I didn't progress very far into the 18 hours, but far enough to find that none of the characters were likeable, or interesting, enough for me to be engaged. The settings seemed "so what" because there didn't seem to be a "bigger picture".
I give Jennifer Wiltsie only two stars; but I think it is more the content with which she had to contend; very much a "reading" rather than a "narration".
It is always hard to read a book within a book.
Wiltshie read just a little too fast; full stop and comma pauses indistinguishable. I appreciate it must be hard to pace a book that is upwards of 18 hours to avoid it being even more time.
The internal book and the narration are the same voice, which is understandable. The level of detail in the descriptions, and something in Jennifer's style, reminded me of Joseph Conrad, particularly "Lord Jim". She has reasonable success with the voices.
Better audio quality
It was a great book, but poor sampling or compression artifacts made it difficult to listen too with ambient white noise. Tinny, narrow range audio. Re-downloaded to ensure highest quality rate, but all qualities were poor.
Awesome technology and extremely well written, as one would expect. Narrator is excellent. This book gets pretty crazy...and you'll need to pay attention - but the story is insanely good. It is not as action packed as Snow Crash - but I would say this is still better.
There are 1000's of reviews and descriptions of all the important parts of this book, so I'll keep this short, but wanted to just mention - I just fell in love with little Nell - just so drawn into the story - concerned for her well being, happy when things go well for her... This is one of the books I have listened to numerous times (and will continue to).
Based on the reviews, it looks like people either love this book, or hate it. It is long, but I would not recommend trying the abridged version. Take the time to listen to the unabridged version. It's worth it. The author's imagined ideas about the possible structures and capabilities of nano-tech are incredible. His vision of the future makes me wish I was born later, but at the same time makes me happy I don't live in that place/time.
I'd also like to say Jennifer Wiltsie does one of the best narrator job as I have heard after listening to 30 books. She is a true professional.
Spectacular book. Enjoyable listen. A must have.
Sometimes it takes a while to get into the grove of a story but by the second paragraph of “Diamond Age”, I was hooked. Neal Stephenson is an extraordinary writer, but more than that; a poet, philosopher and futurist. This labyrinthine tale could be described as a “fairy-tale”, painted with luscious prose, sensitive characterization and deep insight; it is a story of rare beauty. The narration is exceptional, the experience delicious.
This book was a good listen, however, just like "Snow Crash," Mr. Stephenson ends his otherwise in-depth, detailed novel as if he ran out of paper (or disk space). All the hours of the story and it ends in about 15 seconds. Still, it's a good book. Just be prepared to be dropped off at the end.
Let me be clear at the outset: this is a good book, from a really good author.
Some of the reviews of this book make the mistake of viewing it as a children's book mixed with an adult's.
It is in fact another attempt to address the common Science Fiction theme of how to educate future generations as touched on in other classic works such as Ender's Game or Dune.
The essential question is:
"Adversity made our generation great.
How do we make our children's generation great without having to suffer similar adversity?"
In order to cover the author's idea of the answer to this question there is a lot of coverage of the education of one child in particular. This is essential to the plot and is interesting in how it shapes the adult the child becomes.
This is not hard Science Fiction, although there is very advanced technologly. It is soft Science Fiction as it is much more concerned with how a technology perilously close to magic in its application could affect humanity.
In the main the narrator does a superb job, her voice is pleasant to listen to and she does a convincing, if limited, range of accents.
My only niggle is that she pronounces the word 'primer' to rhyme with 'trimmer' rather than with 'timer'. It sounds ridiculous, but I found it so distracting that I almost gave the work 4 stars instead of 5.
However I did not as that would have been petty pedantry as the rest of the production is very well done.
Increasing my ops tempo by allowing storytellers to whisper in my ear(buds).
Interleaving elements of children’s bedtime fairy tales and cyberpunk technoir, The Diamond Age would have to be classified as “experimental.” And, like most experimental novels, it does not entirely succeed. The novel is structured with disparate sections, some focused on a young girl named Nell and the rest composed of passages related to a larger plot. At first, the sections from The Young Ladies Illustrated Primer, Nell’s sections, seem completely disassociated, but gradually Stevenson weaves these fantasy stories into the larger plot and the stark contrast between them and the more standard narrative does not feel so out of place. The world Stevenson creates is much like that of William Gibson’s Sprawl novels and, sadly, just as elusive and incomprehensible and difficult to grab onto. There are parts of this novel that are brilliant and attention grabbing. Other parts give the listener’s mind little to latch onto and require one’s full attention just to follow. I found my mind wandering repeatedly throughout much of the story, only to return when the story became more coherent. While I am appealing to William Gibson I might as well go on to say that both Neuromancer and The Diamond Age dazzle me at times with catchy street-smart prose, and glitzy technological innovations; but, at the end of the day, I would be hard pressed to relate the overarching story or to give a plot outline for either novel even if my life depended on it.
I had read the print version of this novel several years age after reading Stevenson’s Snow Crash. This novel was so different from that gonzo offering that I was greatly disappointed. My second go round, and first listen, brought out some elements that I had not noticed on my own. I feel that another listen is in my future, and I imagine that I will enjoy it more. This feeling is one that I often get with books that later become favorites. Someday I will give this one another shot.
Jennifer Wiltsie grew on me over the course of several hours of listening. At first I thought she was treating me like a little child. Then when the fairy tale storyline began to merge into the main story, I saw the wisdom of such an approach. Wiltsie handles children and adults, male and female voices with great range and clarity.
Eclectic mixer of books of my youth and ones I always meant to read, but didn't.
A primer is defined by the Macquarie Dictionary as "an elementary book for teaching children to read" and "any, often small, book of elementary principles". The subtitle of this work, I suspect, is intended to convey both of these meanings as well as a fundamental feminist message about the education of young ladies. However, the book is anything but small. Unfortunately, I have succumbed to the same fault in this review!
This title is classic Stephenson; flooded with detail, interesting characters who are never wholly rouges or heroes, and stuffed with complexity. But, I regret to write that, in my view, it is too long. I would suggest that it might be worth waiting for an abridged version but I can see no abridged versions of any of his titles.
That doesn't mean this is not worth the effort to listen/read. It is, but you probably already need to be a Stephenson addict to listen through the nearly 19 hours of audio and keep track of the characters. I was forced to write out a dramatis personae and to keep notes as the plot developed. Absent the notes, the detail would have been hard to keep in one's head. Again, that's not necessarily a bad thing (I had to do the same thing for War and Peace and I had the benefit of the hard copy in that case), but it does require effort. If you want an easy read, then this probably isn't for you. Even if you come without that expectation, don't try too hard to understand the lingo for the first 1.5 to 2 hours; most of it is invented and eventually explained or becomes obvious.
The short plot is worth noting. The story is set in Shanghai and the Leased Territories (the LT), but they now have more imaginative names like "Enchanted", "Coastal Republic" and the "Celestial Kingdom" (although the latter is more a political than a geographic description). The story concerns the creation of a primer to educate the niece, Elizabeth, of the influential Lord Alexander Chenk Shek Fingle-McGraw. Theprimer is copied and made available to his agent, John Percival Hackworth's, daughter, Fiona. The primer is an interactive book which teaches the young girls by the use of games, read stories and parables. These two girls and a clever, but uneducated waif from a dysfunctional home, Nell, learn from the primer and develop in self-absorbed but different ways. Nell (Princess Nell in the primer stories) is the principal character and her development and almost messiah like revelation is at the heart of the book. Keep an ear out because Stephenson summarises the entire plot in one paragraph about 2 to 3 hours in.
The themes explore the education of girls (as opposed to boys), the relative value of female children, interactive learning as well as a number of subsidiary themes. All of this is done with Stephenson's normal cleverness, internet nous and wickedly comical sense of humor. For example, the parody of the Wizard of Oz is terrific.
Two notes, bearing on reviews I read of this title from Audible readers. I agree that there is a lot of potentially offensive language, especially in the first two thirds of the book. A lot of this is gratuitous and could have been left out without affecting the listen, but it's there, so you may want to bear that in mind depending on who else might be listening. However, I disagree that the sexual content is unnecessary to the plot of the book. It (including the allusion to orgiastic indulgence) is essential to the plot. Personally, I thought it was well handled, without unnecessary vulgarity. What's there is important (and is really only in the last third of the listen).
Finally, to end this long review, it would be remiss not to congratulate Jennifer Wiltsie. Her characterisations are terrific, especially of the younger females.
I'm just a crazy old man, what the heck do you care what I think anyways?
Yes. It's so packed full of new and strange science fiction ideas you have to listen to it a few times just to understand what is happening.
Snow Crash. This is also a very imaginative book, with that NS edge of cyber punk.
no, she was good.
At first I wasn't sure what I was listening to. It's a very complex story, about very different possible futures. It made me think, and maybe even learn something.
I thought Snow Crash was dense with new ideas. But this is even more complex. Neal is a very smart man, who thoroughly studies his subjects. I did miss a central dashing/sexy/sword fighting hero as "Hero Protagonist" in Snow Crash.