I finally gave in to everyone who told me I just had to read Stephenson by picking up The Diamond Age (also known as A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer) this week. I got through it pretty quickly, but either the book isn’t as good as his others or I am not destined to be a Stephenson fan.
The style was a bit jarring to me at first – no chapters per se, just sections and one book break. Before each section several sentences describe what you are about to read, a technique that broke up the story but left me feeling tired for some reason. I was able to get into the flow of the book eventually though, and got to the point where I didn’t notice it so much.
The book had an interesting premise and I felt myself wanting it to be better than it actually was. For one thing, while I’m not going to hate a book just because of “mature” content, the frequency with which it was used in here kept breaking me out of the story in order to roll my eyes. The language and violence weren’t too overdone I guess, but the weird sex didn’t seem to be needed in the story — it felt artificial as if the author thought it was expected of him so he stuck it in there.
I was very connected with the main character in the story, and some of the supporting characters, but that only made it worse when the book failed totally to resolve any of their stories. Well, the main character has at least some plot points that can let you imagine an ending, but one of my favorite supporting characters was completely dropped for the second “book”, with no clues as to his story resolution.
I’m giving the book two stars, as I liked it alright but thought it failed to live up to the book it could have been. Stephenson spends a lot of time (maybe too much?) talking about the way things work in his imagined future world, but forgets that it’s the characters and what happens to them that most people care about. Obviously, he’s a successful author and lots of people love his work, so either I’m totally missing something, his other books are better and this one did well because of his name, or a lot of (other) people enjoy the “hard sci-fi” feel of books like this and could care less about actual plot and character development. I’m sounding harsher than I mean to – I did enjoy the book for what it was. But I’m unlikely to pick up anything else of his.