Sheffner's Reviews > The Diamond Age: Or, a Young Lady's Illustrated Primer

The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson
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it was amazing

Amazing story containing several parallel stories and many sub-stories within those; e.g. the main character does various things but also spends much tome reading an interactive book which tells stories wherein she and her dolls are the main characters and have many adventures. These adventures often involve some problem or puzzle which needs to solved, thus the book educates as well as entertains. The sheer variety and complexity of the stories dazzles, but in addition several important themes are addressed, such as how to raise a child so that he or she will have an interesting life; can hi-tec interactive books provide the ideal education? What is the connection, if any, between education, knowledge, experience, wisdom and intelligence? Does experience lead to wisdom? When? How?

There are also several theories proposed as to why the Victorians were so successful, what their morals were and how to inculcate and propagate those values in future generations. In contrast to the Victorians is the Confucian philosophy of social management. One Confucian character surmises that one philosophy holds cleverness in high esteem, whereas the other considers virtue more important and that cleverness should be subordinated and in service to it.

There are apparently references to a Chinese detective-fiction genre, Wikipedia tells me. There are clearly Dickensian parallels, not only in the multiple storylines and plethora of memorable and some eccentric characters, but also in the rationalism and moral values of the characters. Dickens is mentioned and taught at a school the main character attends, and “ The Old Curiosity Shop” also tells the story of a girl called Nell. There are other similarities, too, but curious readers may discover them for themselves.

The nanotechnology in this future world is spectacular and stimulating. There were many things I didn’t understand, such as the difference between the wet-net and the dry-net, the role of the drummers, why one character had to spend 10 years in a lotus-eating limbo, and the relationship between the story of the keys in the book and Nell’s real life.

This is another Stephenson book rich in vivid detail and vocabulary, striking or humorous similes, and philosophical speculations about life, wisdom, culture and its propagation. It will repay multiple readings.

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Reading Progress

February 1, 2020 – Started Reading
February 10, 2020 – Shelved
February 10, 2020 – Finished Reading

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