Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age

I actually really enjoyed reading Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age. Basically, it involves a type of book / tablet that talks to you like a teacher and self-generates lessons for all learner levels. The setting is in the near future, a dystopian technique that grounds the plot in plausibility. So, how does this tablet work? A little something called smartpaper. This Illustrated Primer is stolen and ends up at the hands of Nell. Who steals it? Nell’s wayward brother. And, this sets up the drama.

“The difference between stupid and intelligent people – and this is true whether or not they are well educated – is that intelligent people can handle subtlety.”

The futuristic technology portion of the novel definitely drives the plot. How does it work? Who invented it? Why is it important? While Nell learns from the Illustrated Primer voiced by an actress that eventually turns into something of a surrogate parent, two other girls have primers too, but they come from vastly different socio-economic backgrounds. Thematically, these different political worlds and societal constructs that the girls navigate lend themselves to interesting socio-economic and political analysis. Nell’s growth through the Illustrated Primer is the focus of the plot because she has all the cards stacked against her, and her journey appeals to the depths of human emotion. Her journey draws on the basic human hope that one day we will achieve are goals and dreams.

Work Cited

Stephenson, Neal. The Diamond Age Or, A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer. New York: Spectra, 2 May 2000.

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