Thumbs up for The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson. Science fiction.
It was on a list of Steampunk books, which it isn’t quite, but I knew that already. Never mind, since I love Stephenson. (When I was thirteen, I read and re-read Snow Crash until my copy became completely thrashed and bath-ripply. Oh the nostalgia.) This one is tricky to review. The first half is awesome. Absolutely some of the best science fiction I’ve ever read. The second half is, well…not so awesome. Some of the best characters from part one are dropped, and we focus instead on another who isn’t terribly interesting. There were large chunks that served no ultimate purpose and needed to be chopped. It also would have been nice if the plot had made more, instead of less sense, as we discovered more of it. But…you know what, it was all worth it, because Stephenson is a genius, and even on his worst day he’s still more fun to read than almost anyone else. So ignore my complaints and go read this.
“If Hackworth had been doing this at work, he would already be finished, but Dr. X’s system was a sort of Polish democracy requiring full consent of all participants, elicited one subsystem at a time. Dr. X and his assistants would gather around whichever subsystem was believed to be farthest out of line and shout at each other in a mixture of Shanghainese, Mandarin, and technical English for a while. Therapies administered included but were not limited to: turning things off, then on again; picking them up a couple of inches and then dropping them; turning off nonessential appliances in this and other rooms; removing lids and wiggling circuit boards; extracting small contaminants, such as insects and their egg cases, with nonconducting chopsticks; cable-wiggling; incense-burning; putting folded-up pieces of paper beneath table legs; drinking tea and sulking; invoking unseen powers; sending runners to other rooms, buildings, or precincts with exquisitely calligraphed notes and waiting for them to come back carrying spare parts in dusty, yellowed cardboard boxes; and a similarly diverse suite of troubleshooting techniques in the realm of software. Much of this performance seemed to be genuine, the rest merely for Hackworth’s consumption, presumably laying the groundwork for a renegotiation of the deal.”
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