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The Diamond Age Audiobook

The Diamond Age

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Publisher's Summary

In Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson took science fiction to dazzling new levels. Now, in The Diamond Age, he delivers another stunning tale. Set in 21st-century Shanghai, it is the story of what happens when a state-of-the-art interactive device falls into the hands of a street urchin named Nell. Her life, and the entire future of humanity, is about to be decoded and reprogrammed.

©1995 Neal Stephenson; (P)2001 Audible, Inc.

What the Critics Say

  • Hugo Award Winner, Best Novel, 1996

  • Locus Award Winner, Best Novel, 1996

"The Quentin Tarantino of postcyberpunk science fiction." (The Village Voice)
"[He] is the hottest science fiction writer in America." (Details)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.2 (5050 )
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4.4 (2938 )
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Brad Las Vegas, NV, USA 02-09-10
    Brad Las Vegas, NV, USA 02-09-10
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "The Diamond Age"

    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.

    12 of 14 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Paul McMahon Fremantle, Australia 07-09-13
    Paul McMahon Fremantle, Australia 07-09-13 Listener Since 2007
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    "Nothing engaged me."
    Any additional comments?

    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.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    ERICH E HEISE Dallas, Texas United States 08-06-12
    ERICH E HEISE Dallas, Texas United States 08-06-12 Member Since 2016
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    "Great story, solid performance, poor audio quality"
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    Better audio quality


    You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    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.


    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert Cabot, AR, USA 01-08-08
    Robert Cabot, AR, USA 01-08-08 Member Since 2002
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Fantastic book - Wonderful Narration"

    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.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andrew mORRINSVILLENew Zealand 11-25-07
    Andrew mORRINSVILLENew Zealand 11-25-07
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    "Delicious."

    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.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jackie Rocklin, CA, USA 02-23-04
    Jackie Rocklin, CA, USA 02-23-04
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Needs a more of an ending..."

    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.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Doug D. Eigsti Kansas City, MO United States 05-19-15
    Doug D. Eigsti Kansas City, MO United States 05-19-15 Member Since 2013
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    "Grim Technoir Cyberpunk Fairy Tale"

    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.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ian C Robertson South Australia, Australia 01-04-15
    Ian C Robertson South Australia, Australia 01-04-15 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Good, but Too Long"

    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.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Old Man Parker 12-10-12 Member Since 2017
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Rather, mind blowing, if I may be so bold."
    Would you listen to The Diamond Age again? Why?

    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.


    What other book might you compare The Diamond Age to and why?

    Snow Crash. This is also a very imaginative book, with that NS edge of cyber punk.


    Have you listened to any of Jennifer Wiltsie’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    no, she was good.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    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.


    Any additional comments?

    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.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kirk Hansen Salt Lake City 07-05-09
    Kirk Hansen Salt Lake City 07-05-09 Member Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Fun and interesting"

    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.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
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  • Mr P Delic
    11/4/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Really enjoyed this..."

    This is one of my favourite books and I thoroughly enjoyed hearing it read. I have only one gripe and that is this: Being British I am used to the word 'primer' being pronounced 'prime' with an 'r' on the end not 'prim' with an 'er' on the end and I winced every time it occurred.
    This does not, however, in any way prevent me from heartily recommending this fabulous audiobook. :0) x

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Martyn. R. Winters
    Cardiff UK
    7/22/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Slow to start, great middle, but weak ending"

    I like Neil Stephenson's work, but this is far from his best and the performance, which overall was quite good, is hampered by being a dreadful recording. I love the ideas woven into this novel, but the execution of the story lacks any suspense or drama. On top of this, the two main protagonists are wooden, and few of the other characters are sympathetic. If you want a good read by this author, avoid this novel, there's plenty of other examples that are far more fulfilling. Very disappointed.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • victoria
    wokingham, United Kingdom
    5/25/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Good story, very steampunk but it ended suddenly"
    Would you listen to The Diamond Age again? Why?

    might have a look at the book to see if there is more to the endind


    Any additional comments?

    characters got a bit muddled at the end. The book stopped so suddenly i wondered if it was cut short.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Roderic
    Victoria Park, Australia
    1/23/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Well Plotted with Creative Ideas"
    What other book might you compare The Diamond Age to, and why?

    I must admit that I enjoyed Reamde better. Some of the story-telling in The Diamond age was a bit too baroque.


    Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    I enjoyed this on several levels. However, I found the character of the architect hard to engage with.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Debbie
    United Kingdom
    5/13/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A fascinating view of a future"

    Another well written and wonderfully case Audible buy. Not serious, quite a light 'read', very engaging, although sometimes very odd indeed; 90% would be truly interesting to my 10 yr old if I read it to him, but just a few pieces are (unnecessarily?) 'adult' so it's off limits. Neal Stephnson's imagination is boundless and he brings it to life in the fullest way. The 'revelation' towards the end felt a touch inevitable, and perhaps a bit naive, but that's OK. The actual ending was, frankly, a bit lame after such a racing storyline; as sometimes happens, it felt like the author had had enough (or perhaps had a deadline?). But overall, very entertaining and I'd recommend it to anyone.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • A. E. Wright
    Liverpool UK
    4/13/13
    Overall
    "In two minds..."

    I chose this recording because I had enjoyed 'Cryptonomicon' by the same author and Neal Stephenson is certainly very inventive and imaginative, creating an entire alternative future world. Some parts of the story jogged along quickly and we made good progress together but at other times the pace slowed to a tedious crawl. Although I laughed out loud once or twice at this book I also found myself looking forward to the end - not so I could find out what happens, just so I could stop listening!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Miriam Rosen
    7/12/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Fantastic imagination, brilliantly read."

    What a vast and interesting story, excellent characterisation and all tied together in a bow at the end. I still love Snow Crash more but I will now be reading everything Neal Stephenson has written. Or listening to them. And how great to have an English accent telling the story .

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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