The Diamond Age: Or, a Young Lady's Illustrated Primer Paperback – May 2 2000
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John Percival Hackworth is a nanotech engineer on the rise when he steals a copy of "A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer" for his daughter Fiona. The primer is actually a super computer built with nanotechnology that was designed to educate Lord Finkle-McGraw's daughter and to teach her how to think for herself in the stifling neo-Victorian society. But Hackworth loses the primer before he can give it to Fiona, and now the "book" has fallen into the hands of young Nell, an underprivileged girl whose life is about to change. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Stephenson's fourth solo novel, set primarily in a far-future Shanghai at a time when nations have been superseded by enclaves of common cultures ("claves"), abundantly justifies the hype that surrounded Snow Crash, his first foray into science fiction. Here, the author avoids the major structural problem of that book-a long lump of philosophical digression-by melding myriad perspectives and cogitations into his tale, which is simultaneously SF, fantasy and a masterful political thriller. Treating nanotechnology as he did virtual reality in Snow Crash-as a jumping-off point-Stephenson presents several engaging characters. John Percival Hackworth is an engineer living in a neo-Victorian clave, who is commissioned by one of the world's most powerful men to create a Primer that might enable the man's granddaughter to be educated in ways superior to the "straight and narrow." When Hackworth is mugged, an illegal copy of the Primer falls into the hands of a working-class girl named Nell, and a most deadly game's afoot. Stephenson weaves several plot threads at once, as the paths of Nell, Hackworth and other significant characters-notably Nell's brother Harv, Hackworth's daughter Fiona and an actress named Miranda-converge and diverge across continents and complications, most brought about by Hackworth's actions and Nell's development. Building steadily to a wholly earned and intriguing climax, this long novel, which presents its sometimes difficult technical concepts in accessible ways, should appeal to readers other than habitual SF users. Author tour.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Against this backdrop, a fantastically advanced piece of technology (a sentient child's primer) is stolen, and winds up in the hands of a destitute young waif named Nell. Her resulting world-class education, and what she does with that education, is the binding for the various threads of the story.
The book's characters are well-realized for the most part, the writing style is honed and mature, the plot is intricate and engaging. The ending is controversial in its ambiguity, but that does not diminish the power of the book as a whole. In all, a very thought-provoking read.
However, this novel has left a lasting impression on me. Of the numerous "takeaways", the most enduring are these:
1. Nanotechnology will change everything (not so apparent to the public now, much less back in 97).
2. Technology of this magnitude could offer the key to "leveling the playing field" with respect to economic inequity.
3. I devised a business term as a consequence of reading this book that has helped me immeasurably in my career: "attention units". In the future Stephenson posits that marketing will be so efficient that virtually every piece of visual real estate will be covered with what he calls "mediaglyphs"; billboards with audio and video (even on chopsticks). Not saying that I think that's a future I'd like to help build, but it does give you greater appreciation for any venue that could garner consumer attention.
And finally, my greatest lesson of all was what the Primer (the supercomputer/teacher designed by the futures equivelant to a Bill Gates for his grandaughter in an effort to stave off the near inevitable corruption of his heirs owing to great fortune); the Primer's number one lesson in all of it's teaching was appreciation and capability in one principal skill; subversion. It taught her how to go "around, under, over" any obstacle with unorthodox, even risky thinking.
Anyway, didn't give anything away of great substance there, but did want to give you a few more reasons from my perspective to read this very special book.
Hope this was helpful.
Think of The Diamond Age as a neo-Frankenstein story reflecting the same themes: the Victorian idea of total control through technology (here, nanomachines that can build or modify nearly any structure) verses the ultimate trimuph of chaos and Nature over that control (again, the nanomachines as a vector unseen of ultimate loss of control).
In Diamond Age, Stephenson presents a more mature work than his very entertaining "pizza mafia" book, Snow Crash, with complex themes of man verses nature and a reflection of the Victorian-era ideas of Frankenstein. One example is a local toughguy who uses technology to build up his muscles even while he sleeps but is done in by "cookie cutters," nanoexplosives that basically shred his body into pieces without his even knowing they were there.
The story mainly centers on two characters, one a brilliant nanoengineer stifled by the neo-Victorian society within which he lives who finds himself put in contact with the kind of dirty life that is anethema to his culture; the other is a young, underprivilidged girl who comes by his creation, a powerful nanotechnological book to serve as a primer, through which she learns and grows and even raises her own army of sorts taught by the same book. At the same time, tensions in the Middle Kingdom (that's China, by the way) threaten an agrarian revolt and invasion akin to what happened in Cambodia, yet another facet of the nature/chaos vs. technology/order storyline.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Even though there are some interesting things happening on each page. The story is to hard to follow, there are to many events that happen without enough background, there are to... Read morePublished 1 month ago by bsos2023
This is an incredibly creative journey. Completely unpredictable, elegantly written. Some future tech, without feeling like full on sci-fi. Read morePublished 5 months ago by QuirkyGirl
I rarely leave reviews for used books, because they're used, and I'm cool with that -- but this book, which had said it would be "gently used" by seller, arrived covered in... Read morePublished 17 months ago by Kaitlyn Braybrooke
Read it a long time ago and really liked it. I thought Neal Stephenson's view of the future were stimulation and I didn't at all mind that things got weird with the drummers. Read morePublished 20 months ago by Rob Mills
My second reading of the book and I learned more than I had before. The ending seemed different, but maybe time has changed my perception of what occurred. Read morePublished on Dec 3 2013 by Clay
For a book that was written over a decade ago, the contents even now give a fantastic vision of the possible future of the world. Read morePublished on Dec 14 2010 by Mark Strange
very intriguing subject matter. little bit sci fi, fantasy, without being too out of this world.Published on Nov. 6 2010 by radiantlf
I have to say that this is Neal Stephenson's best work among what I've read and undoubtedly one of my all-time favorite books. It was simply incredible. Read morePublished on June 16 2004 by C. GREEN