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The Diamond Age

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  88,100 ratings  ·  3,566 reviews
Decades into our future, a stone's throw from the ancient city of Shanghai, a brilliant nanotechnologist named John Percival Hackworth has just broken the
rigorous moral code of his tribe, the powerful neoVictorians. He's made an illicit copy of a state-of-the-art interactive device called A Young Ladys Illustrated Primer. Commissioned by an eccentric duke for his grandchil
Kindle Edition, 512 pages
Published August 26th 2003 by Spectra (first published February 1995)
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Average rating 4.15  · 
Rating details
 ·  88,100 ratings  ·  3,566 reviews

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Feb 06, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
I get the feeling that Stephenson's writing process goes something like this:

Hey, I found a really cool idea here. I wonder what I can do about it....

He then writes about 200 pages of really awesome, meticulous world-building, with innovative ideas about, in the case of this book, the possibly uses of nanotechnology and its eventual social ramifications, and then goes, Oh, damn, I'm writing a story, and high-tails it to the end of the book, leaving the reader a little wind-blown and confused. It
Mario the lone bookwolf
The logical dystopian continuation of a feudal system in a cyberpunk, no wait, the cyberpunk, yes you heard right, setting.

Such a laconic, badass writing style, such a messed up, gritty, sick world. As if China Mieville and Alastair Reynolds created a hybrid and doped it with philosophical undertones. Stephenson thematizes the consequences of nanotech in a Blade Runner style scenario that is coming closer each day, letting and enabling fiction to be history one day, making it seem as if it´s th
Feb 08, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If Charles Dickens climbed in an H.G. Wells time machine and went forward in time and he decided to create a post cyber-punk, progressively dystopian bildungsroman novel with a strong female lead and with a fascinating glimpse of a future that expands on the world begun in Snow Crash, he would have written this novel.

This is Great Expectations with nanotechnology.

The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson is to post-modernist science fiction thought as what Dickens was to his era: a smart, entertainin

Christmas 2010: I realised that I had got stuck in a rut. I was re-reading old favourites again and again, waiting for a few trusted authors to release new works. Something had to be done.

On the spur of the moment I set myself a challenge, to read every book to have won the Locus Sci-Fi award. That’s 35 books, 6 of which I’d previously read, leaving 29 titles by 14 authors who were new to me.

While working through this reading list I got married, went on my honeymoon, switched career and beca
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
Jan 12, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ by: Melissa McShane
3.5 stars. Review originally posted at

Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age is set in a near future that is unrecognizable in some ways and disturbingly familiar in other ways. Nations have dissolved and people now tend to congregate in tribes or “phyles” based upon their culture, race, beliefs or skills. Nanotechnology has upended society, and even the poorest people have access to matter compilers that create clothing, food and other items from a feed of molecules. Still
Mar 25, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: steampunk, meh, sci-fi
Initially, I wasn't tempted by "The Diamond Age," but the subtitle drew me in. A book advising young women? Interesting. However, given a choice between this book and the classic young women's story, Little Women, I think I'll go with Little Women. At least none of the girls are raped.

The Diamond Age, Or a Young Lady's Illustrated Primer was an interesting, convoluted, frustrating book packed with ideas, characters and too little plot. I suspect Stephenson of being in love with his ideas and wou
Mar 10, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Okay, here's what this Stephenson guy did with his novel. He got together a focus group of 25 unpaid, thirteen year old boys and made them puke out as many buzz words in 10 minutes that they could about science fiction. The buzz words had to be something that would palliate the hyperactive endocrine glands of 13 year old males. Stephenson then roiled together this mess with a rag mop and wrung it into a bucket called The Diamond Age: Or A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer.

To give you a thin sample
Oct 26, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
This has been on my shelf a while, I think a friend sent it to me. I have to admit, this is a dense read sometimes in the way that hard sci-fi can be: Glazing over at "tech speak tech speak tech speak." If you fall of the tech-speak train you start to glaze over a bit and get confused, or at least I do. I'm sure all the technology is masterfully crafted and is visionary, I just couldn't 100% follow it. It's like sometimes authors TRY to be obscure in their writing in order to be "highbrow" to r ...more
There is so much that is good about this book. The initial world building, the idea behind the Primer, the main characters, these are all done brilliantly and the story proceeds really well for the first half. But then other stories come into play and confusion sets in - at least in my head it did! - and it is like a roller coaster coming off the rails and crashing very, very suddenly on the last page.

One thing about Mr Stephenson though is that he really has a way with words. He uses real words
Is it possible to feel nostalgia for a place in the future? The crowded, multi-factioned, multi-leveled city of Shanghai and nearby Pudong made me miss my hometown terribly. Stephenson's descriptions of brightly lit Nanjing Road and small, dim, alleys of hawkers was so spot on. The mix of high technology, the sophisticated neo-Victorians, and the Confuscians made a confusing but ultimately satisfying story.

I came to The Diamond Age with a vague idea of what the book was about. Like previous stea
“A book is not just a material possession but the pathway to an enlightened mind, and thence to a well-ordered society.”

After an underwhelming experience with "Snow Crash" (, I decided to give Neal Stephenson a second (and possibly final) chance with “The Diamond Age”. I have come to accept that some sci-fi writers are idea guys (or gals), and that amazing ideas don’t necessarily wield amazing books, and that’s OK. And the idea of what is basically a Dick
Oct 11, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Welcome to Stephensonland! Wait, sir? Sir? Yes you. I'm afraid you'll have to check your need for believable characters with me. Here's a numerical token you can use to reclaim it at the end of the day. Oh, and hold on. Is that an expectation of coherent plotting in your back pocket? I'm afraid those are also disallowed in Stephensonland. It'll be perfectly safe here behind the counter. Now, here's your complementary CS patch. That's right, it's very similar, except instead of nicotine, this wil ...more
Otis Chandler
I first read this ~10 years ago and just re-read it as someone reminded me that it predicts the future of reading. And it does - what I love about Stephenson is his high level of prescient-ness. In fact I think it also predicts a lot of the future of nanotechnology and entertainment.

The Young Ladies Illustrated Primer is a dynamic book with an AI in it. Imagine Alexa or Siri in 5-10 years, smart enough to make up stories on the fly and answer questions about or even redirect the storyline. The
Oct 25, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
If Snow Crash was so good that cyberpunk went in to a coma, The Diamond Age effectively pulled the plug.

Much like seemingly everyone else I loved the first part of this book and felt that the second part didn't quite live up to the same extremely high standard.

Aside from the literary death of cyberpunk when Bud (a character that I'm sure we've all read about many times before but still want to know his story in this instance) is the victim of Confuscian capital punishment and the data transfer i
Sep 19, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
First half of the book gets 4 stars; the second half gets 2 stars. Average = 3 stars.

I really liked the first half of the book. His description of technology is wonderful, and the relationship between Nell and the Primer are quite captivating. Much to my dismay, the book fell apart at the end. Characters are disposed quite expediently, conflict is introduced with little or no explanation, very illogical events occur, and then the book stops. If I could give different ratings to both half of the
Jan 16, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Up to about halfway through, I was in love with this book, but then Hackworth goes to the Drummers and we skip 10 years, and my thoughts are like this: if you as a writer didn't care about those 10 years enough to write about them, why do I care enough to read them? Worse, science fiction is already more concerned with the ideas than the characters, but when the writer is consciously trying to mimic the further-removed-from-reality discourses of Victorian-era writing, we wind up so distanced fro ...more
6.0 stars. Among the best books I have ever read (although slightly behind Snow Crash as my favorite Neal Stephenson novel). Neal's books are just loaded with great dialogue, mind-stretching ideas and a world as complex as our own. HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION!!

Nominee: Arthur C. Clarke Award for Best Science Fiction Novel
Nominee: John W. Campbell Award for Best Science Fiction Novel
Nominee: Prometheus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel
Winner: Hugo Award for Best Science Fiction Novel
Dec 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sff
I gulped down the 500 pages in four days, and it was not an easy read. I admit ruefully that Stephenson's vocabulary is better than mine. I feel like this book demands analysis, and I don't know enough to provide it. All I could do is count heads and make remarks about the colour and gender and fate of each major character. Which, OK, is worth doing, but it's 3:42am and I've been reading since about 8pm, so forgive me if I don't open it up again just now.

I want a primer.

I also want more about Dr
Oct 04, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
This is the second Neal Stephenson book I have read, the previous one being the marvelously entertaining Snow Crash. Unlike Snow Crash this not an easy read, being the impatient sort I almost gave up on it around page 70, fortunately some wiser heads than mine pulled me back (thank you Goodread friends!). The problem for me is the initial inundation of unfamiliar words, some are of the author's invention, the others are just English words not in my vocabulary!

The book focuses on the trials and t
Miss Michael
Feb 13, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Miss Michael by: James
Stephenson is undoubtedly a good writer. I feel as though that's a trite thing to say, but I'm not talking about the overall story, I'm talking about the way each sentence is crafted. Also, I felt the need to read the book with a dictionary next to me, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, I suppose. As far as the overall story, there's a lot to like, plenty of varied characters, several story lines that are more closely woven than one might originally think, and plenty of action. There's a kind ...more
Jul 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
I read this the first time when I was a young, impressionable, repressed, closeted Mormon boy. (Oh, god, so many of my reviews seem to start this way.) Stephenson's vision of a future shocked and titillated me, and years later I still found it returning to haunt me. Yet I don't think I ever truly understood the story, and certainly not the ending.

Now I think I do. In a future where synthetically assembled diamond is as ubiquitous as glass, where almost anything can be designed and created atom b
Megan Baxter
Nov 28, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It has taken me a while to figure out what I think of this book, and I'm still not entirely sure. I finished it with a bit of bafflement - what was what I'd just read actually about? It was entertaining, sure, and the world rich and inventive, the characters interesting, but if I were to tell you what the book were about...I wasn't sure. I think I have a better idea now, but I might just be projecting.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enf
Evelina | AvalinahsBooks
Full review on AvalinahsBooks. 3 reasons why you should read this:

Reason #1. It's A Utopia For Once

How many times have you actually read a Utopia? Huh?
(I can hear you silently disappearing into the night, one by one.)
Cause you probably have not. It's all about dystopia! The last utopia I've heard of? I think it must have been the one written by Thomas More. Because after that, it's been one dystopia after another, and frankly? Sick. And. Tired. Which is why I'm so glad to actually r
Duffy Pratt
Sep 11, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Suppose you wanted to write a new Victorian bildungsroman about the Boxer Rebellion. It would only be natural that the central plot of the book should focus around the Turing test for artificial intelligence. Now set the book in a future Shanghai, in a world where nanotechnology makes material needs obsolete, at least in theory... And voila: The Diamond Age.

Like Hackworth, the hacker supreme in The Diamond Age, Stephenson seems to be unable to resist anything that is supremely clever. I think th
Feb 29, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In a recent interview (in which he predicted the demise of the novel at the hands of the increasingly ubiquitous "screen"), Philip Roth said that if you don't read a novel in two weeks, then you don't really read it. He's talking about the necessity of focus and attention, the dedication required to trick your brain into thinking these characters and places are real, without which you cannot become emotionally and intellectually enmeshed in the narrative, without which the novel has no bite, no ...more
Jun 12, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-collection, sci-fi
I loved this book, especially the Neo-Victorian culture. I did feel that some parts lagged and I did flick forward a bit midway. Neal Stephenson is one of my favourite authors, and I do give him credit for each of his books being based on a completely different paradigm.
Beautifully written but not quite on the same level as Snow Crash or Anathem for instance.
This is the third Neal Stephenson book I’ve read, the first two being Zodiac then Snow Crash. I seem to end up somewhat lukewarm on his work, but I liked this the best of the three. It held my interest better and I enjoyed the story more, or at least parts of it.

The story has a lot going on, but the part that interested me the most was the Primer, a sort of computerized, interactive book that bonds with whichever young girl it’s given to and adjusts its stories to be relevant for that girl, chan
The Diamond Age: Nanotech, Neo-Victorians, Princess Nell’s Primer, and the Fists of Righteous Harmony – all we need now is the kitchen sink
Originally posted at Fantasy Literature
I am a huge Neal Stephenson fan based on his novels Snow Crash and Cryptonomicon, two of my favorite books. He is frequently a brilliant writer, unafraid to introduce new ideas and infodumps in the most unexpected and entertaining ways. His sense of humor is more subtle and clever than most, and his world-building abilit
Sam Julian
Jan 22, 2016 rated it liked it
Visionary but flawed

The end felt rushed, and the notion of ethnic phyles frustratingly backward from our present perspective. Worth reading for his vision of the nanotech future.
Jan 25, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I'm abandoning this book at 50% - one star because I think I deserve the credit for slogging through it, though. ...more
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Neal Stephenson is the author of Reamde, Anathem, and the three-volume historical epic the Baroque Cycle (Quicksilver, The Confusion, and The System of the World), as well as Cryptonomicon, The Diamond Age, Snow Crash, and Zodiac. He lives in Seattle, Washington.

Articles featuring this book

Neal Stephenson is the bestselling author of the novels Snow Crash, Cryptonomicon, Seveneves, Reamde, Anathem, The System of...
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“The difference between stupid and intelligent people – and this is true whether or not they are well-educated – is that intelligent people can handle subtlety. ” 362 likes
“Nell," the Constable continued, indicating through his tone of voice that the lesson was concluding, "the difference between ignorant and educated people is that the latter know more facts. But that has nothing to do with whether they are stupid or intelligent. The difference between stupid and intelligent people—and this is true whether or not they are well-educated—is that intelligent people can handle subtlety. They are not baffled by ambiguous or even contradictory situations—in fact, they expect them and are apt to become suspicious when things seem overly straightforward.” 135 likes
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