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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.

Critic Reviews

  • 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 listeners say about The Diamond Age

Average Customer Ratings
Overall
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    3,901
  • 4 Stars
    2,179
  • 3 Stars
    944
  • 2 Stars
    323
  • 1 Stars
    191
Performance
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    3,169
  • 4 Stars
    1,319
  • 3 Stars
    427
  • 2 Stars
    134
  • 1 Stars
    87
Story
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    2,778
  • 4 Stars
    1,364
  • 3 Stars
    685
  • 2 Stars
    212
  • 1 Stars
    117

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

The rock could use a bit more polishing

The Diamond Age is both amazing and frustrating. The first half of the book is truly brilliant; both science fiction and fantasy woven together with beautiful Victorian-toned prose. The second half of the book is rather irritating with dangling plot points, gratuitous sex (not needed and worse yet, not erotic) and torture scenes, and ultimately a rushed ending.

There are so many interesting sociological themes woven into this book that an English teacher could have a real field day with it. Characters are likable, settings are wonderfully vivid, but the plot gets far more convoluted than necessary. In spite of some flaws, overall, I found the book immensely entertaining, terribly imaginative, and far more literary than many sci-fi novels.

The narrator is superb - lovely voice with excellent character voices. One of the few narrators I have heard that could do a child's voice without making me gag. I wish Audible provided a separate rating category for "audio production" because I have to rate down the performance because the audio has flaws that just shouldn't be there. Jennifer Wiltsie is most definitely a FIVE STAR narrator, but there are several places in the recordings where the sound blurs and the cut at the end of part 1 is terrible. Hence my 4 stars on the performance.

I would recommend The Diamond Age with some caveats - this is definitely an adult novel and you have to be a reader willing to push on through some confusion to enjoy this.

188 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Wow, another excellent book from Stephenson

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.

93 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

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.

77 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Jennifer Wiltsie is Amazing..

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.

33 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

SKULL GUN

VOMITING PROFANITY
COLONIZE THE SOFA
This book is filled with great language. It has advanced Science Fiction gadgets and cultures. It has Dragons and Fables It tries to be all things to all people, which like usual means the plot struggles to be clear. This is probably one of the most well written books Jim, the Impatient had to give up on.

Essentially the plot becomes a psychology play with lots of symbolism, etc. I am old fashioned and need a story I can sink my teeth into. Taken separately, parts of the book are great. I also like peanut butter and I like pickles, but I don't want them together. NS had a character in the beginning who was very engaging and interesting, but that character took a long walk off a short pier and was never heard from again. A lot of people love this and you may be one of them, I got almost half way through, but could not keep my mind from wondering to other things.

27 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Engrossing and well-read

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.

26 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Sounds like it was recorded on a cassette tape.

I am a big fan of Neil Stephenson, generally find his audio books to be fantastic, and I actually felt this story had a lot of promise. Sadly, the quality of the audio is so poor that I could not bring myself to listen beyond 1/4 of the way through. To be clear, the narration is fine; it’s just that the audio quality is the worst I’ve ever heard in a book from Audible. I think I’ll just read this one on paper or Kindle.

25 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Empowering Sci-Fi for Girls

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.

25 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars

Diamond Age

SnowCrash was great, but Diamond Age this is very far down on the food chain, it was difficult just to listen to it, one of the few books I have actually put down.

19 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

A fine example of a recurring SF theme

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.

18 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Ian
  • 07-08-13

Worth the time - if you can deal with the quality

This is, for the most part, a wholly enjoyable audiobook.

Neal Stephenson writes gripping, often very long and complex stories and this is no exception. I don't believe it to be his best - I thought that (subjectively speaking) Reamde was a better story overall - and it is a bit slow getting started but the level of invention and imagination on display is fabulous. Once the world the characters inhabit is described and the characters themselves are introduced it develops an express-train like momentum leading to the perhaps slightly underwhelming conclusion.

The narration from Jennifer Wiltsie is top notch: well characterised and performed. I'm maintaining my performance stars despite common complaints on here about the word "primer" being pronounced "primmer". It may be jarring to the British Ear but that is quite normal in American English.

So why only 3 stars overall? Frankly, despite downloading the best quality version I could, it sounds like the story was recorded over the telephone with even some "old-skool" interference on the line at times to maintain the feel. It may be an old recording and cheap but this is far below the standard I'd expect from Audible.

40 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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  • David
  • 04-30-08

It's good, but

There are lots of things to like about this book, and lots of things to like about the author. He's really imaginative; the worlds he creates are exotic but believable - and Diamond Age is no exception. And the story in many places is really good - at times gripping. There's a but coming though . . . three things. Firstly, the storylines can get so cokmplicated it's at times difficult to follow. Secondly, it is surely impossible to pronounce primer 'primmer'. Probably not he author's fault, granted, and possibly unreasonable but NO. Finally, it's a disappointing ending - the book builds up to a great ending . . . and then it just stops. But overall a good read, loads going on and just about worth the effort.

25 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Mat Morrison
  • 03-21-19

Horrible reading.

Thin, tinny audio.

Pronounces “Primer” (a key term, used frequently) “Primmer.” The mental effort required to ignore this is exhausting.

17 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Beccameriel
  • 08-06-13

I love the story but...

.. was wildly irritated every time the othewise excellent narrator said "primmer" for "primer". Aaargh. I know it's a tiny thing but it was constantly distracting as it's a word that is said rather often.

That aside ("primmer" - bleugh) it's a cracking listen and full of wild flights of nano-tech fancy. Although I did get a bit bored in the company of the drummers. The New Victorian enclave was so much more fascinating.

11 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Oliver Switch
  • 07-12-18

Primer or Primmer?

The book is clearly used for "PRIMING" young ladies... Please try to find narrators that can comprehend written English. (If it was Stephenson's intention, I apologise to the narrator.. and want to give the author a little slap) phenomenal story, clearly not a sequel to Snow Crash, despite being subsequent and in the same reality. Spectacular.

8 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Amazon Customer
  • 04-30-20

Can the narrator actually read?

One of the worst narrated stories I've ever listened to. I'm only a couple of hours in and I don't know if I can go any further. Why will she not say "primer", it's written as "primer", where the hell does she get "primmer" from?
A fantastic story though, just spoiled

6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Marco Polo
  • 01-25-20

Gives new meaning to “phoning it in”

Another typical Stephenson story: a Dickensian host of characters, philosophical conversations on topics such as education, parenthood, statism, and nanotechnology.

My gripe is with the quality of the audio recording. The engineers made narrator Jennifer Wiltsie sound as if she were recording via telephone! In addition, there were several patches of bad distortion which made comprehension impossible, albeit briefly. The audio is not conveniently divided into chapters: the first “chapter” is titled “opening credits” and lasts several hours! So good luck navigating your way through this lengthy book!
The substandard audio is a real shame because Jennifer Wiltsie is a very talented narrator who manages a great many accents convincingly. No doubt there are many North Americans who can do an upper class British accent, but how many can do Scottish and Geordie, eh? Then there’s the Chinese, Sikh and Oxford-Jamaican-Indian!

Poor show, Audible. This should never have got past your quality control team.

6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Mr P Delic
  • 11-04-15

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

6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Alex
  • 03-06-13

the book's good

But the narration suffers a serious flaw: "primer" is pronounced as "primmer" throughout.



I love the book, own it on paper as well, and the narrator has a lovely voice.

6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Leon
  • 07-10-10

I wish I could be a neo-Victorian nano-engineer

2000 characters is inadequate to describe the number of mind blowing moments in this book where the concepts are revealled in a such a way that you can guess what's going on whilst also setting you up to be blown away at the exact moment that all of the pieces fall into place. Quite clever use of characters that fade into the background, only to turn out to be the main protagonists all along. Innumerable innovations, in particular the book of smart paper sheets connected by a data backbone in the spine; nanomaterial matter compilers that take signed matter feeds, and then underground unregistered feeds reserved for nefarious purposes; and the drummer network, the most ingenious and mind blowing concept. This is all held together by the use of the story within the story of the Primer, and how it plays a part in the conspiracy and revolution. The only problem I have is wanting to be in this world already. Well I guess it isn't that far away.

5 people found this helpful

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  • G Von
  • 03-26-19

Audio quality is poor

This is one of my favourite books.
But the recording sounds poor. Like a very low bitrate.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Ken
  • 12-01-19

Great Great story and narration, bad formatting

Story was fantastic but would have given 5 stars if it had an ending. Narration was good but was hard to get past her ridiculous pronunciation of "primer". The way the whole thing was put together was atrocious. It wasn't properly separated into chapters so there was chapters over 8 hours long. The last "chapter" was titled "End Credits" and had over an hour of story on it. Also the recording broke down into static in several places. It was wose than amateurish and I don't know how this passes quality control.

So, yes it's a great story but buyer beware.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Dr
  • 11-09-18

Good, but not amongst Stephenson's best

This story feels like a bridge between the raw and exciting writing style of Snow Crash and the more polished Stephenson works like Cryptonomicon or Seveneves. The author's polymath ability is on display, but the premise and setting of the story require full suspension of disbelief on the part of the reader.

Jennifer Wiltsie is one of the best female narrators I've heard, but is let down by poor audio quality compared to audio books recorded in the last 5 years or so.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • M. Owens
  • 05-22-20

Original complex and engaging

I really enjoyed this book. Intelligent plot with great original worldbuilding. Interesting characters. Ideas of collectivist vs individualist cultures, class and the nature of family.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Jennifer Elwin
  • 04-29-22

Inspiration on so many levels

In 1995 when I first read The Diamond Age - it inspired me to create a wealth of resource material for computing teachers and students. I can't thank Neal Stephenson enough for launching me into my 2nd career, and one day perhaps into a 5th career in nano tech. This audio version is wonderfully narrated by Jennifer Wiltsie, enriching Stephenson writings even further! Absolutely brilliant. Kind Regards Jennifer Elwin

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Alexis P Cathode
  • 05-04-21

Great book, good narration, awkward mispronunciations

Love this book, read it multiple times and this is a highly enjoyable adaptation

However, the word "primer" is a fairly frequently used one in this story - the narrator pronouncing it as "primmer" (rhyming with "shimmer") is astonishingly distracting

All else is love

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Leigh
  • 04-26-21

Brilliant Stephenson completely ruined.

The audio quality is just abysmal. Copied from a cassette tape and compressed to death. The chapter tortured are wrong, more than once, the audio breaks down into static! It's just rubbish. I can't believe they charge money for this garbage copy.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Kye
  • 02-19-21

Good story, good performance, poor formatting.

The story and narration were both enjoyable but the chapters in audible are completely wrong making it very difficult to navigate around the book.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Harry
  • 08-04-20

Great story - low quality audio

This was a fascinating story, yet the audio quality was not the best.
I’m guessing the recording was done a long time ago.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Owen Neochi
  • 07-12-20

interesting idea, but a bit convoluted

I liked the whole nano tech stuff and the potential for us as well as the political future. but he develops the story well and the all of a sudden wraps up all the loose ends and the story is over.

.