Nanotechnology meets Pygmalion (or maybe Frankenstein). Not a Neal Stephenson book that I was aware of before I read it. I had borrowed [b:Snow Crash|603262|Snow Crash|Neal Stephenson|http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51XAER19HZL._SL75_.jpg|493634] off a friend and he suggested this too. So, after reading Snow Crash and liking it, I decided to give this a go too.
The book is styled as a children's fable, but isn't quite. Underneath that it's still the technology heavy science fiction that Stephenson does. But, I loved it. In the main, I loved it more than Snow Crash. It seemed better written and unlike Snow Crash, the characters in The Diamond Age seemed much more rounded. So, why has this only got four stars when Snow Crash got five?
The book seemed to have a fairly slow start, I didn't feel like I was making as much progress as I wanted to. The first few sections about the Thete Bud seemed to add very little value to book. You think he's going to be a central character, but then he's immediately killed off. His only role is to provide context for some of the technologies, characters and legal structures that are used later in the book.
Once the story got on track though, it was fantastic. John Percival Hackworth, Nell, Miranda and the primer were a gripping story that had me desperate to keep reading. Until I got to part two (or Part the Second as the book decides to refer to it) that is. Then the story suddenly changed tone, almost like it was written by a different author, or the author had left a huge gap between writing the two sections. Suddenly there's a trippy underwater orgy that seemed very unnecessary and time jumps forward by 10 years. The rest of the second half seems to be pulling in two directions. On the one hand the story around the primer and Nell is trying to continue, but on the other hand Stephenson seems to have suddenly remembered that he needs to wrap this book up somehow. Rushing towards a slightly disappointing ending.
I don't want to give the impression that I didn't like this book, I did really like it (as the four stars attest). But the slight niggles marred, what for me, was clearly a contender for a five star story.