The Diamond Age

The Diamond Age

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Decades into our future, a stone's throw from the ancient city of Shanghai, a brilliant nanotechnologist named John Percival Hackworth has just broken the
rigorous moral code of his tribe, the powerful neoVictorians. He's made an illicit copy of a state-of-the-art interactive device called A Young Ladys Illustrated Primer Commissioned by an eccentric duke for his grandchild, stolen for Hackworth's own daughter, the Primer's purpose is to educate and raise a girl capable of thinking for herself. It performs its function superbly. Unfortunately for Hackworth, his smuggled copy has fallen into the wrong hands.

Young Nell and her brother Harv are thetes—members of the poor, tribeless class. Neglected by their mother, Harv looks after Nell. When he and his gang waylay a certain neo-Victorian—John Percival Hackworth— in the seamy streets of their neighborhood, Harv brings Nell something special: the Primer.

Following the discovery of his crime, Hackworth begins an odyssey of his own. Expelled from the neo-Victorian paradise, squeezed by agents of Protocol
Enforcement on one side and a Mandarin underworld crime lord on the other, he searches for an elusive figure known as the Alchemist. His quest and Nell's
will ultimately lead them to another seeker whose fate is bound up with the Primer— a woman who holds the key to a vast, subversive information
network that is destined to decode and reprogram the future of humanity.

Vividly imagined, stunningly prophetic, and epic in scope, The Diamond Age is a major novel from one of the most visionary writers of our time

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781455883493
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication date: 10/09/2012
Edition description: Unabridged
Product dimensions: 6.50(w) x 5.50(h) x 1.70(d)

About the Author

Neal Stephenson (1959) is an American author, futurist and game designer most well known for his works of speculative fiction. He was first published in 1984, but it was not until the publication of his third book Snow Crash that he became widely known. He gained further notoriety in 1999 with the publication of Cryptonomicon which would later go on to earn the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award in 2013. Since 2000 he has published several other major works including his Baroque Cycle, Anathem and most recently Seveneves. He lives in Seattle.


Seattle, Washington

Date of Birth:

October 31, 1959

Place of Birth:

Fort Meade, Maryland


B.A., Boston University, 1981

Read an Excerpt

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A thete visits a mod parlor; noteworthy features of modern armaments.

The bells of St. Mark's were ringing changes up on the mountain when Bud skated over to the mod parlor to upgrade his skull gun. Bud had a nice new pair of blades with a top speed of anywhere from a hundred to a hundred and fifty kilometers, depending on how fat you were and whether or not you wore aero. Bud liked wearing skin-tight leather, to show off his muscles. On a previous visit to the mod parlor, two years ago, he had paid to have a bunch of 'sites implanted in his muscles-- little critters, too small to see or feel, that twitched Bud's muscle fibers electrically according to a program that was supposed to maximize bulk. Combined with the testosterone pump embedded in his forearm, it was like working out in a gym night and day, except you didn't have to actually do anything and you never got sweaty. The only drawback was that all the little twitches made him kind of tense and jerky. He'd gotten used to it, but it still made him a little hinky on those skates, especially when he was doing a hundred clicks an hour through a crowded street. But few people hassled Bud, even when he knocked them down in the street, and after today no one would hassle him ever again.

Bud had walked away, improbably unscratched, from his last job--with something like a thousand yuks in his pocket. He'd spent a third of it on new clothes, mostly black leather, another third of it on the blades, and was about to spend the last third at the mod parlor. You could get skull guns a lot cheaper, of course, but that would mean going over theCauseway to Shanghai and getting a back-alley job from some Coaster, and probably a nice bone infection in with the bargain, and he'd probably pick your pocket while he had you theezed. Besides, you could only get into a Shanghai if you were virgin. To cross the Causeway when you were already packing a skull gun, like Bud, you had to bribe the shit out of numerous Shanghai cops. There was no reason to economize here. Bud had a rich and boundless career ahead of him, vaulting up a hierarchy of extremely dangerous drug-related occupations for which he served as a paid audition of sorts. A start weapons system was a wise investment.

The damn bells kept ringing through the fog. Bud mumbled a command to his music system, a phased acoustical array splayed across both eardrums like the seeds on a strawberry. The volume went up but couldn't scour away the deep tones of the carillon, which resonated in his long bones. He wondered whether, as long as he was at the mod parlor, he should have the batteries drilled out of his right mastoid and replaced. Supposedly they were ten-year jobs, but he'd had them for six and he listened to music all the time, loud.

Three people were waiting. Bud took a seat and skimmed a mediatron from the coffee table; it looked exactly like a dirty, wrinkled, blank sheet of paper. " 'Annals of Self-Protection,' " he said, loud enough for everyone else in the place to hear him. The logo of his favorite meedfeed coalesced on the page. Mediaglyphics, mostly the cool animated ones, arranged themselves in a grid. Bud scanned through them until he found the one that denoted a comparison of a bunch of different stuff, and snapped at it with his fingernail. New mediaglyphics appeared, surrounding larger cine panes in which Annals staff tested several models of skull guns against live and dead targets. Bud frisbeed the mediatron back onto the table; this was the same review he'd been poring over for the last day, they hadn't updated it, his decision was still valid.

One of the guys ahead of him got a tattoo, which took about ten seconds. The other guy just wanted his skull gun reloaded, which didn't take much longer. The girl wanted a few 'sites replaced in her racting grid, mostly around her eyes, where she was starting to wrinkle up. That took a while, so Bud picked up the mediatron again and went in a ractive, his favorite, called Shut Up or Die!

The mod artist wanted to see Bud's yuks before he installed the gun, which in other surroundings might have been construed as an insult but was standard business practice here in the Leased Territories. When he was satisfied that this wasn't a stick-up, he theezed Bud's forehead with a spray gun, scalped back a flap of skin, and pushed a machine, mounted on a delicate robot arm like a dental tool, over Bud's forehead. The arm homed in automatically on the old gun, moving with alarming speed and determination. Bud, who was a little jumpy at the best of times because of his muscle stimulators, flinched a little. But the robot arm was a hundred times faster than he was and plucked out the old gun unerringly. The proprietor was watching all of this on a screen and had nothing to do except narrate: The hole in your skull's kind of rough, so the machine is reaming it out to a larger bore--okay, now here comes the new gun.

A nasty popping sensation radiated through Bud's skull when the robot arm snapped in the new model. It reminded Bud of the days of his youth, when, from time to time, one of his playmates would shoot him in the head with a BB gun. He instantly developed a low headache.

"It's loaded with a hundred rounds of popcorn," the proprietor said, "so you can test out the yuvree. Soon as you're comfortable with it, I'll load it for real." He stapled the skin of Bud's forehead back together so it'd heal invisibly. You could pay the guy extra to leave a scar there on purpose, so everyone would know you were packing, but Bud had heard that some chicks didn't like it. Bud's relationship with the female sex was governed by a gallimaufry of primal impulses, dim suppositions, deranged theories, overheard scraps of conversation, half-remembered pieces of bad advice, and fragments of no-doubt exaggerated anecdotes that amounted to rank superstition. In this case, it dictated that he should not request the scar.

Besides, he had a nice collection of Sights--not very tasteful sunglasses with crosshairs hudded into the lens on your dominant eye. They did wonders for marksmanship, and they were real obvious too, so that everyone knew you didn't fuck with a man wearing Sights.

"Give it a whirl," the guy said, and spun the chair around--it was a big old antique barber chair upholstered in swirly plastic--so Bud was facing a mannikin in the corner of the room. The mannikin had no face or hair and was speckled with little burn marks, as was the wall behind it.

"Status," Bud said, and felt the gun buzz lightly in response.

"Stand by," he said, and got another answering buzz. He turned his face squarely toward the mannikin.

"Hut," he said. He said it under his breath, through unmoving lips, but the gun heard it; he felt a slight recoil tapping his head back, and a startling POP sounded from the mannikin, accompanied by a flash of light on the wall up above its head. Bud's headache deepened, but he didn't care.

"This thing runs faster ammo, so you'll have to get used to aiming a tad lower," said the guy. So Bud tried it again and this time popped the mannikin right in the neck.

"Great shot! That would have decapped him if you were using Hellfire," the guy said. "Looks to me like you know what you're doing--but there's other options too. And three magazines so you can run multiple ammos. "

"I know," Bud said, "I been checking this thing out." Then, to the gun, "Disperse ten, medium pattern." Then he said "hut" again. His head snapped back much harder, and ten POPs went off at once, all over the mannikin's body and the wall behind it. The room was getting smoky now, starting to smell like burned plastic.

"You can disperse up to a hundred," the guy said, "but the recoil'd probably break your neck."

"I think I got it down," Bud said, "so load me up. First magazine with electrostun rounds. Second magazine with Cripplers. Third with Hellfires. And get me some fucking aspirin."

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The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 221 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book rivals snow crash, neuromancer, etc. I'm extremely impressed by the hard sci fi and strong gripping narative. Worth it!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book made me realize the benefits of education. Nell is no one, she is poor, crude, and is really going nowhere. However once her brother Harvey steals the Primer from Hackworth, he gives it to Nell and her journey begins. The book starts by teaching her the basics. She cannot read, so it reads to her. It teaches her defensive tactics so she can keep the book. It teaches her what exactly is sexual abuse, so that she stays healthy. This is only the beginning, though. As she gets older, the lessons become less about 'reading, writing, and arithmetic', and more philosophical, moral, and ethical. She learns about people and why they leave, and how that can be better in the end. She learns about trust, and how important it is to trust the right people. Two other little girls have their own copies of the Primer, and it gives them lessons that are tailored to them. To Fiona, Hackworth's daughter, it teaches her magical stories and new realms of thought. It develops her imagination, because that is what she is interested in developing. In the end, she becomes an actress. For Elizabeth, a granddaughter of a prominent man, the book creates a world where she is the ruler. She learns about the idea of loyalty and obedience. She later joins another group, an information cult called the CryptNet. There is another difference in their education. Elizabeth was taught by hundreds of different people. She became disillusioned by what she learned, and went off to find another group. Mainly her father, who is a strict Victorian in principle, but who has the soul of a dreamer, taught Fiona. In the Primer, he was only the dreamer so Fiona became a dreamer. And this translated to acting for her. One woman, an actor named Miranda, taught Nell. Early on, Miranda realized that she was raising someone's child, and she took it seriously. She gave up a lot of things to be there for Nell. Because of this, Nell grew up the most intelligent of the three. She grew up and took her place in history, which was to destroy existing society and change the world. I have really enjoyed this book. I read it the first time when I was in high school, and I loved it. I just reread it for this review, and I still love it for different reasons. I like the message that education, while incredibly valuable, will only take a person so far. After that, their cunning, morals, and ideas must take them the right way. Elizabeth reminded me of children who are raised by schools and universities. They are taught by lots of different people who don't really know them. Those types of students become disillusioned and rebel. Fiona shows what happens when there is no balance; she was taught only fantasy and so she immersed herself in it. Nell had balance; her individual story had an overall fairy-tale theme, but it was filled with martial arts, logic games, and moral/ethical lessons. She also had a mother figure, someone who cared for her, at least intellectually. I liked the idea of all the different societies trying to exist. I can see after all the moral corruption, a group of people going back to the Victorian ways. Overall, this book is believable as our future, and it is a future I would not mind having.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Everyone always raves about Snow Crash and leaves Diamond Age out to dry. Here's my 2 cents... If you want a fast paced, Hollywood movie type of book then Snow Crash is for you. If you're looking for a science fiction work that takes a crack at examining the possible consequences of upcoming technologies, give DA a whirl. Both books are a good read, but DA is the one that sticks in my mind. BTW, if you're looking to match your taste to mine, I thought Cryptonomicon was only so-so.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love Neal Stephenson, but Diamond Age takes everything I love about his writing style and gives it an emotional component that draws me in deeper than any of his other works.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Compelling, surprising, original story about a very special book and its subject, who is also the book's student and accidental young owner.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
4 stars for the curious... have not read it yet!
capetowncanada on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Some cool idea's but overall the book wasn't very good.
name99 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Very much from the mind that brought us Snow Crash. Once again I find the overall scenario, along with many details, unconvincing, but Neal Stephenson does tell a good story that remains compelling until it all falls apart in the last few pages.The Victorian resurrection is an interesting and not implausible idea, as is fundamentalism in China. But the central issue, what would society and economics look like under nanofabrication was, I think, handled very unsatisfactorily.
cyberlemur on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A wild speculative tale of the impact of nanotechnology on the world. Complex, varied, and furiously paced, I recommend this one to any sci-fi fan.
CKmtl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Stephenson's vision of a nanotech future is captivating. The technology's interactions with the various cultures are definitely food for thought.The sections dealing with the Drummers seemed bizarre and jarring at first, but in retrospect I think that effect is appropriate. Technologies do end up being used in rather weird ways compared to the initial intent of their designers.
topps on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Another complex story line. A bit more fanciful but some powerful ideas.
danconsiglio on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Real neat imagining of the future. Solid vision of technology, culture, and politics in the near future. Big ol' freakin' plot.
melydia on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
To be perfectly frank, I don't get it. The story begins with a man named Hackworth creating an interactive primer for his young daughter, but before he can give it to her he is mugged by a gang of boys. One of these boys grabs the book and brings it home for his little sister, Nell. The book itself is awesome: interactive, multifunctional, and just all around nifty. I wish I had one. Unfortunately, after this things start getting confusing. Hackworth lives with a group called the Drummers, who share a collective consciousness and have a lot of orgies. Then there's this group called the Fists of Righteous Harmony who start making trouble, and then there are a quarter of a million little Chinese girls getting together, and then there's this mysterious group called Cryptnet... Part of me feels what I've felt when reading other Stephenson books: that while he's excellent at world-building, he's not so hot at endings. There's also a possibility that I'm simply not smart enough to appreciate his work. I'm fine with that. I was kind of surprised at how meh I felt about the latter half of this book, since I enjoyed Snow Crash and Zodiac so much, but perhaps this marks a turning point in his writing. The next book he wrote was Cryptonomicon, on which I gave up after 250 pages. I guess I should stick with Stephenson's older works from now on.
RRHowell on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Neal Stephenson has his own unique style and vision. This one is stranger than many of his books, and there are aspects of his vision that creep me out rather than charm. But I've probably listened to this book on tape about 5 times over the years.
tinLizzy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Brilliant. Loved this more than I thought possible.
PghDragonMan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Diamond Age, is another excellent speculative fiction work from the pen of Neal Stephenson. While reminiscent of William Gibson¿s cyberpunk vision of the future, this future is on a decidedly different track and blends Victorian elements without being steampunk. The Illustrated Primer of the subtitle, refers not to this being a graphic novel, but to a smart book, that falls into the wrong hands. The book is interactive and instructs the owner in science, language and other things they will need to excel in life. Through the primer, Stephenson also introduces a story within a story, where we, the readers of the novel, are shown a fairytale being read by the owner of the primer that has characters from her real life and presents lessons based on her situation in the context of her real life events.Less arcane than Anathem, it also has a much faster pace to the story. The story is action driven, but in a controlled way. This gives the main characters a chance to develop and change to match their roles. I have come to realize that very well developed characters are a hallmark of Stephenson¿s style.I had some trouble with this novel that pulled it back from the brink of being truly exceptional. The ending left me cold. There is a great lead up to the conclusion, and the conclusion is definitive, but it was not satisfying . . . unless we will be visiting the heroine in a future sequel. I don¿t think that likely, however.Very deserving of four and a half stars, I highly recommend The Diamond Age or, A Young Lady¿s Illustrated Primer to fans of speculative fiction, steampunk or cyberpunk genres.
MoTown on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Nowhere near as good as Snow Crash, but still worth a read.
jddunn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Literate steampunk set in a nano-sculpted and affinity-based collectivized future. A unique possible vision of where we could be heading, and a good analysis of the possibilities and limitations inherent in the ever-changing interplay of the social, the economic, and the technological.
fillechaude on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A really fascinating non-Utopian visualization of the future. I felt it lost a bit of its steam toward the end, but still a good story.
Alleycatfish on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Personally, I found this book a little hard to read. The author loves to use big words. I even had to look a couple up, and I like to think I have an extensive vocabulary. It also felt "too smart" for me. I had little to no problems grasping the immense tech talk, but sometimes it was just too much.Loved Nell's story and 'watching' her grow up with the Primer. Didn't care much for the other stories.All in all, I did enjoy reading this book. It is not one I will be rereading any time soon though.
ben_h on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
OK, this is not an impartial rating. I'm a drooling fanboy--and I can't imagine giving Neal Stephenson less than five stars on anything.
iBeth on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I loved Nell, the book's hero; the narrative world is evocative, and I want my own Primer! The end of this book is somewhat strange, however.The book explores some interesting questions about teaching/technology: e.g., Must education be subversive? What should the role of human teachers be? What does technology make possible that traditional teaching methods do not?
traciolsen on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It may be time to re-read this one, especially now that The Primer is nearly a reality, along with a lot of other things in the book. Ooh I hope hats and veils come back in fashion!
thelorelei on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed Neal Stephenson's "The Diamond Age." I've tried to get into cyberpunk before, and stumbled over jargon and scattered narratives. I was very pleased to find that all the slang or jargon that Stephenson wants to introduce you to is done within the first few pages, and he is a much more calm storyteller than many of his colleagues in the genre. It's after you've gotten comfortable that he releases the deluge; there are so many themes and questions in this book that I'm going to have to read this again to begin to get a handle on all of the ideas he tosses around. The chief, most obvious one is basically: how do you educate a young mind to think for itself and avoid mindless indoctrination without accidentally indoctrinating said young mind? That is where the book's subtitle (or the Young Lady's Illustrated Primer) comes in. Commissioned by an aristocrat for his granddaughter in the hopes that it will teach her independent thought and a flexible mind, a copy ultimately falls into the hands of the daughter of the engineer who executes the design of the primer, and another one ends up in the possession of Nell, a poor child living in an abusive home. Nell is our chief protagonist, and it is her trajectory that is followed most closely throughout the novel. The primer is an advanced tool, involving actors ('ractors, from "interactors") to act out the situations put forth by the technology of the book, but the three girls all turn out quite differently. The novel has some ideas as to why, and this is where I found the interesting meat of the story, though there is so much more to find that different people will be sure to find other themes on which to chew. I will definitely read this book again in order to see what else I can discover.
Radaghast on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Diamond Age is the culmination of Stephenson's Snow Crash universe. It is the logical conclusion of the breakdown of national government, the creation of powerful nanotechnology, and the reshaping of culture. It is also the story of a little girl who overcomes the circumstances of her birth and the hardship of her life to become a Queen.That's the short version of The Diamond Age. This novel is genre creating in its scope. It has hints of cyberpunk, but is outdoubtedly something new. Stephenson learned a lot from Snow Crash, and presents many of those ideas in fresh and more thoughtful ways. Snow Crash was a great book, but in the face of The Diamond Age, it is inadequate. Part of what makes The Diamond Age superior is its characters. Snow Crash had Hiro Protagonist, one of the greatest sci-fic chracters ever, but Nell might just beat him out. She is a perfect protagonist for the novel and the fact that we see her go from child to adult, and really see the changes and growth that takes place, says a lot about Stephenson's abilities. What makes Nell such an ideal voice is that this future, while better in some ways than Snow Crash, is still not a pleasant place. There are a lot of very horrific things going on in the world. When told from the perspective of a child, these are simultaneously softened, while also increasing the peril. The other element that makes The Diamond Age work is the subitlte to the novel. At the heart of everything is the Young Lady's Illustrated Primer. Created by the Neo-Victorian John Percival Hackworth for use by the child of their leader, the Primer is a fully interactive storybook that is intended to give a child immersive advanced education. It is not A.I. in Stephenson's world A.I. is impossible. Indeed, one of the arguments The Diamond Age makes is that A.I. can never replicate a human mind.This is all revealed as the book progresses and as Hackworth attempts to steal the Primer for his own daughter. Surprise, surprise, it ends up in the hands of a non-Victorian child living in squalor. We see then that the real power of this book is more than anyone can imagine.There's far more going on here of course. The novel is very layered. In the background, a new Boxer Rebellion is emerging in the Coastal Republic of China. Attempts are being made to create a new, far more dangerous form of technology that will supercede nanotech. A secret group of hackers may be trying to change the economic and political structure of the world. There are a number of subplots and far more characters that weave seamlessly into Nell's story. But by far the strength of the novel are the moments we see her interact with the Primer. I can't adequately describe it here, but it's a brilliant concept.The only problems with the novel are at the end. The character of Judge Fang seems very important in the first half of the novel, but disappears by the end, despite events that would seem to require his presence. Would Fang really be okay with the horrible acts done in the name of the Celestial Kingdom? Also, a particular distasteful event which I won't reveal that happened to Nell at the end of the novel was unnecessary. And then there's the fate of the refugees. Nell escapes, but she leaves them behind, and their fate seems almost as bad as the death that faced them!Trust me though, these are minor strings that Stephenson doesn't tie up. This is a superior novel, and the way it deals with culture is the most honest and illuminating treatment I've seen yet. Please don't listen to any reviewer that says the novel was anti-Chinese or that claims the novel suggested culture is in-born. These people clearly didn't read the book. The novel explicitly is arguing culture is learned, and for every villain of one particular culture there is a villain of another. What it is saying is that each culture views itself as superior and will eventually act as such, which may or may not be true, but Stephen