The Diamond Age

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Bantam Books, Jan 1, 1995 - Fiction - 455 pages
32 Reviews
Decades into our future, a stone's throw from the ancient city of Shanghai, a brilliant nanotechnologist named John Percival Hackworth has just broken the rigorous moral code of his tribe, the powerful neo-Victorians. He's made an illicit copy of a state-of-the-art interactive device called A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer. Commissioned by an eccentric duke for his grandchild, stolen for Hackworth's own daughter, the Primer's purpose is to educate and raise a girl capable of thinking for herself. It performs its function superbly. Unfortunately for Hackworth, his smuggled copy has fallen into the wrong hands.
Young Nell and her brother Harv are thetes - members of the poor, tribeless class. Neglected by their mother, Harv looks after Nell. When he and his gang waylay a certain neo-Victorian - John Percival Hackworth - in the seamy streets of their neighborhood, Harv brings Nell something special: the Primer. And from the moment she opens the book, her life is changed. She enters a fairy tale in which she is the heroine, challenged with traversing an enchanted world in search of the fabled twelve keys. If successful, she could emerge with untold wisdom and power.
Following the discovery of his crime, Hackworth begins an odyssey of his own. Expelled from the neo-Victorian paradise, squeezed by agents of Protocol Enforcement on one side and a Mandarin underworld crime lord on the other, he searches for an elusive figure known as the Alchemist. His quest and Nell's will ultimately lead them to another seeker whose fate is bound up with the Primer - a woman who holds the key to a vast, subversive information network that is destined to decode and reprogram the future of humanity.

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The first 2/3 of this book were amazing. I enjoy fiction reads interwoven with theoretical ideas -- and this one was laced with extrapolations on nanotech, societal critiques, and philosophical treatises on education and morality. The multiple plot lines kept me interested, and Stephenson is a master of interweaving multiple stories. Every cut between characters was perfectly timed -- I either had all the information I needed from the first, or was left with a delicious cliffhanger-esque feeling; and I kept finding myself wondering what happened to a character, and then turning the page to find the answer.
Unfortunately, the book kind of lost me at the end. I either got bored, or (more likely) don't like the way Stephenson writes his climactic action sequences.
It was still great. 4 stars.

Review: The Diamond Age: or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer

User Review  - Maggie K - Goodreads

Dang...what a great sense of world-building! What a great variety of characters that I had great feeling for! What great concept in the idea of the primer! What a great buildup in tension! What ... Read full review

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About the author (1995)

Neal Stephenson, the science fiction author, was born on October 31, 1959 in Maryland. He graduated from Boston University in 1981 with a B.A. in Geography with a minor in physics. His first novel, The Big U, was published in 1984. It received little attention and stayed out of print until Stephenson allowed it to be reprinted in 2001. His second novel was Zodiac: The Eco-Thriller was published in 1988, but it was his novel Snow Crash (1992) that brought him popularity. It fused memetics, computer viruses, and other high-tech themes with Sumerian mythology. Neal Stephenson has won several awards: Hugo for Best Novel for The Diamond Age (1996), the Arthur C. Clark for Best Novel for Quicksilver (2004), and the Prometheus Award for Best Novel for The System of the World (2005). He recently completed the The Baroque Cycle Trilogy, a series of historical novels. It consists of eight books and was originally published in three volumes and Reamde. He currently resides in Seattle, Washington. Stephenson also writes under the pseudonym Stephen Bury.

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