Thursday, June 30, 2016

Book Review: The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson

It's no secret that we love steampunk here at Beyond the Trope. So when a friend from work recommended The Diamond Age: Or, a Young Lady's Illustrated Primer by Neal Stephenson, I thought, "Hey! Cyberpunk! Let's punk it up!" (Just kidding, I didn't think, "Let's punk it up!" That's just weird.)
The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer (and yes, that's the full title), takes place in twenty-first century Shanghai.  It is a mulit-perspective novel and told through the point of view of at least seven characters. At the heart of the story is a young girl named Nell, who, through a series of odd events, acquires a book which is written through her life experiences using nanotechnology. The rest of the novel's story explains how the Primer was created, how it comes into Nell's possession, and then follows Nell as she grows into an adult. 

I have to admit, I usually don't like books that are told from multiple points of a view.  I find myself always wanting the story to stay on the character that I like the most, and I become frustrated when it jumps to another character. Unfortunately, this book was the same way. Also, while I usually appreciate chapter headings, if I found myself not so interested in the upcoming section, the headings gave me enough of an idea of what was going to happen that I was tempted to skip certain sections focusing on characters I didn't feel connected to. 

That being said, there were many parts of the story that I enjoyed. First, I did fall in love with Nell. Stephenson did a remarkable job of making Nell a believable character through her life experiences and her relationships with others. Stephenson also built a world which was remarkably vivid. One of the dangers science fiction authors can face is creating a universe set too far into the future with technology that is just on the other side of believable, and that can leave the reader thinking, "Yeah, I don't think so." Stephenson did not fall into this category. I also enjoyed the fact that my first, "What the?!" moment came within the first 45 pages of the novel. Semi-spoiler: The person who I thought was going to be the protagonist, well, turns out, he wasn't. I love that kind of surprise!

Stephenson is a terrific world builder and knows both his world and his technology inside and out. Seriously, if you were to ever sit down with him and ask him about the nanotechnology that is in his world, you would swear you we're talking to a real scientist. (Which, considering his background in physics, you would be!) Honestly, this book wasn't really my cup of tea, but if you like cyberpunk worlds and a compelling multi-person story, go for it!

Emily is actually writing her own bio this week. She's enjoying her new job as Official Book Reviewer and hopes you are enjoying it as well. If you have any book suggestions for her to read and review, please leave a comment below! 

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