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The Diamond Age

by Neal Stephenson

Book list Stephenson's dazzling cyberspace adventure, Snow Crash (1992), drew accolades as one of the most innovative, thought-provoking first sf novels since William Gibson's Neuromancer. Unlike Gibson, who followed with lesser sequels, Stephenson breaks new ground in a grand-scale forecast of the coming nanotechnological revolution. John Percival Hackworth is a cultured nanotech engineer who risks the censure of his neo-Victorian social class, or tribe, when he forges a copy of an interactive, computer-driven book called A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer. With the unprecedented power to single-handedly educate its reader, the primer is designed to shape the values and maintain the superiority of the dominant tribe. During a mugging, however, Hackworth loses the copy to a lower-class thug, who in turn gives it to his sister Nell. As Nell learns secrets from the magic book, her understanding of herself and her world grows in ways the primer's designers never intended, and the entire destiny of society changes irrevocably. Stephenson's command of character and stylistic nuance has grown captivatingly stronger, and he now offers startling new ideas in virtually every paragraph. With breathtaking vision and insight, Stephenson establishes himself as not only a major voice in contemporary sf but also a prophet of technology's future. ~--Carl HaysNON-BOXED REVIEWS

From Booklist, Copyright American Library Association. Used with permission.

Kirkus Stephenson (Snow Crash, 1992) imagines a 21st century in which molecular machines (nanotechnology) can create any desired object or structure. National governments have vanished, leaving society divided into enclaves along ethnic, cultural, and ideological lines, the most dynamic of which are the new-Victorian Atlanteans of coastal China. Talented nano-engineer John Hackworth designs an interactive book, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer, intended to function as both parent and teacher. An illicit copy of the book falls into the hands of an abused little girl, Nell. In the book, she becomes Princess Nell, the focus of marvelous tales and experiences that, seemingly incidentally, educate and train her. Meanwhile, a mysterious Chinese techno-whiz, Dr. X, busy rescuing doomed, unwanted Chinese girl babies, duplicates the stolen copy of the Primer so as to raise and educate the infants. Hackworth is ordered to join the Dreamers, a weird collective intelligence among which, through his subconscious, he designs a nanotech control method for the Celestial Kingdom represented by Dr. X. And when Dr. X's Fanatical Fists invade the coastal enclaves of China, Nell is trapped--until her army of Chinese girls, raised by the interactive Primer and devoted to Princess Nell, pull off a dramatic rescue. All of this is staggeringly inventive and meticulously detailed, but, lacking a coherent plot and set forth in an irritatingly vainglorious style, it's ultimately soulless and uncompelling. (Author tour)

Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Library Journal Diamond Age, a Hugo Award-winning romp into a future nanotechnological revolution, doesn't lend itself to concise description. For what it's worth, it explores what happens when an incredibly powerful interactive device falls into the hands of a street urchin, who uses it to reprogram the future of humanity. Got that? Stephenson's books rank among the most popular sf novels of recent years but require such close attention that they pose special challenges for audiobook fans. Jennifer Wiltsie's narration here is uniformly strong and well fitted to the material, but this may not be the right kind of book for the average person. Recommended for libraries that count many young and hardcore sf readers among their audiobook patrons. Originally published in 1992, Snow Crash is a popular sf novel in a genre that some wags have dubbed "cyberpunk." Listening to it is like taking an out-of-control roller coaster ride on a double helix, weaving in and out of Stephenson's fully imagined computer-generated "Metaverse" and a near-future real world comprised of bizarre microstates and a vast Mafia-controlled pizza delivery system. The central character, aptly named Hiro Protagonist, is at once a computer hacker, pizza "deliverator," and samurai swordsman. The story moves at such breakneck speed that many listeners may need to replay the first reel simply to figure out what is going on; however, the highly charged reading by actor Jonathan Davis another Frank Muller in the making helps hold everything together. Recommended for libraries catering to forward-looking sf readers. Kent Rasmussen, Thousand Oaks, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly Cyber-fiction from Stephenson, in which an engineer living in a neo-Victorian future is commissioned to write a subversive primer for girls. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Publishers Weekly Stephenson's fourth solo novel, set primarily in a far-future Shanghai at a time when nations have been superseded by enclaves of common cultures (``claves''), abundantly justifies the hype that surrounded Snow Crash, his first foray into science fiction. Here, the author avoids the major structural problem of that book-a long lump of philosophical digression-by melding myriad perspectives and cogitations into his tale, which is simultaneously SF, fantasy and a masterful political thriller. Treating nanotechnology as he did virtual reality in Snow Crash-as a jumping-off point-Stephenson presents several engaging characters. John Percival Hackworth is an engineer living in a neo-Victorian clave, who is commissioned by one of the world's most powerful men to create a Primer that might enable the man's granddaughter to be educated in ways superior to the ``straight and narrow.'' When Hackworth is mugged, an illegal copy of the Primer falls into the hands of a working-class girl named Nell, and a most deadly game's afoot. Stephenson weaves several plot threads at once, as the paths of Nell, Hackworth and other significant characters-notably Nell's brother Harv, Hackworth's daughter Fiona and an actress named Miranda-converge and diverge across continents and complications, most brought about by Hackworth's actions and Nell's development. Building steadily to a wholly earned and intriguing climax, this long novel, which presents its sometimes difficult technical concepts in accessible ways, should appeal to readers other than habitual SF users. Author tour. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

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