A sci-fi classic (in my world, anyway)

the diamond age

What’s it about?
The Diamond Age is a classic from 1996 (that feels so wrong to type – I was in college, for chrissakes). It’s a story about the future and a special kind of book – an electronic book before there were kindles or nooks or iPads. This is a book that helps a child learn. It’s personalized to the child – figuring out what they know about both academics and the world around them. It teaches these children how to function in the world, and the goal is not just to make them book smart, but also to give them the drive and the ability to succeed as things change. And not just react to that change, but create the change. Three bespoke versions of the book are made: one for a wealthy man’s granddaughter, one for the inventor’s daughter, and one that gets lost and ends up in the hands of a street urchin named Nell. They change the world.

Why should you read it? 
Disclaimer: The Diamond Age has been my favorite Neal Stephenson book since I first read it. I may have read Snow Crash first, but I like this one more.

Why? There’s the obvious: I’m female and I love reading. I’m generally tech-optimistic, even if I have doubts about our current technology. A sci-fi book about education and reading with women in primary roles? Sign me up.

But I also love it because of the world it creates. The characterization of China was off – Stephenson missed China’s meteoric rise over the last 20 years – but the Vickys (the neo-Victorians) and the other various sects play well together. And I can see a neo-Victorian strain in Silicon Valley, with its insistence on perfectibility – if we could only do x or figure out y, then we could make everything perfect!

It is a classic. Read it if you haven’t.

This book is a brain worm

Station Eleven


What’s it about?
Station Eleven is three stories in one. It follows the lives of three people, before, during, and after a plague – the Georgia Flu – kills 99% of the people on earth. (Georgia the former Soviet Republic, not Georgia the state.) The pre-plague storyline follows an actor as he gets famous, and one of his wives. The during-the-plague story follows the paramedic who tries to save the actor who has a heart attack on stage the night the plague breaks out. The post-plague story follows the child actor who was on stage with the actor that night. It takes place 20 years after the Collapse (as it’s known in the book).

Why should you read it?
I can’t stop thinking about Station Eleven. I finished it almost a week ago, and the characters are with me. I think about Miranda, who wanted to be an artist; I think about Clark, with his museum; I think about the Frenchman stranded in Michigan starting a newspaper; I think about the lack of entertainment and information; I think about how tough Kirsten is; I think about Jeevan stockpiling food as fast as he can; I cannot stop thinking about becoming a survivalist – what if a flu came that killed people in 24 hours. How fast would it spread? Could I survive? What would life be like afterwards? How would we all react? There’s a scene where a person finds a group of people living in an airport. He starts crying, they ask him why. “Because I thought I was the only one.” It breaks my heart thinking about it. If I could give a copy of Station Eleven to everyone I know, I would. It’s that good.