this 1995 cyberpunk 500-pager won the '96 Hugo and the '96 Campbell, the one-two science fiction gold medals, representing something like near-consensus among the science fiction readers' community about "great works."
in fairness, this is "great but not good;" or "epic but not clever." or maybe it is a bit clever... hmmm... maybe 'great' is overdoing it...
ANYWAY to return to the review:Neal Stephenson is the Dodge Charger rather than Ford Mustang of cyberpunk, the Pepsi rather than Coke, the Amway rather than Avon
. in other words, the contender rather than champion, and the somehow "less cool" variant that sometimes sells better...
Neuromancer: 100000 ratings
Snow Crash: 95000 ratings
Diamond Age: 30000 ratings
(so... an open question)
the general criticism: "he has fantastic ideas and then bends heaven and earth to bring about the realization of the idea" is fair; "hey, imagine, cyber-nano-mites fighting, resulting in... TONER! (plenty more examples)
compared to Gibson, Stephenson's weakness-is-his-strength (going heavy on the tropes, yes)... if [b:Neuromancer|22328|Neuromancer (Sprawl, #1)|William Gibson|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1285017005s/22328.jpg|909457] is about Case, the console cowboy, and the one-man stand against AI, the System, replete with microflechette pistols and carbon-blade samurai swords, emerging from "dead-television" Tokyo to Istanbul to floating space stations (the interplay between drugs and expensive steak being classic cyberfunk), then Stephenson is the master of the "big scene." think floating cities, crowd armies, nanocompilers and Victorian gents with steam jetpacks (almost...). there are several highly visual, highly unique, and indeed EPIC scenes in this work. but for the writer's eye, the narration lacks 'tightness,' it lacks urgency, it feels very much (as often repeated), "written to get to this moment."
so, 'the Diamond Age' is a good read. it's fun. i'm glad it's on my bookshelf. but i'm not all shook up. and maybe that's the hallmark of the really great writer.