Posts Tagged ‘ Neal Stephenson ’

Review: The Diamond Age (or A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer) by Neal Stephenson

Stephenson, author of Snow Crash, Zodiac and perhaps most famously, Cryptonomicon, has certainly penned another wonderfully intricate yarn with The Diamond Age. Owing to the hints that Miss Mathesson is the erstwhile Y.T. of Snow Crash (this inferred from the ‘many spoked smartwheels of her wheelchair’, her admission that she was a ‘thrasher’ in her youth and the frequent use of the phrase ‘chiselled spam’) among other references, this world conceivably occurs sometime after the events of Snow Crash.

Amazon’s blurb for The Diamond Age is this:

John Percival Hackworth is a nanotech engineer on the rise when he steals a copy of “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 and to teach her how to think for herself in the stifling neo-Victorian society. But Hackworth loses the primer before he can give it to Fiona, and now the “book” has fallen into the hands of young Nell, an underprivileged girl whose life is about to change.

The great thing about this book is its vision of a not to far future world and the complexity both of that world and the plot that unfolds within it. The strands of story are at first hopelessly disparate, but weave together in some truly ingenious ways. What sucks about this book is the ending. Stephenson, like many science fiction authors, leaves his endings open, sometimes leaving threads unresolved. With The Diamond Age, however, he takes this to whole new levels of irritating by suddenly terminating the book mid-climax. There is no resolution to be had here, it is as if the printers forgot to append the final pages. I’d hate to be this guy’s wife.

Poor ending aside though, this book is a multi-hued pleasure to read. Stephenson blends styles and tones aptly and adeptly and leaves plenty of food for thought with his ruminations on the socioeconomic effects of ripened nanotechnology and, in particular, his discussion of the ultimate moral crime and measure —hypocrisy.

Pro-read, four stars.


We live in interesting times: the world’s first cyber/information war is on

Now this is exciting and different – a war with (as yet) no blood spilt. Everyone should read this article in the Guardian today if they want a clue as to how the world is turning in the twenty-first century. To anyone who was in any doubt that the events depicted in William Gibson’s Neuromancer and Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash could ever happen, think again. The collaborative online events sparked by the Wikileaks/US cables controversy read like science fiction and as yet the trajectory of these happenings remains unclear and —unfortunately for those who would silence the leaks— uncontrollable.

From iBoobs to augmented reality

Got sent the Charlie Brooker (guardian) article on the augmented reality of our future and followed another link to the Mercedes Bunz’s  ‘seven things you need to know about augmented reality’. Some of the 7 look interesting, particularly No.6.

That said, some of the apps available now or soon sound about as appealing as the other apps available on iPhones— like glorified ClipArt. In fairness,  I haven’t owned a Smart phone since 2007 and don’t own an iPhone now. Perhaps if I did I would have a different opinion on the whole thing.

Here is a video posted in March 2007 predicting the release of augmented reality products to the mass market in 2008…

Although AR hasn’t quite hit the general market yet, there are certainly some appealing applications— and not just for lazy parents and educational purposes. The ‘tour guide’ feature is definitely of interest for anyone travelling for pleasure or business. The AR can tell you what ratings different restaurants and hotel have had, which route to take to get there —or anywhere— and where to park. Pretty useful, but until the omnipotent ‘they’ figure out a way to hardwire our optic nerves to overlay such a display, we’ll probably have to wear ungainly goggles to experience it. Until the advent of such tech, have a read of the following superb books that offer a taste of what could be to come technologically (and socially, but that’s another blog).

Neuromancer – William Gibson

Snow Crash – Neal Stephenson

The Revelation Space series – Alastair Reynolds

Accelerando – Charles Stross

Diamond Age – Neal Stephenson

Pattern Recognition – William Gibson

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