Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Shine on

I have to confess that I'm pretty sure I stole this book. Arclight, I doubt you're reading this blog but if you are please remind me to take you over to the bookstore and get you a new copy someday.

I stole Diamond Age because I haven't been able to let it go - I'm hooked on it and it and so I try not to cling too tightly to it. I read it every couple of years and in between readings it kicks around in my brain and won't let me go. A lot of my life in the last decade has been trying to emulate Nell, partially because she's a total badass, mostly because she's a girl who used a book to make herself into a better, stronger person.

Diamond Age is pretty much the best princess story that will ever be written. It is, of course, more than just a story about a princess - and the princess starts her life as an incredibly poor, illiterate little girl locked in a slum apartment - it's also a story about technology and culture and consciousness and conflict.

It also has a pretty cool metaliterary thing going on that I really dig - reminds me a bit of If on a Winter's Night a Traveler in some places, but without the pretension (though I will say that being an avid reader of Stephenson made it a lot easier for me to get through Calvino at first).

There's a lot going on in this relatively little book, but it's less tedious than a lot of Stephenson can be and doesn't get off on nearly as many tangents; there are still about twenty characters to be tracked through the pages, and they do all sorts of interesting, divergent, and confusing things, but it tends to stick to telling the story in one decade (as opposed to the two centuries of The Baroque Cycle, the five decades of Cryptonomicon, or the two millennia of Snow Crash) so it's not as hard to parse as some of the other books I've been reading this month.

Anyway, if you're sick of Disney princesses or struck by the damsel-like nature of Joss Whedon's "strong female characters" you'll probably like Diamond Age because it's full of women who are strong while still being realistically flawed humans who don't wait around to be rescued.

     - Alli

Stephenson, Neal. The Diamond Age. Bantam Books. New York: New York. 1996. (1995)

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