see an amazing world. The world has become nearly tribal again with people gathering in Claves, each with their own rules and culture. Much time is spent in a neo-Victorian Clave, a place where Victorian culture is adopted because it is felt that one has to go back to the 19th century to find a viable model for society.

Stephenson explores two technologies in the novel as well, and they are both of equal influence on the story. The first is the Net and the entire idea of interactive entertainment, which makes the Primer possible. The second is nanotechnology, which is used in everything from planet building to the creation of stuffed animals in a Matter Compiler. There are also nano-mites which float in your bloodstream and can do anything from carry information to kill you with thousands of tiny explosions.

The drawback to this novel is its ending, which, though inadequate, would not keep me from recommending it. The rest of the book is so astonishingly strong, that to miss it would be missing one of the major works of modern science fiction.

The Diamond Age could not have been an easy novel to perform, but Jennifer Wiltsie did so admirably. This is the first I've heard her, and I hope to hear her voice often. She had just the right tone for this, and I had no trouble at all discerning the characters in this complex novel. An excellent job.

(I posted this review at SFFaudio.com in September 2003.)
  SDanielson | Sep 5, 2022 |
I really enjoyed it, in spite of the fact that the plot was somewhat spastic and the character development more absent than not. The world was interesting, and many of the ideas in it were interesting too. ( )
  eri_kars | Jul 10, 2022 |
This is a excellent book- it's both exceedingly entertaining and enlightening. While it isn't primarily a utopian/dystopian novel, it in many ways acts as one. Stephenson creates a world with a new sort of government, that is, one that has many governments not bounded by land but rather by voluntary membership. This is a facinating setting for a facinating plot. ( )
  mvolz | Jul 10, 2022 |
Up to about page 260 or so (shortly after entering Part the Second) the book made for some great reading...after that it was just typing. ( )
1 vote alco261 | Jun 13, 2022 |
One of the best, if not the best, of Stephenson's works. ( )
  Zoes_Human | Feb 14, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 188 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (11 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 interactive book, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer, written by John Hackworth, a nano engineer. It helps a girl become a princess and educates an army of girls who eventually save his life. The setting is a world where molecular machines create any object desired and where nations have been replaced by cultural enclaves, in this case the neo-Victorians of coastal China. Part-science fiction, part-political thriller.

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 014027037X, 0241953197

Hachette Book Group

An edition of this book was published by Hachette Book Group.

» Publisher information page

 

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