The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson


Science FictionThe Diamond Age The Diamond AgeNeal Stephenson; Spectra 2000WorldCator A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer

A hundred or so years from now, the world has changed boundaries from geographical lines to social strata lines. Different phyles have different governing laws, from how they handle their finances and pseudo-governments to how they interact with social etiquette. The laws are supposed to make life easier. It does for some. It also tends to stifle and overcome creative thinking.

Nanotechnology is de rigeur in this world. Nanites are used as personal force fields, in clothes to keep them dry, in acting, in building material light and stronger than anything we have now, in lighting, in transportation, and in the massive, disconnected, effective communication system that exists. Personal weapons can be built into bodies, such as the skull gun bought at the beginning of the book. Nanites can be injected into the body for protection or for destruction.

Lord Finkle-McGraw of the Victorian society sees the lack of independent thinking as a potential problem. He contracts with John Percival Hackworth, one of the brightest nanotechnologists in the world, let alone his society, to create a book. This is a unique, interactive book for the Lord’s granddaughter. Hackworth see the potential of this book and makes a copy of it for his own daughter. He has to leave his safe community to find someone who can compile the illicit copy. While out in the Shanghai Chinese area, he is mugged and the book taken. It ends up in the hands of a small girl whose life is poor and abusive.

Hackworth is finally able to make another copy of the book for his own daughter. Three young girls now have copies of a book that is made to entertain, teach, and challenge. Hackworth is sent on a quest to find the Alchemist. Somehow he knows the Alchemist will have direct impact of their societies in the near future. He doesn’t know who the Alchemist is or what he does. Yet this person must be found.

This is a attention-demanding, unsatisfying book. It jumps around from character to character in brief divisions. It helps that each section (not exactly chapters, but close enough) has a heading explaining somewhat the next characters and actions to be addressed. This novel, like Stephenson’s Snow Crash, is cyberpunk. It has a dark side as the lower phyles are explored. It has a lighter side as the reader follows Nell, the girl who inadvertently received a book of great power. I was often lost as we switch from character to character.

Stephenson throws in different new technological terms that are common place for his society, new to the reader. There are times it takes a while to get the explanation of what the meaning are, but usually he is able to go on with the story and make his intentions clear. While I see what a ractive is, the full meaning of it is still confusing to me. The author has concocted a full blown world and group of societies in his head. They didn’t come through as well on paper, and often leave the reader more confused than when he started. The ending also leaves the reader wondering, probably on purpose. It left me with feelings of frustration.

Notice: Strong sexual content

More books by Neal Stephenson

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