Cyberpunk Information Database
Science Fiction
Picture: clockwork mechanisms with a face

The Diamond Age



Title: The Diamond Age
Author: Neal Stephenson
Year of publishing: 1995

Stephenson's dazzling cyberspace adventure, Snow Crash, 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. Stephenson imagines a 21st century in which molecular machines 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.

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.


Decades into the future, near the ancient city of Shanghai, John Percival Hackworth is a cultured nanotech engineer who risks the censure of his neo-Victorian social class, or tribe, when he forges an illicit copy of a state-of-the-art interactive book called A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer for his daughter Fiona. The primer is actually a super computer built with nanotechnology that was designed to educate Lord Finkle-McGraw's daughter. 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 by teaching young girls how to think for themselves in that stifling neo-Victorian society.

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 Hackworth - in the seamy streets of their neighborhood, Harv brings Nell something special: the Primer. And from the moment she opens the book, her life is changed. She enters a fairy tale in which she is the heroine, challenged with traversing an enchanted world in search of the fabled twelve keys. If successful, she could emerge with untold wisdom and power. 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.

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.


Brought to you
The Cyberpunk Project