Friday, November 12, 2004

The Diamond Age

It's almost embarrassing that it took me this long to get my hands on a copy of The Diamond Age: Or a Young Lady's Illustrated Primer, by Neal Stephenson. It's practically a pillar of that temple of nerdiness revered by my dominant brain hemisphere. Libraries, so otherwise sympathetic to my needs, kept thoughtlessly lending this book out to others. But my days of having to nod politely at the conversations of Slashdot types are now over, and I can stop plotting up ways to shift the subject away from Neal Stephenson and onto, say, their preferred Linux distro.

Last weekend I toured a 'compiled' future where nanotech moguls and Confucian judges commune in exotic locals ranging from floating neo-Victorian manors to the House of the Venerable and Inscrutable Colonel (aka KFC). I plunged into a customized fairytale conjured up on the fly by a charismatic educational tool: a Primer powered by a combination of exotic nanotech and sympathetic voice talent. I cheered the exploits of an underpriviledged girl whose improbable relationship with the book steers the plot towards a unique, sophisticated climax.

Stephenson's multithreaded treatment hearkens back to the days of Dickens. Given the aesthetic tastes of the neo-Victorians pulling many of our protagonists' strings, it is surely no accident that a few minor but lovable characters seem to enjoy forbidden extra-helpings of page-space pudding. Setting descriptions occasionally wax past the point of polish into thick veneers that threaten, but fail, to dull the shining stories within them. And some people ride horseys!

For a jaded reader like me, 'The Diamond Age' was a real gem. It sparked real emotional involvement in a fully-rendered future. And unlike so much science fiction I read these days, the obligatory orgy scene had a point.

I've never felt closer to my poindextrous brethren. Time to explore the strange new world of 'interlibrary loan'.


Post a Comment

<< Home