©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)
Like a lot of good authors, Stephenson has books that aren't as well known but may end up being better or as good as his best-known works. This is one of those.
It is a different breed than Snow Crash, but I want to talk about this book in its own right. Diamond Age is almost a children's story, with the main character being a child who grows into an adult by the end of the book.
Here's something you have to keep in mind: Neal's books take about an hour to 2 hours to understand the world they are taking place in. He usually talks a lot and goes into a lot of detail early on, using phrases and names of things that you have no idea. However, by about 2 hours in, you understand where everything is taking place and the world makes sense.
Since this is naturally important for any book, I didn't take off a star because of it. I really enjoy his introductions to the world that he creates, because I find myself wondering and asking questions about it.
Here's another thing to keep in mind, this book isn't for everyone... people who like technology and computing might find it more enjoyable than someone who doesn't, but I think that it can appeal to many people since it is grounded in a story about a girl growing up.
With all that said, Diamond Age is a really, really good book. You get really drawn into the characters and a lot of that has to do with the narrator and how she reads the fairy tales from the Primer, as well as the different voices she uses for other characters. Unlike some other books in Neal's stash, Diamond Age doesn't go off on long tangents about ancient Gods or religions. Some of it is there, but it has a lot more to do with destiny and abuse of technology, or "Unforeseen Consequences."
If you really liked Snow Crash, just be prepared for something a little more light-hearted and less "kick-ass action" oriented, but still highly enjoyable. 4/5 stars.
Neal Stephenson's 'The Diamond Age' is a fantastic SciFi novel which looks into a future filled with next generation Internet-like constructs and nano-technological innovation and their effect on the socio-economic disparities in our world today. Synthetic rice puts 30 million Asian peasants out of work, every material needed can be "compiled" from a "matter-feed" at home, national borders are rendered obsolete, though nations still exist and apply their laws in a trade-agreement sort of fashion. The ideas are amazing, and yet that was just background for a very touching story about a little girl from an impoverished an abusive home, named "Nell" who through happenstance acquires "The Young Lady's Illustrated Primer", an interactive book, originally meant for the daughter of a wealthy upper-class "equity-lord". The novel follows Nell through her self-education with the Primer from the ages of 4 to 20, during which she runs away from her abusive stepfather, finds solace with another group, and ultimately becomes a revolutionary (the true purpose of the Primer). I very much enjoyed the tale, and Stephenson has some very up-to-date ideas on India and China, and where the world will probably end up in a 100 years.
Aside from the horrible pronunciation of the foreign (Chinese) words, the story is smart and the narrator does a great job bringing the story to life. The first hour or so seem a little confusing, but stick it through and you will get to know the main characters. The author's illustration of Shanghai and China is a remarkably accurate representation of the sights and senses of China today, of Chinese culture past and the brilliance of technology of the future.
This book is a brilliant imagining of the potential wonders and dangers of nanotech, but like all good science fiction it is more about the effects of technology on society than the technology itself. In a world of superabundant materials, where anything one can design through software can be built almost costlessly, what matters is how societies choose to define themselves and the meaning of a well-lived life. Hence we have futuristic technology employed by neo-Victorians and Confucians to inculcate (and subvert...) ancient values. Fascinating, with compelling characters. Certainly a more mature and subtle work than Snow Crash, much though I enjoyed the latter. And the female reader does a superb job, rendering the various accents from the neo-Victorians to the Bronx confucianism of Judge Fang so delightfully that I think listening to this is probably even better than reading it. I had difficulty getting out of my car at the end of my commute.
This is one of the first few audio books I have listened to, and this one I have actually read before. All the wonderful baroque fanciness and joy of tech that was evident in Snow Crash is present here, yet Stephenson's writing style and characterisation improves markedly.
Stephenson's endings are often critisized (correctly in some cases) for being too open ended. I didn't find that a problem in tDA. This is not a 'travel a long way, destroy the ring and sauron, all go home' style of book, so it doesn't have that sort of ending.
The narration is simply excellent, with appropriate accents and timbre, but not overdone or excessively stereotypical. I personally felt that one or two voices were awkward (Nell and Harv) but given that all the characters were voiced by the same speaker I could forgive that. Despite having read the book already I listened to all 16 hours, it was just that good.
I bought The Diamond Age back in 2001 and have listened to it three times since then -- it is just that much fun!
This is an engaging tale of cyberpunk, nanotechnology and near-future social development, and in particular how these impact the life of Nell, our young heroine, as she grows up into a unique young woman. I loved to watch the evolution of Nell through her activity with the neo-Victorian Primer, but that is only one of a number of plot lines that intersect, and occasionally come together -- all of which are absorbing. However, if you prefer a nice linear presentation to your novels, you might find Stephenson's approach distracting. If you enjoy William Gibson, you will likely enjoy this book and its ideas (although Stephenson's earlier book, SnowCrash, is a little more Gibson-esque.)
Kudos to the narrator who did an amazing job of the various characters and lines of the story. I found the narration some of the best of all the audible books I have listened to.
My only gripe about the book is the ending, it all seemed to stop a little too abruptly -- but even that cannot dim my appreciation of the story overall, and on subsequent reading I have actually appreciated the ending for its open-endedness.
I am very disappointed to see the push of the abridged versions of both this book and SnowCrash (particularly SnowCrash where the unabridged version is no longer available, a big shame since that is an even better book!). These books create a detailed view of future-society, abridgment will just fade the colour of that presentation. My recommendation is to buy the full-length versions (well, not possible for SnowCrash, but still online for DiamondAge!) and enjoy being absorbed.
I've read this book several times, but after hearing Jennifer Wiltsie's fantastic reading of it, I'm now addicted to the audiobook. Her clear, warm voice, her dramatic timing, her ability to slip flawlessly through a female texan accent, a male new york accent, a chinese accent, and others in a single conversation... I can't wait to find other audio books she's narrated, just to hear her read them.
The book is great, and you will never hear a Neal Stephenson book read better than by Jennifer Wiltsie.
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.
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.
reader in florida
I loved Snow Crash but was surprised I didnt like this one at all
I really didnt like the young female child voice and found it really irritating.
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