Reviews & Overviews by Rod Cameron

Author Title Reviewed
Neal Stephenson The Diamond Age (1995) July 2000
Published by Price Pages
Penguin £6.99 499
Village Voice calls Neal Stephenson "the Quentin Tarantino of postcyberpunk science fiction" on the cover of The Diamond Age (1995) 499 pages Penguin - £6.99. The Diamond Age or A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer concerns John Percival Hackworth, a nanotechnologist who lives in a ‘tribe’ of neo-Victorians who rule a 21st century Atlantis / Shangai. Hackworth creates a magical book for the education of a young lady (similar to a PDA) which is crammed with folklore, science and the martial arts. It is intended as a means of teaching young women of the upper social strata how to think for themselves. Unfortunately for Hackworth, an illegal copy falls into the hands of Nell, a poor orphan girl. At its most basic, this is a 21st century version of Pygmalion. However, it is also a broad prediction of the possible structure of society when and if nanotechnology takes off. As usual, Stephenson uses his powerful imagination to good effect, painting a full and robust description of a multi-layered society.

At a pinch it could be called Cyberpunk, but equally it could be called Nanobotpunk or whatever that particular genre is called by the cognoscenti. Anyone who has read his Snow Crash will recognise the style. There is an online magazine devoted to the subject of Nanotechnology at for those that are interested; and an interview with Stephenson on What is not in doubt is whether it is science fiction, unlike Stephenson’s next offering : Cryptonomicon (1999) 918 pages Arrow - £7.99.

I have always been interested in Cryptanalysis, and combined with Neal Stephenson as the author, I couldn’t resist this latest epic. There are a couple of points to make before you, as SF & F readers get too excited. Firstly, whatever the back cover says, in my opinion, this is NOT SF or Cyberpunk or anything loosely related to the science fiction genre - it is more a blend of World War 2 and modern-day thriller. Secondly, whilst his characterisations are sometimes lacking in his SF novels such as Snow Crash and The Diamond Age, on this occasion they are much more rounded. In fact it could be argued that they were written by different authors. The plot at times could have been more complex, but it is well fleshed out.

So is he the Quentin Tarantino of post-cyberpunk SF? It would have to be a pretty remarkable book to be as innovative as Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, etc. The Diamond Age has some exciting new plot ideas, and Cryptnomicon chops around quite a bit in a similar fashion to Pulp Fiction. It is a very eye-catching hook, but hardly. Equally he could be nominated as the "Joseph Heller of modern-day thrillers". However I suspect that wouldn’t sell as many copies.


Copyright : Roderick Alasdair Cameron 2001 - 2012         

Copyright : Roderick Alasdair Cameron 2001 - 2015         

Copyright : Roderick Alasdair Cameron 2001 - 2015