This has been the first Neal Stephenson novel I finished but it won’t be the last. I tried to read Stephenson’s Snow Crash previously but I wasn’t able to get into it before I had to return it. Now that I’ve read The Diamond Age I certainly want to give it another try. This is an excellent read about a girl and her primer in a future where diamond windows and airships made lighter than air with nano vacuum suspension are easily created. Where nano engineers can design almost anything imaginable and make them available, at a cost, through matter compilers fed by pure streams of molecules. The new economy is based on ideas and where old national lines (although they still try to rear themselves up) are a thing of the past. So without countries what defines which team you’re in? Stephenson suggests that phyles are formed based on common economic goals and principles. The Neo-Victorians, controlling the largest sources for the matter compilers and having some of the best nano engineers is at the top of the stack. In this story, Stephenson chooses to focus on the Vickys as well as their interactions with other phyles.
A Vicky engineer (John Percival Hackworth is one of the best) is commissioned to create a primer for a girl. This book bonds to its reader and transforms itself into the best learning device for her. It is designed to not only pass on knowledge but also to ensure that the reader has ‘an interesting life’. But Hackworth’s desire for his own daughter to have the same opportunity in life, leads him to create an illegal copy of the primer. This copy falls into the hands of the main character Nell, a young, poor and innocent thete (someone without a phyle). The story then revolves around the chain of events this unanticipated act causes.
This book was nearly impossible for me to put down. The ideas were very interesting and the main characters, especially Nell, were incredibly engaging.
This is not an easy book to get through but great works of art often incur a price. This art is very highly recommended and worth it.
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