Book Review from the Pocket Pistol: Diamond Age, or A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer by Neal Stephenson (Roughly 500 Pages)
This is my most recent read by this author. I’ve read four other books by him, three of which are novels (the other being a very long nonfiction essay, In the Beginning was the Command Line). Of the five Stephenson books I’ve read, I think Diamond Age falls in place as my fourth favorite, with Snow Crash bringing up the rear, making this my second-least favorite. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, though. I had a difficult time consistently caring about any of the characters, as several of them drifted listlessly between being sympathetic characters and being people about whom I don’t give a crap. The ideas explored in the book are not only great ideas (this author is nothing if not a really amazing idea guy), but also brilliantly presented.
As with all of his novels that I’ve read, some of the ideas he develops start out difficult to grasp because of the way he doesn’t really explain everything up front, but by the end it all fits together; in this case, that applies to the plot, too. I felt like the first two thirds of the book were essentially an extremely long-winded prologue while I was reading it, but by the end I could see how the plot was being developed and advanced all along. While parts of the story certainly absorbed me along the way, the book as a whole didn’t really suck me in until near the end, as the climax approached.
The climax and denouement were relatively brief, and came at me quite quickly once the story got to that point. In fact, there arguably wasn’t any denouement, though one could be inferred somewhat from the way it ended (rather abruptly — something the author says used to be a problem with his writing, that he has been working on since). With the kind of “postcyberpunk” pseudo-singularity speculative fiction this story represents, though, there’s so much to keep the free thinking technophile’s mind occupied that any deficiencies in story structure are made up for easily, I think. It is very much worth a read.