A young girl from a poor background gets her hands on an interactive book and receives the education of her life.
Compared to Snow Crash, Stephenson’s first major success, his The Diamond Age has a much weaker ending and plot. One reason is that it’s a coming-of-age tale, which IS the plot (like romance is the plot in romance novels). TDA’s strengths are the world-building (a neat nanotech future) and the issues it tackles.
Despite being a coming-of-age novel, much of the book is concerned with the POV of the other side, how to educate and raise a new generation of youngsters to follow in the footsteps of the preceding generation with the same amount of creativity and energy, not little bureaucrats who just govern what their parents created. Some people may be disappointed that the book doesn’t give any satisfying answers, but since we haven’t found them in real life, you can hardly blame Stephenson for not having a patent remedy.
All this may sound a little bit too much like dry stuff, but Stephenson’s book is immensely readable and entertaining, mindbending and also one of the most brilliant imaginated nanotech futures in science fiction. Despite it flaws it resonated more with me than Snow Crash, which was more polished in some ways, yet less thought-provoking.