Review: The Diamond Age: Or, a Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer

The Diamond Age: Or, a Young Lady's Illustrated PrimerThe Diamond Age: Or, a Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer by Neal Stephenson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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 bok was about. Like previous steampunk books I read, there was a combination of neo-Victorian sensibilities, technologies different than what we’re used to, and a huge disparity between classes. While that may be what gets the book labeled as ‘steampunk’ by some people ,it surpasses that label and has so much more.

It has cyber-punk technologies. It has dystopian characteristics. It’s part adventure story, part riddle, part allegory, part detective story, and best of all, it feels epic without losing its main characters in too wide of a scope.

Reading Stephenson is always hard for me but I always enjoy it. Part of the difficulty lies in the fact that his books are not easy to skim through. Go too quickly in The Diamond Age and you end up in an underwater rave wondering what the heck just happened.

The book was definitely worth reading for any fan of the author. It certainly is my favorite book of his so far. My only complaint was that Nell was too perfect. While it could be said that it the Primer had something to do with that, if I take a step back and look at the character, her lack of faults is unbelievable.

Other than that one little complaint, I loved every part of the book from the heart-wrenching stories in the Primer to the action-packed lead up to the Mouse Army. I also liked all the mentions of tea.

Protip: Fountain pens were mentioned at least nine times in this book!

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Review: Neuromancer

517ywcgdzpl_sl160_William Gibson’s Neuromancer is what many have said a shining example of the cyberpunk genre. Some have even said it’s one of the books that started it all. The man practically coined the term ‘the Matrix’ in this book. I’ve always been interested in sci fi stories whether they’re from books, movies, or television shows, so it felt necessary that I read a book that’s so highly regarded by people who also like sci-fi.

On a superficial level, Neuromancer is a caper story that takes place in a gritty, futuristic setting. Its protagonist, Case, is what we would think of as a hacker. Where we first pick up in the story, Case has lost the ability to hack because an enemy of his destroyed a part of his nervous system and prevents him from hooking into cyberspace. He is then propositioned by a mysterious man who restores his ability to hack, but only if Case is willing to do something for him.

Once readers delve deeper, the story is actually about artificial intelligence, technology, and what it means to be a living, breathing, human being.  This may not seem like much, but take this into context: the novel was written in 1984, a time when few people had computers in their home and the world wide web was just a faint glimmer in Al Gore’s imagination.  With that in mind, it’s amazing that Gibson crafted such a shockingly accurate tale of what the future (or the present, now) might be.

Admittedly, I did not really feel attached to this book until I read 1/3 of the way through. Gibson’s prose is so rich and dense that it’s hard to read quickly at first.  He describes things in such detail that sometimes it seemed like I was reading paragraphs and paragraphs but nothing really happened.  His techno-babble was also hard to keep up with, but I eventually stopped fighting it and trying to make sense of it; I just let it flow past me.

Having read it so late in my life and after having read and watched so many stories influenced by Neuromancer, I was disappointed I didn’t read it sooner.  Maybe it’s good that I didn’t read it till now — I might not have understood a lot of what was written if I had this in my early teens, but I think my mind would have been blown if I hadn’t known of the hype surrounding this book.  Despite the overblown expectations, I still enjoyed the book for what it was.