The Diamond Age
||This article possibly contains original research. (May 2011)|
|Cover artist||Bruce Jensen|
|Genre||Science fiction novel
|Publisher||Bantam Spectra (U.S.A.)|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover & Paperback) & Audio Book (Cassette, MP3 CD, Audio download. Narrator: Jennifer Wiltsie) & e-book|
|Pages||455 pp (hardcover), 512 pp (paperback)|
|Awards||Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel (1996)|
|ISBN||0-553-09609-5 (hardcover), ISBN 0-553-38096-6 (paperback)|
|LC Class||PS3569.T3868 D53 1995|
The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer is a postcyberpunk novel by Neal Stephenson. It is to some extent a science fiction bildungsroman or coming-of-age story, focused on a young girl named Nell, and set in a future world in which nanotechnology affects all aspects of life. The novel deals with themes of education, social class, ethnicity, and the nature of artificial intelligence. The Diamond Age was first published in 1995 by Bantam Books, as a Bantam Spectra hardcover edition. In 1996, it won both the Hugo and Locus Awards, and was shortlisted for the Nebula and other awards. In 2009, a six-hour miniseries adapted from the novel was slated for development for the Syfy Channel, although the adaptation did not ultimately emerge.
- 1 Setting
- 2 Plot summary
- 3 Title
- 4 Characters
- 5 Major themes
- 6 Allusions to other works and genres
- 7 Proposed television adaptation
- 8 Allusions to the Diamond Age
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 Bibliography
The Diamond Age depicts a near-future world revolutionised by advances in nanotechnology, much as Eric Drexler envisioned it in his nonfiction book Engines of Creation (1986). Molecular nanotechnology is omni-present in the novel's world, generally in the form of Matter Compilers and the products that come out of them. The book explicitly recognizes the achievements of several existing nanotechnology researchers: Feynman, Drexler and Merkle are seen among characters of the fresco in Merkle-Hall, where new nanotechnological items are designed and constructed.
The book contains descriptions of various exotic technologies, such as the chevaline (a mechanical horse that can fold up and is light enough to be carried one-handed), and forecasts the use of technologies that are in development today, such as smart paper that can show personalized news headlines. Major cities have immune systems made up of aerostatic defensive micromachines, and public matter compilers provide basic food, blankets, and water for free to anyone who requests them.
Matter compilers receive their raw materials from the Feed, a system analogous to the electrical grid of modern society. The Feed carries streams of both energy and basic molecules, which are rapidly assembled into usable goods by matter compilers. The Source, where the Feed's stream of matter originates, is controlled by the Victorian phyle (though smaller, independent Feeds are possible). The hierarchic nature of the Feed and an alternative, anarchic developing technology, known as the Seed, mirror the cultural conflict between East and West that is depicted in the book. This conflict has an economic element as well, with the Feed representing a centrally-controlled distribution mechanism, while the Seed represents a more flexible, open-ended, decentralized method of creation and organization.
Society in The Diamond Age is dominated by a number of phyles, also sometimes called tribes. Phyles are groups of people often distinguished by shared values, similar ethnic heritage, a common religion, or other cultural similarities. In the extremely globalized future depicted in the novel, these cultural divisions have largely supplanted the system of nation-states that divides the world today. Cities in The Diamond Age appear divided into sovereign enclaves affiliated or belonging to different phyles within a single metropolis. Most phyles depicted in the novel have a global scope of sovereignty, and maintain segregated enclaves in or near many cities throughout the world.
The phyles coexist much like historical nation-states under a system of justice and mutual protection, known as the Common Economic Protocol (CEP). The rules of the CEP are intended to provide for the co-existence of, and peaceful economic activity between, phyles with potentially very different values. The CEP is concerned particularly with upholding rights to personal property, being shown to provide particularly harsh punishment for harming the economic capability of another person. The role of the CEP in the world of the novel could be seen in comparison with the roles of real-life international organizations such as the United Nations and the International Monetary Fund.
"Thetes" are individuals who are not members of any phyle and are often socially disadvantaged and economically poor, being similar to second-class citizens under the CEP. In the novel, the material needs of nearly all thetes are satisfied by freely-available food and clothing, albeit of low quality; thetes without the political connections of a phyle are entitled to similarly low-quality "free justice."
The book distinguishes three Great Phyles: the Han (consisting of Han Chinese), the Neo-Victorian New Atlantis (consisting largely of Anglo-Saxons, but also accepting Indians, Africans and other members of the Anglosphere who identify with the culture) and Nippon (consisting of Japanese). The novel raises the question as to whether Hindustan (consisting of Hindu Indians) is a fourth Great Phyle, or a "riotously diverse collection of microtribes sintered together according to some formula we don't get."
Internally, the New Atlantis phyle is a corporate oligarchy whose "equity lords" rule the organization and its bylaws under allegiance to the vestigial British monarchy. Other phyles are less defined – some intentionally, as with the CryptNet group or the mysterious hive-mind Drummers. Over the course of the story, the Common Economic Protocol sponsors the investigation of clandestine Seed technologies in order to preserve the established order from subversion. It is also hinted that property rights are so expansive that the Protocol recognizes children as the economic assets of their parents.
The protagonist in the story is Nell, a thete (or person without a tribe; equivalent to the lowest working class) living in the Leased Territories, a lowland slum belt on the artificial, diamondoid island of New Chusan, located offshore from the mouth of the Yangtze River, northwest of Shanghai. At the age of four, Nell receives a stolen copy of an interactive book, Young Lady's Illustrated Primer: a Propædeutic Enchiridion, in which is told the tale of Princess Nell and her various friends, kin, associates, &c., originally intended for the wealthy Neo-Victorian "Equity Lord" Chung-Sik Finkle-McGraw's granddaughter. The story follows Nell's development under the tutelage of the Primer, and to a lesser degree, the lives of Elizabeth and Fiona, girls who receive similar books. The Primer is intended to steer its reader intellectually toward a more interesting life, as defined by "Equity Lord" Alexander Chung-Sik Finkle-McGraw, and growing up to be an effective member of society. The most important quality to achieving an "interesting life" is deemed to be a subversive attitude towards the status quo. The Primer is designed to react to its owners' environment and teach them what they need to know to survive and develop.
The Diamond Age is characterized by two intersecting, almost equally-developed story lines: Nell's education through her independent work with the Primer, and the social downfall of engineer and designer of the Primer, John Percival Hackworth, who has made an illegal copy of the Primer for his own young daughter, Fiona. His crime becomes known both to Lord Finkle-McGraw and to Dr. X, the black market engineer whose compiler Hackworth used to create the copy of the Primer, and each man attempts to exploit Hackworth to advance the opposing goals of their tribes. The text also includes fully narrated educational tales from the Primer that map Nell's individual experience (e.g. her four toy friends) onto archetypal folk tales stored in the primer's database. Although The Diamond Age explores the role of technology and personal relationships in child development, its deeper and darker themes also probe the relative values of cultures (which Stephenson explores in his other novels as well) and the shortcomings in communication between them.
"Diamond Age" is an extension of labels for archeological time periods that take central technological materials to define an entire era of human history, such as the Stone Age, the Bronze Age or the Iron Age. Technological visionaries such as Eric Drexler and Ralph Merkle, both of whom receive an honorary mention in The Diamond Age, have argued that if nanotechnology develops the ability to manipulate individual atoms at will, it will become possible to simply assemble diamond structures from carbon atoms, materials also known as diamondoids. Merkle states: "In diamond, then, a dense network of strong bonds creates a strong, light, and stiff material. Indeed, just as we named the Stone Age, the Bronze Age, and the Steel Age after the materials that humans could make, we might call the new technological epoch we are entering the Diamond Age". In the novel, a near future vision of our world, nanotechnology has developed precisely to this point, which enables the cheap production of diamond structures.
- Nell (Nellodee) – The story's protagonist, from the viewpoint of the novel as a coming-of-age story. She is born to Tequila, a lower-class single mother, and, with the help of the nanotech Primer, grows up to become an independent woman and the leader of a new phyle.
- Harv (Harvard) – Nell's older brother, who plays an important role in the beginning as her protector; he obtains the Primer for his sister by mugging John Percival Hackworth. Harv is forced to leave Nell when she joins the Neo-Victorians, and he later dies in hospital of consumption.
- Bud – A petty criminal and “thete,” or tribeless individual, Bud is Tequila's boyfriend and Nell and Harv's father. He is obsessed with his muscular body, and possesses a cranial weapon implant (known as a "skull gun"), which he uses to mug a member of the Ashanti phyle. He is executed for this crime early in the novel.
- Tequila – Nell and Harv's neglectful thete mother. After Bud's death, she has a series of boyfriends who abuse the children.
- John Percival Hackworth – The novel's second protagonist. He is a Neo-Victorian nanotech engineer, and develops the code for the Primer. He makes an illicit copy of the Primer for his daughter Fiona, who is Nell's age. When his crime is detected, he is forced to become a double agent in a covert power struggle between the Neo-Victorians and the Chinese Celestial Kingdom. Hackworth is forced to spend ten years with a colony of "Drummers," using their distributed intelligence (similar but not identical to distributed artificial intelligence) for the development of a new form of nanotech, known as the Seed.
- Fiona Hackworth – Hackworth's daughter, and his motivation for stealing a second copy of the Primer. During Hackworth's decade-long exile with the Drummers, he is able to maintain a connection with his daughter through the Primer, and when he returns she joins him, eventually choosing to stay with a surrealistic acting troupe in London.
- Gwendolyn Hackworth – Hackworth's wife and Fiona's mother, who divorces Hackworth after he joins the Drummers.
- Lord Alexander Chung-Sik Finkle-McGraw – A Neo-Victorian "Equity Lord" with the Apthorp conglomerate, who commissions the development of the Primer for his granddaughter Elizabeth.
- Elizabeth Finkle-McGraw – Lord Finkle-McGraw's granddaughter. It was for her that the project to develop the Illustrated Primer was begun. However, she never became as engrossed in the stories created by the Primer as Nell, and later rebelled against her Neo-Victorian upbringing due in part to the abuse of Miss Stricken. Elizabeth runs away from her wealthy aristocratic family to join the secretive CryptNet phyle.
- Judge Fang – A Chinese Confucian judge who sentences Bud to death in the beginning of the book. He also investigates Hackworth's mugging by Harv after he had illicitly had a second edition of the Primer created. As a civil official abiding by deep Confucian principles, his decision to let Nell keep the stolen primer is one of the pivotal plot elements that allows Nell's story to unfold. The fallout from that choice leads him to question his allegiances to the Coastal Republic (which rules Shanghai and the surrounding area), and he eventually joins the inland Celestial Kingdom.
- Chang and Miss Pao – Judge Fang's assistants.
- Dr. X. – A mysterious character who evolves from being an illicit technology specialist and hacker to being a powerful Confucian leader and nefarious force. His name comes from the fact that most westerners cannot pronounce his Chinese name; he encourages people to instead call him by the first letter of his name, 'X'.
- Constable Moore - Constable of the Dovetail community, semi-retired soldier, and Nell's adoptive father/guardian.
- Miranda Redpath – A "ractor" (actor in interactive movies) who, by performing in the stories of Nell's Primer, effectively becomes a mother figure for Nell.
- Carl Hollywood – A ractor and performance artist, Miranda's friend and adviser. He becomes more important towards the end of the novel, when he is involved in the battle between the Celestial Kingdom and the Coastal Republic.
- Miss Matheson- The head teacher at the academy where Nell, Fiona and Elizabeth attend. She instructs Nell to find her own path.
- Miss Stricken- An authoritarian teacher at the Miss Matheson's Academy who frequently uses corporal punishment on the students for minor infractions. During a confrontation with Nell Stricken attempts to strike her with the ruler only to be immediately disarmed due to Nell's physical training by the Primer, this leads to her Elizabeth and Fiona all being placed in detention where they are forced to mindlessly copy from textbooks.
Personal and societal connections
The Diamond Age includes several themes that encompass connections between individuals and between individuals and social groups. All the girls who receive Primers are taught, but Nell is taught primarily by a single individual, Miranda, who forms a strong bond with her student. It is this bond that makes the Primer a transformative agent in Nell's life.
The society depicted in the book is one that values cultural association over "racial" affiliation; some characters (especially Lord Finkle-McGraw) hold the belief that certain cultural systems are naturally superior to others. Cultural affiliation is sufficiently important as to have rendered the nation-state obsolete. Education, the means by which culture is transmitted, assumes primacy over biological ancestry. The Diamond Age also demonstrates the importance of experiencing genuine adversity as part of life experience, without which education cannot achieve its fullest influence in the life of a young person.
The two cultural groups (called "phyles") explored in most detail are the two that flourish in New Atlantis and among certain citizens of the fragmented lands that once constituted mainland China. Both groups turn to the past to seek guidance for the present and future. The New Atlantans, including the Hackworths and the Finkle-McGraws, have adopted the manners and beliefs of Victorian Britain; certain residents of erstwhile China, notably Dr. X and Judge Fang, follow the precepts of Confucius. There are important similarities between the two groups. Both groups are producers and users of the Diamond Age's nanotechnology, and yet both groups revere tradition as it is expressed through comportment, clothing and other relics of the past. For example, New Atlantan John Hackworth wears a custom-made top hat as an emblem of his rank, and Confucian Judge Fang wears a traditional cap embroidered with a unicorn as an emblem of his acuity. Both groups value education, and both groups value an orderly, hierarchical society in which intricate rules of manners and courtesies bind all parties. However, it is the contrast between Victorian and Confucian world views that drives the plot: Victorians are elitist and proprietary while Confucians see the peasant as the most important member of society. This basic difference can also be seen in the way they view the dangers and opportunities of molecular assemblers and artificial intelligence (as applied to child-raising); but also by the way they handle crime and punishment. Confucianism is portrayed in some depth (if somewhat inaccurately), including a quasi-historical re-telling of the Boxer Rebellion. The novel also shows the emergence of new sub-cultures such as the elusive, high-tech CryptNet and the "Drummers," who achieve a state of group mind through drumming, nanotechnology, and group sex. It is sometimes possible for individuals to change their phyle and, as Lord Finkle-McGraw himself notes, taking the oath to become a New Atlantan is often a decision reached by an older, more settled person who has tasted life in some of the wilder, more radical and more chaotic phyles.
Science fiction themes
The Diamond Age depicts many imagined social consequences of nanotechnology, including the construction of artificial islands, nanotechnological warfare, personal defence and the use of versatile matter compilers to freely synthesize food and other basic provisions. The concept of a hive consciousness made of human brains interconnected through nanotechnological messengers is also explored. The novel furthermore introduces encryption and the theory of computation, even though the Church–Turing thesis which is central to the theory of computation is dismissed without even stating it. These topics are conveyed in the form of a fairy-story within the primer, which the reader encounters with the heroine as the novel unfolds. This storyline involves the contemplation of the limits of Turing machines and the nature of artificial intelligence.
Sociology and cultural relativism
The Diamond Age deals extensively with the notion of moral relativism and seems to postulate its failure. The neo-Victorians are clearly represented as technologically, culturally and economically superior to other "phyles" (see Micronation), with the Confucians as close rivals. Although membership to the phyles in most cases is voluntary and not determined by an individual's ancestry or race, the cultural and class hierarchies established in the novel create a clear distinction between the "haves" and the "have-nots." The novel is also notable for a number of incidental descriptions of other cults or groups, such as the Reformed Distributed Republic, which in contrast to the more elaborate "phyles" impose a minimal social protocol. In some cases this protocol only tests the willingness of members to risk their lives, and come to each other's aid by following instructions, with little or no capacity to understand the importance of tasks they undertake in doing so, but a full understanding of the risks.
These cultural differences manifest themselves in the very different effect the copies of the primer have on the girls who use them. The original copies of the primer, created for a young girl of the Victorian phyle, provide for human interaction, even if it is mediated through the "ractive" technology. The Victorian girls who are raised with these copies become fully realized and independent individuals, while an army of Han Chinese girls raised with modified, fully automated clones of the primer with no "parental" human contact become efficient, devoted, but incomplete followers. An allusion early in the book suggests that the cloned primers were intentionally disabled by the Victorian engineer who designed them, perhaps to foster a propensity for the Chinese children who use the clones to follow the leadership of the Victorian girls who use the original copies. When asked to make copies of the Primer,
John Percival Hackworth, almost without thinking about it and without appreciating the ramifications of what he was doing, devised a trick and slipped it in under the radar of the Judge and Dr. X and all of the other people in the theatre, who were better at noticing tricks than most other people in the world. 'While I'm at it, if it pleases the court, I can also' Hackworth said, most obsequiously, 'make changes in the content so that it will be more suitable for the unique cultural requirements of the Han readership. But it will take some time.'
However, this difference can also be interpreted as a desirable feature from the point of view of the Confucians, who emphasize duty, honesty and obedience in their training of women. The limits of the authority of officers, more than the degree of visible tactical control, is an emphasis of Confucianism. The text is ambivalent about whether the "Mouse Army" of girls is merely efficient and devoted or also usefully creative. The "Mouse Army" of girls do show a unified creative response in dealing with certain obstacles: attacking the Fist soldiers using repetitive group tactics, and using their bodies to form "rafts" to safely cross the river to New Chusan. Both feats required creative thought transmitted throughout the group, but was only feasible through group action. The Confucian solution of the Primer was communal, while the Victorian was highly individualistic.
The nanotechnology that generates wealth for the Victorian, Nipponese and Hindustani phyles provides software-generated goods fed through a strictly proprietary "feed" line that runs from their central generators into the homes of customers. The three great phyles are engaged in a competition to have their feeds grab the biggest market share in Coastal China. While several basic goods from the feed are provided free of charge, the real wealth to be made from this software remains per-unit software purchases. The principles of intellectual property being sacrosanct in the Victorian phyle, whose wealth derives from it, the violation of intellectual property law gets Hackworth severely condemned and forced into military service to earn back his reputation.
On the Chinese side, the character of Dr. X represents the open-source model of technology and software, and as such he seeks to develop the seed technology that would end the reliance of China on the Western feed lines. The seed would allow Chinese peasants to grow consumer products right out of the ground, which would put an end to the increasing material hardship (one character reports that the interior water table has emptied out, forcing the mass abandonment of Han girls that later form the Mouse Army) that cripples Chinese society. In general, the entire world seems to rely on much scarcer resources to get by – characters travel by foot, roller skates, bicycle or airship on trips that in 20th century terms could be done much faster by automobile and airplane. The availability of "real", non-replicated goods is reserved to only the richest upper class, produced in small communities of skilled craftsmen.
The rest of the population seems economically involved in either household service or as artists and entertainers. As Nell's first employer points out, there exist only the business of things and the business of entertainment, and the business of things is not very interesting when nanotechnology can produce anything.
Failure of artificial intelligence
Many have recognized that a major theme of The Diamond Age involves a distinction between Artificial Intelligence (AI) and human intelligence, with AI being depicted in the novel as having failed in its goal of creating software capable of passing the Turing Test. This contrasts with the predictions of the "Singularity" movement, popularized by Ray Kurzweil, which believes that nanotechnology and/or other technologies will lead to AI that surpasses human intelligence.
In the novel, "Artificial Intelligence" has been renamed "pseudo-intelligence" (Hackworth declares the older term to have been "cheeky", meaning presumptuous). That this "pseudo-intelligence" is lacking compared to human intelligence is demonstrated by the fact that humans are able to earn a living as "ractors", interacting with customers in virtual reality entertainments. Since ractors are more expensive than AI, the only reason to use them would be that the customers could tell the difference, implying that in the world of the novel, the marketplace of virtual reality entertainment has become one ongoing Turing Test, and software is continuously failing it.
This theme is woven throughout the story of Nell and her primer. Nell's situation is that a single ractor, Miranda, devotes herself full-time to performing the various roles of Nell's primer. Nell somehow senses that there is a real person behind the virtual reality, and desires to meet that person. This longing drives Nell to conduct a Turing Test on a central character in her primer's story, who conveniently is named the Duke of Turing. The test involves indirect clues hidden in a poem which the Duke does not catch, showing him to be a non-human automaton. After this adventure, the stories in the Primer involve the exploration of castles with more complex situations which all prove, in the end, to also be Turing machines. (One of them apparently demonstrates the Chinese room problem.) The exception is the final castle, that of the King Coyote. One paragraph sums up the novel's viewpoint on AI (emphasis added):
Her study of the Cipherers' Market, and particularly of the rule-books used by the cipherers to respond to messages, had taught her that for all its complexity, it too was nothing more than another Turing machine. She had come here to the Castle of King Coyote to see whether the King answered his messages according to Turing-like rules. For if he did, then the entire system — the entire kingdom — the entire Land Beyond — was nothing more than a vast Turing machine. And as she had established when she'd been locked up in the dungeon at Castle Turing, communicating with the mysterious Duke by sending messages on a chain, a Turing machine, no matter how complex, was not human. It had no soul. It could not do what a human did.
When Nell finally meets King Coyote and defeats him by crashing his systems with malicious coding, he reveals to her that the primer is not entirely a Turing machine, but that there are some real people behind it, such as himself. In fact, King Coyote reveals himself to be none other than John Hackworth. And when Nell asks whether there has always been another real person with her from the beginning of her days with the primer, the foster mother she has never met but senses is there, her emotions with regard to the question are evident:
- "And is there..."
Nell stopped reading the Primer for a moment. Her eyes had filled with tears.
"Is there what?" said John's voice from the book.
"Is there another? Another who has been with me during my quest?"
"Yes, there is," John said quietly, after a short pause. "At least I have always sensed that she is here."
The same theme is reinforced by the reactions to the primer of the other girls, Fiona, Elizabeth, and the Chinese orphans:
- Fiona, like Nell, develops a strong emotional bond with her primer's main ractor, which in her case is her father, Hackworth. Despite her beliefs being discouraged by her mother, she never doubts that the entity she communicates with via the primer is her real father, not merely a software facsimile.
- Elizabeth's case is different. It is explicitly stated in a conversation between Carl Hollywood and Elizabeth's grandfather that multiple ractors were used in Elizabeth's case. Elizabeth is unique in that she does not establish a deep relationship with her primer; she is indifferent to it.
- The primers used by the Chinese orphans have no human ractors supplementing them. Instead, since all of the primers are networked in some way, the Chinese girls are able to interact, forming the "mouse army". They also manage to become aware of the existence of "Princess Nell", who becomes the object of their devotion, their Queen. Whether this happens because they sense that Princess Nell is a real person, or whether this is solely due to the machinations of Hackworth, is left unclear.
Stephenson has expressed sympathy for the idea that human consciousness involves quantum effects, as suggested by Roger Penrose. In his later novel Anathem, Stephenson more explicitly depicts this idea.
Allusions to other works and genres
The novel's neo-Victorian setting, as well as its narrative form, particularly the chapter headings, suggest a relation to the work of Charles Dickens. The protagonist's name points directly to Little Nell from Dickens' 1840 novel The Old Curiosity Shop.
Judge Dee mysteries
The novel's character Judge Fang is based on a creative extension of Robert van Gulik's Judge Dee mystery series, which is based around a Confucian judge in ancient China who usually solves three cases simultaneously. The Judge Dee stories are based on the tradition of Chinese mysteries, transposing key elements into Western detective fiction.
Nell's father, Bud, is presented as an archetypal cyberpunk character. He is a career criminal (though not a particularly skilled or high-ranking one) with various surgically implanted devices to aid him in his 'work'. Stephenson attempts to establish The Diamond Age as a "postcyberpunk" book by killing this character early on, while acknowledging the influence of the cyberpunk genre.
The Wizard of Oz
When Nell enters the castle of King Coyote in the Primer's final challenge for her, she encounters an enormous computer apparently designed to think and placed in charge of the kingdom. The computer is named "Wizard 0.2", a typographical allusion to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. In that book, the Wizard puts on a grand appearance but is later revealed to be merely a man hiding behind a curtain. In similar fashion, Wizard 0.2 creates an impressive light show as it apparently processes data, but it is then revealed that the computer's decisions are in fact made by King Coyote himself.
The Diamond Age can be seen as set in the same universe as Snow Crash, many years later. This reading is based on a connection between Y.T., a major character in Snow Crash, and the aged neo-Victorian Miss Matheson in The Diamond Age, who drops oblique references to her past as a hard-edged skateboarder. This would set The Diamond Age some 80–100 years after Snow Crash.
Further supporting evidence to connect these two novels include:
- Stephenson's short story "The Great Simoleon Caper" which refers to both the Metaverse seen in Snow Crash and the First Distributed Republic seen in The Diamond Age (another short story which fits in the Diamond Age milieu and even shares a character is "Excerpt from the Third and Last Volume of Tribes of the Pacific Coast").
- references to Franchise-Organized Quasi-National Entities (FOQNEs) in both novels.
"The Great Simoleon Caper" depicts a United States in which rising inflation encourages people to use an untraceable relay system that makes it impossible to enforce taxes on online transactions (which was later used as a plot element in another of Stephenson's works, the 1999 novel Cryptonomicon). By the setting of Snow Crash the United States and most other nation-states have collapsed because of hyperinflation; in The Diamond Age, one character tells Miranda that they collapsed from the lack of tax revenue. Small, voluntary governments like the burbclaves depicted in Snow Crash replaced nation-states.
Both novels deal with an almost "primitive tech" replacing a current, worldwide use technology, in the sense of the reprogramming of the mind through ancient Sumerian chanting in Snow Crash (which also uses allusions to Babylonian prostitutes passing an information virus like a sexually transmitted disease), and the idea of nanotechnology propagating and communicating through sexual intercourse, passing from body to body like a virus. Both novels use an ancient, almost primitive threat to modern, "Western" technology and ideology (The Raft in Snow Crash and The Fists of Righteous Harmony in The Diamond Age). Stephenson explores the idea of the tech divide and its social and economic ramifications to the extreme using these violent, but not surprising, social revolutions.
Proposed television adaptation
In January 2007, the Sci-Fi Channel announced that it would be making a six-hour miniseries based on The Diamond Age. According to a June 2009 report in Variety, Zoë Green had been hired to write the series, with George Clooney and Grant Heslov of Smokehouse Productions as executive producers on the project. However, as of 2014[update], no further news on the project has emerged.
Allusions to the Diamond Age
- Molecular nanotechnology
- Nanotechnology in fiction
- Technological singularity
- "1996 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-07-20.
- "The Diamond Age". The Clooney Project. LiveJournal. 2007-01-13. Retrieved 2010-08-07.
- "Clooney, Sci Fi Celebrate 'The Diamond Age'". Zap2it. 2007-01-17. Retrieved 2010-08-07.
- Schneider, Michael (June 4, 2009). "'Diamond' sparkes for Zoë Green". Variety. Retrieved June 26, 2009.
- Stephenson, The Diamond Age (1995):66.
- Stephenson, The Diamond Age (1995):184.
- Stephenson, The Diamond Age(1995):24.
- Cf. Dinello, 2005:232
- Merkle, Ralph. "It's a Small, Small, Small, Small World". Technology Review. Retrieved 2010-08-07.
Indeed, just as we named the Stone Age, the Bronze Age, and the Steel Age after the materials that humans could make, we might call the new technological epoch we are entering the Diamond Age.
- Stephenson, The Diamond Age (1995):179-180.
- SFX Profile: Neal Stephenson "The new William Gibson". SFX #8 via Spesh.com. January 1996. Retrieved 4 December 2012.
- Kurzweil. The Singularity Is Near (2005).
- Stephenson, The Diamond Age (1995):442.
- Stephenson, The Diamond Age (1995):445.
- Stephenson, Neal. "Clocks, Orreries, etc.". NealStephenson.com. Retrieved 2010-08-07.
The work of Roger Penrose is relevant to, and has influenced, Anathem...
- "The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson". complete review. Retrieved 2010-08-07.
Dickens immediately surfaces as a point of comparison, not only because of the size of the book but because the future Stephenson presents his readers with is, in many respects, a skewed reflection and imitation of the Victorian age.
- Kleiman, Mark (2003-02-16). "Book Reports". Retrieved 2010-08-07.
And the update on Judge Dee is utterly wonderful, with the Confucian classics given loving attention.
- "The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon", by Brad Stone; published 2013 by Little, Brown and Company
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: The Diamond Age|
- Berends, Jan Berrien (1997). "The Politics of Neal Stephenson's the Diamond Age". New York Review of Science Fiction 9.8 (104): 15.
- Berry, Michael (January 8, 1995). "A High-Tech Victorian Romp". The San Francisco Chronicle.
- Brigg, Peter (1999). "The Future as the Past Viewed from the Present: Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age". Extrapolation: A Journal of Science Fiction and Fantasy 40.2: 116.
- Dinello, Daniel (2005). Technophobia! Science Fiction Visions of Posthuman Technology. Austin: University of Texas Press. ISBN 0-292-70954-4.
- Kleiman, Mark (February 17, 2003). "Neal Stephenson: The Diamond Age". blogcritics.org.
- Merkle, Ralph (February–March 1997). "It's a Small, Small, Small, Small World". Technology Review 25.
- Merritt, Ethan A. (May 9, 1996). "Re: The Diamond Age — Honourable Failure" (newsgroup posting).
- Miksanek, Tony (2001). "Microscopic Doctors and Molecular Black Bags: Science Fiction's Prescription for Nanotechnology and Medicine". Literature and Medicine 20.1: 55–70. doi:10.1353/lm.2001.0009.
- "Geography's conquest of history in the Diamond Age". University of Colorado Boulder. 2002.