The Diamond Age is the second of Stephenson's books that I've read. I enjoyed it far more that Snow Crash. While Snow Crash got off to a great start, I didn't enjoy the second half at all. I found myself reading it because it was a groundbreaking book, not because I enjoyed it. I read The Diamond Age because it was a fast-paced enjoyable read AND because it was unique and thought-provoking.
The Diamond Age is set is a very plausable near future where nanotech has eliminated basic problems, such as starvation, but its created its share of problems as well. Nasty nanotech devices that can track or kill people require sophisticated nanotech defenses.
Meanwhile, all nanotech products are provided be a central feed that both controls what can be delivered, what is free and what costs money, and frees peasents from substistence farming and the poor from working to survive. While this world is harldy a utopia -- as there are still massive economic disparities between the rich and poor and a tremendous amount of crime and pollution -- Westerners on the whole seem happy with this arangement.
But there are more than a few who are unhappy or restless. The Diamond Age is the story of what happens when a father who wants a better life for his daughter collides with an entire culture that wants change. Throw in an enormous computer made of human bodies, an interactive storybook that tells a story that takes over a decade to read, an army of teenage girls and a few other interesting characters and you have a compelling and fascinating view of the future.
When I first finished the book, I thought the ending was abrupt and disappointing. But, as I started to think about the end, I could see everything falling into place.
This is the best book I've read in a while and I highly recommend it.