©1995 Neal Stephenson; (P)2001 Audible, Inc.
"The Quentin Tarantino of postcyberpunk science fiction." (The Village Voice)
"[He] is the hottest science fiction writer in America." (Details)
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.
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 gave this book 5 stars even though the plot was somewhat predictable. The audio production is well done (as I have come to expect from Audio Renaissance).
I am an admitted technophile and I was very amused by the alternate technologies in this book. They have mastered nanotechnology but they travel by dirigible! I loved it!
This was a fun listen that I recommended to friends and family.
I have read Quicksilver and Snow Crash and enjoyed both for their new and edgy take on science fiction. The Diamond Age is fascinating from the science fiction view, but is much better than the previous books from a technical standpoint. The characters are well developed and the story is compelling. This book shows that Stephenson can use allegory and satire to show us the strengths and weakness of our current time by giving us a glimpse into his version of the future. There are many current day social and economic issues reflected in this work. It's a very stimulating read.
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