Okay, here's what this Stephenson guy did with his novel. He got together a focus group of 25 unpaid, thirteen year old boys and made them puke out as many buzz words in 10 minutes that they could about science fiction. The buzz words had to be something that would palliate the hyperactive endocrine glands of 13 year old males. Stephenson then roiled together this mess with a rag mop and wrung it into a bucket called The Diamond Age: Or A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer.
To give you a thin sample of this overreaching heterogeneous brew, I took from pages 461-487 (2 random consecutive chapters) all the words that would intrigue young science fiction fans in the year 1995. This book nails the pimple-faced, horny, just-starting-to-get-facial-hair demographic. I'll have more to say about this list. In mostly chronological order, and exactly quoted from the text:
The Book of the Book
Lying in a puddle of his own urine
Girl with a whip
Prodigious amount of blood
A mouse army
Fists of Righteous Harmony
There it is folks. A taste of only 17 pages in The Diamond Age. The other 483 pages are almost exactly the same, but with additional pimply-faced and creative buzz words. At some point there is a 'rainbow' and a 'pony' and 'Carmen SanDiego,' and in several places there is a 'unicorn,' and characters named 'Duck, Dinosaur, Peter Rabbit, and Purple' so even young girls may find some traction herein.
I am not an objective critic of science fiction because I don't read enough of it. I know it's not supposed to be real. I got it. But I want to dabble in the genre to be a more well rounded reader, and this book won the 1996 Hugo & Locus Awards. So, bringing no prejudice into this book except an award winning expectation, I was greatly disappointed. Just by the list above you can see the author was all over the place, like birdshot, with his themes. He's forward in time; he's backwards in time; he's science; he's fantasy; he's grounded in 1995 technology with some small steps to near future, coincident with great leaps into distant future; he's mystery, drama, fable; he references too many cultural items from the late 1980's and 90's, like dreadlocks, and homeboys and "bitchin' dude." He suddenly introduces a whole new technology with no backstory in order to press through a few lines of text. If Stephenson needs to invent a word to impute something that sounds tech-y, there's numerous prefix + suffix mash-ups he can turn to (nano, micro, mega, giga + blade, gun, saw, tube, villi)--so that it's possible to create "Nanotechagigaswordebladetubule." There's a slow, building progression toward a denouement for the several separate threadlines, but toward the end it's rushed, short, and unfulfilling.
And please, how many times in 100,000 appear the words: anfractuous, ramifying, and fractal? 15. Really? Not buying it. Good words, but way overused.
I wish there was a scatter plot of science fiction genres along an x-y axis, because for my next science fiction book, I'd move a couple values to the right, and up one.
1.5 stars rounded up. I credit the second star merely because Stephenson had a form and stuck to it throughout. He never wavered. The narrative is way too schizoid for me, but it is a distinct style with a very mature--despite being teenybop--vocabulary.
New words: afflatus, lacuna, farrago, cyalume, besprent, sinter, decussate, demesne, fléchette, neap tide.
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