I .... just don't know about this one. The premise sounds beyond promising: a young girl (ok, street urchin) in the future gets her hands on a smartbook programmed to essentially raise said child to be subversive, and before you know it, the entire world's in trouble.
But the execution is a bit off. Instead of getting tighter, the story spins off into weird subplots. Poor Hackworth, always hapless, and disappearing from his family for ten years. Sort of. Miranda's in the story, then she's out of it sort of, then she's suddenly the key to it all. And here's a sentence I never thought I'd have reason to type: the sexually transmitted data plot line was a huge turn off in a book about raising young girls. It just didn't fit the mood or style and reaaalllllly slowed down the story.
Sometimes books go astray by going for a big picture at the end, and giving no closure for the characters we've loved the entire book. The Diamond Age is the exact opposite. Just a few pages from the end of this looooooonng saga, we're still hearing incredibly specific details about how characters are fighting in the street. Then, the book ends. It's so bogged down in the minutia that I have no idea how the large scale competition between the Feed and the Seed is actually going to shake down. Worse, I have no idea whether Hackworth is helping the Seed or not, or whether it's even a good thing.
I can't give a book with this much humor and imagination less than four stars, but it probably deserves three.