|The Diamond Age or A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer|
|summary||Interesting offering from everyone's new favorite|
First off, let me say we know that Diamond Age came out 1995. It is not our intention to review every book ever written, but Stephenson has received so much attention lately from Cryptonomicon that it is of some use to show that he did not spring fully formed from the head of Zeus. For those old school fans of Stephenson, this review will allow them to sit in renewed righteousness, while helping the new fan pick their next Stephenson read, assuming they managed to pound through all nine hundred plus pages of Cryptonomicon.
I'm going to spare you the book synopsis other than to say that this is a science fiction novel set in the not too distant future. It is heavy into nanotechnology, and treats the subject with insight and forethought. The real glory of this book, however, is in its examination of the nature of intelligence, human social interaction, and culture.
Stephenson crafts a very believable story centered around a genius nanotechnologist who breaks the rules of his tribe to help his daughter, and the young girl from a poor background he inadvertantly helps. The development of Nell, the tortured child who rises above her early experiences, allows the author to dive deeply into the differences between knowledge and intelligence, offering up a richly detailed conversation with the reader.
There are passages in the book where the protagonist is in a computer story of sorts, engaged in a fantasy setting. While these pieces aren't bad per se, I treated them a little like the poetry fragments in Tolkien. They're OK sometimes, but I skipped them maybe more than I should have. There is also a very annoying character named Miranda who seems superfluous to the story to me.
The other trouble I have with the book is the way it ends. Now Stephenson, like Orson Scott Card, seems to have a damned tough time ending a book. For Card it stems from deep personal philosophies, but I'm not sure that's the case for Stephenson. Still, while the last five pages of the book slide, it does not detract significantly from the rest of the book.
Alot. First of all, this is a very believable view of life after nanotechnology hits its stride. It's also a great forecast on future geopolitical tensions, and how the next century will deal with group identification when physical distance is overwhelmed by omnipresent communications.
Still, the most enjoyable part of this book is the examination of what makes people both intelligent and driven. Stephenson seems to say that a rough childhood can sometimes create an adult who is super intelligent. Many Slashdotters may agree with this sentiment. Though it's not a completely convincing argument, it is good to see a book treat it not in just a singular character sense, but as a larger social phenomenon.
So What's In It For Me?
Reading this book will not only satisfy that craving for quality science fiction, but will make you think also. Very few writers are able to do that, and Stephenson seems to have it down. It's one of those books where a few weeks after finishing it you'll still turn some of its ideas around in your noggin. It's probably not as good as Cryptonomicon, but it's pretty darned close.
Go buy this book. Do whatever it takes to convince Stephenson to continue writing quality science fiction.
Other important links...Check out the Slashdot review of Cryptonomicon .
Buy this fine text at Amazon