Let me kick off with this: Neal Stephenson is in serious danger of becoming one of my top Sci-fi authors ever. Granting this is only the second book by Stephenson that i’ve read. The first being Anathem. If i get nothing else out of reading NPR’s top 100 Sci-Fi and Fantasy books of all time i’ll at least have been introduced to this talented writer. The Diamond Age is so UNLIKE Anathem (which i loved you can find my Book Club of One review here: Anathem Review) and still just as masterfully done that i tip my virtual hat to the author.
The Diamond Age is set in the indeterminate future. Nano technology is ubiquitous in the sci-fi universe that Stephenson has painted but it’s not the Nano-tech that steals the show. The show stealer is a special book of sorts, a smart book: “A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer”. The Primer is a smart book that employs virtual actors to provide a sort of “Edutainment” to the reader of the book. A stolen copy of the primer winds up in the hands of an impoverished little girl and has a major effect on her life, an effect that is attempted to be replicated by others in the story but not to the same effect.
The Diamond Age begins by painting a picture of the value of education to affect and change a person’s life and guide their development. It ends with the revelation that education is not enough, that relationship, love and nurture are the real keys to creating a positive effect in the developing life. In a world where we leave the development of our children to their teachers and educators and we leave their entertainment to whatever screen is most accessible to us and them: The Diamond Age is timely message to any who are parents or mentors to young minds.
Book Club of One grade: A. Solid read! Stephenson has used the Sci-Fi genre to make a powerful point with this one.