Quotes for "The Diamond Age"

Neal Stephenson

  • You could pay the guy extra to leave a scar there on purpose, so everyone would know you were packing, but Bud had heard that some chicks didn't like it. Bud's relationship with the female sex was governed by a gallimaufry of primal impulses, dim suppositions, deranged theories, overheard scraps of conversation, half-remembered pieces of bad advice, and fragments of no-doubt exaggerated anecdotes that amounted to rank superstition. In this case, it dictated that he should not request the scar.
  • A honeybee cruising for nectar is pretty despite its implicit threat, but the same behavior in a hornet three times larger makes one glance about for some handy swatting material.
  • The uncanny efficiency with which the locals responded to the crash was widely publicized and became the subject of a made-for-TV movie. Finkle-McGraw couldn't understand why. They had simply done what was reasonable and humane under the circumstances; why did people from other parts of the country find this so difficult to understand?
  • One of the insights of the Victorian Revival was that it was not necessarily a good thing for everyone to read a completely different newspaper in the morning; so the higher one rose in the society, the more similar one's Times became to one's peers'.
  • The red cloth had gold threads woven through it to make a design: a unicorn or a dragon or some shit like that. Bud had trouble discriminating among mythical beasts.
  • "Okay," Judge Fang said, and reached up with one hand to rub his temples for just a moment. Then he turned to Bud. "You're guilty." Hey! Don't I get to put up a defense?" Bud said. "I object!" "Don't be an asshole," Judge Fang said.
  • "Why is it a cheap house?" "Because that's all we can afford because of the economics," Harv said. "Mom's gotta compete with all kinds of Chinese and stuff that don't have any self-respect and so they'll work for nothing. So Mom's gotta work for nothing."
  • "What are letters?" "Kinda like mediaglyphics except they're all black, and they're tiny, they don't move, they're old and boring and really hard to read. But you can use 'em to make short words for long words."
  • It was bad form to startle the engineers, so you approached them loudly and spoke to them softly.
  • The universe was a disorderly mess, the only interesting bits being the organized anomalies.
  • Ordering matter was the sole endeavor of Life, whether it was a jumble of self-replicating molecules in the primordial ocean, or a steam-powered English mill turning weeds into clothing, or Fiona lying in her bed turning air into Fiona.
  • Nell was astonished; she had not understood just how tricky pirates were until this moment.
  • It was too late for Hackworth to change his personality, but it wasn't too late for Fiona.
  • Starting your own company and making it successful was the only way. Hackworth had thought about it from time to time, but he hadn't done it. He wasn't sure why not; he had plenty of good ideas. Then he'd noticed that Bespoke was full of people with good ideas who never got around to starting their own companies. And he'd met a few big lords, spent considerable time with Lord Finkle-McGraw developing Runcible, and seen that they weren't really smarter than he. The difference lay in personality, not in native intelligence.
  • He lacked an ingredient somewhere, and as he now realized, that ingredient was subversiveness. Lord Alexander Chung-Sik Finkle-McGraw, the embodiment of the Victorian establishment, was a subversive. He was unhappy because his children were not subversives and was horrified at the thought of Elizabeth being raised in the stodgy tradition of her parents. So now he was trying to subvert his own granddaughter.
  • The House of the Venerable and Inscrutable Colonel was what they called it when they were speaking Chinese. Venerable because of his goatee, white as the dogwood blossom, a badge of unimpeachable credibility in Confucian eyes. Inscrutable because he had gone to his grave without divulging the Secret of the Eleven Herbs and Spices.
  • "The hour of noon has passed," said Judge Fang. "Let us go and get some Kentucky Fried Chicken."
  • "'The superior man is correctly firm, and not firm merely,'"
  • "As technology became more important, the Trickster underwent a shift in character and became the god of crafts- of technology, if you will- while retaining the underlying roguish qualities.
  • But on deeper examination I find a level of elegance-" "Elegance?" "Pardon me, Your Honor, the concept is not easy to explain- there is an ineffable quality to some technology, described by its creators as concinnitous, or technically sweet, or a nice hack- signs that it was math with great care by one who was not merely motivated but inspired. It is the difference between an engineer and a hacker."
  • it was useful to be reminded that from the point of view of some people, including Dr. X, all of that straightness was suggestive of demonism; more natural and human was the ever-turning way, where you could never see round the next corner, and the overall plan could be understood only after lengthy meditation.
  • "Mr. Hackworth, you are a very clever fellow- as I already gathered from your demanding and very responsible position- but I am ashamed to tell you that your excellently devious plan may not work. My supervisor is a cruel taskmaster with no regard for human feelings.
  • Beyond that, the structure of the inscription was exactly right, a perfect balance of large characters and small, hung on the page just so, as if inviting analysis by legions of future graduate students.
  • It was the hand of an elder who understood the importance of gravity above all else, and who, having first established his dignity, conveyed most of his message through nuances.
  • There's only zero of you," said the Queen of the Ants. In ant arithmetic, there are only two numbers: Zero, which means anything less than a million, and Some. "You
  • "No, no, no!" screamed the King of the Shrews. "This is just the kind of thing I was talking about when I said you reptiles were obsolete. It's not about who is the biggest and baddest anymore." "It's about cooperation, organization, regimentation," said the Queen of the Ants. "It's about brains," said the King of the Shrews.
  • But Dr. X's whole affect seemed to deliver the message that if you were going to sign a Faustian bargain with an ancient and inscrutable Shanghainese organized-crime figure, you could hardly do better than the avuncular Dr. X, who was so generous that he would probably forget about it altogether, or perhaps just stow the favor away in a yellowed box in one of his warrens.
  • Those gentlemen had grown up in one crowded Dragon or another, where they knew how to generate a sort of artificial privacy field by determinedly ignoring each other.
  • Either he was celibate, or else he believed that the particulars of his sexual orientation and needs were infinitely too complex to be shared with those he worked with.
  • "Perhaps we can sneak back into the glade after it gets dark, when the hyena will not see us," Nell suggested. "The hyena will always see us, even in the dark, because it can see the infrared light that comes out of our bodies," Purple said.
  • Miss Matheson received them in a cozy little room. She was between eight hundred and nine hundred years of age, Nell estimated,
  • Constable Moore had reached the age when men can subject their bodies to the worst irritations-whiskey, cigars, woolen clothes, bagpipes-without feeling a thing or, at least, without letting on.
  • The difference between stupid and intelligent people-and this is true whether or not they are well-educated-is that intelligent people can handle subtlety. They are not baffled by ambiguous or even contradictory situations-in fact, they expect them and are apt to become suspicious when things seem overly straightforward.
  • "Nell," the Constable continued, indicating through his tone of voice that the lesson was concluding, "the difference between ignorant and educated people is that the latter know more facts.
  • Castles, gardens, gold, and jewels Contentment signify, for fools Like Princess Nell; but those Who cultivate their wit Like King Coyote and his crows Compile their power bit by bit And hide it places no one knows.
  • "It's a wonderful thing to be clever, and you should never think otherwise, and you should never stop being that way. But what you learn, as you get older, is that there are a few billion other people in the world all trying to be clever at the same time, and whatever you do with your life will certainly be lost-swallowed up in the ocean-unless you are doing it along with like-minded people who will remember your contributions and carry them forward.
  • "It is the hardest thing in the world to make educated Westerners pull together," Miss Matheson went on. "That is the job of people like Miss Stricken.
  • coming back depressed and exhausted to find solace in whiskey, which he consumed in surprisingly moderate quantities but with fierce concentration, and in midnight bagpipe recitals that woke up everyone in Dovetail and a few sensitive sleepers in the New Atlantis Clave. During
  • After a short and not very interesting conversation, during which Princess Nell tried unsuccessfully to establish whether the Duke was or was not human, he announced, unemotionally, that he was throwing her into the dungeon forever.
  • "Are you suggesting that I leave the bosom of the adopted tribe that has nurtured me?" "I am suggesting that you are one of those rare people who transcends tribes,
  • "I think I have finally worked out what you were trying to tell me, years ago, about being intelligent,"
  • "Which path do you intend to take, Nell?" said the Constable, sounding very interested. "Conformity or rebellion?" "Neither one. Both ways are simple-minded- they are only for people who cannot cope with contradiction and ambiguity."
  • the sudden sensation of danger inspired Fiona to make an impetuous dive from the saddle of her velocipede onto Kidnapper's hindquarters, like a cowboy in a movie switching horses in midgallop. Her skirts, poorly adapted to cowboy maneuvers, got all fouled up around her legs, and she ended up slung over Kidnapper's back like a sack of beans, one hand clutching the vestigial knob where its tail would have been if it were a horse, and the other arm thrown round her father's waist.
  • "Yes. And that's the whole point of being an Equity Lord, you know-to look after the interests of the society as a whole instead of flogging one's own company, or whatever.
  • "You are a curious girl," Madame Ping said. "That is natural. But you must never let any other person-especially a client-see your curiosity. Never seek information. Sit quietly and let them bring it to you. What they conceal tells you more than what they reveal. Do you understand?"
  • Maggie said. "It's been a slow year." Then she set her tea mug down on the table (Fiona had been startled by the unavailability of saucers)
  • Princess Nell had become so beautiful over the years and had developed such a fine bearing that few people would mistake her for a commoner now, even if she were dressed in rags and walking barefoot.
  • Some pages of the book had been ripped out by the mysterious dark knight, and Princess Nell had to reconstruct them, learning the language, which was extremely pithy and made heavy use of parentheses.
  • Nell discovered that a smoothly functioning system was much harder to puzzle out than one that was broken.
  • this was the first castle Princess Nell had visited that was actually functioning as intended; the dark knight had not been able to foul the place up, probably because everything was done in ciphers here, and everything was decentralized.
  • made Nell oddly nostalgic for the days when dangerousness was a function of mass and bulk. The passives of that era were so fun to watch, with their big, stupid cars and big, stupid guns and big, stupid people.
  • Madame Ping kept telling her that no one ever complained about having to wait too long for an orgasm; that men could do that to themselves any time they wanted, and that it was the business leading up to it that they would pay for.
  • Watching Napier at work, watching the medals and braid swinging and glinting on his jacket, Nell realized that it was precisely their emotional repression that made the Victorians the richest and most powerful people in the world. Their ability to submerge their feelings, far from pathological, was rather a kind of mystical art that gave them nearly magical power over Nature and over the more intuitive tribes.
  • The Fist's style was quite beautiful to watch, involving many slow movements that looked like the stretching of large felines at the zoo. Napier's style was almost perfectly boring: He moved about in a crabbed stance, watched his opponent calmly, and apparently did a lot of deep thinking.
  • Nonetheless she had touched him deeply. She had penetrated farther into his soul than any lover. If Colonel Napier had chosen to return the following week and Nell had not been present to make up the story for him, would he have missed her? Nell suspected that he would have.
  • Her stories were being digested, not by the Primer, but by another human being, becoming a part of that person's mind.
  • The idea was too alarming to consider at first, and so she circled around it cautiously, poking at it from different directions,
  • Grandfather loved to tell stories of these criminals, how they had tried to excuse their own crimes by pleading that they were economically disadvantaged or infected with the disease of substance abuse, and how the Lone Eagles- many of whom had overcome poverty or addiction themselves-had dispatched them
  • He kept returning to these memories in later life, trying to recapture the same purity and intensity of sensation,
  • "What sort of a person is he? I haven't been afforded many clues, unfortunately. I've tried to draw some deductions from the sorts of people who are looking for him, and the sort of person I am." "Pardon me, Father, but what bearing does your own nature have on that of the Alchemist?" "More than one knowledgeable sort has arrived at the conclusion that I'm just the right man to find this fellow,
  • When certain subjects were broached, he drew down his veil and became just another Victorian gentleman. It was irksome. But she could sense how the same characteristic, in a man who was not her father, could be provocative. It was such an obvious weakness that neither she nor any woman could resist the temptation to exploit it-a mischievous and hence tantalizing notion that was to occupy much of Fiona's thinking for the next few days,
  • "Put 'em on and be yourself, mister alienated loner steppenwolf bemused distant meta-izing technocrat rationalist fucking shithead."
  • Castles, gardens, gold, and jewels Contentment signify, for fools Like Princess Nell; but those Who cultivate their wit Like King Coyote and his crows Compile their power bit by bit And hide it places no one knows.
  • King Coyote.
  • "If I were to answer that question, you would have no reason not to kill me," Hackworth said. Dr. X nodded, not so much to concede the point as to express sympathy with Hackworth's admirably cynical train of thought-as
  • When our society was based upon planting, it could truly be said, as the Master did, 'Virtue is the root; wealth is the result.' But under the Western ti, wealth comes not from virtue but from cleverness.
  • "You do these things not to serve your Queen but to serve your own nature, John Hackworth, and I understand your nature. For you cleverness is its own end, and once you have seen a clever way to do a thing, you must do it,
  • "You will understand that although I hold you in the highest personal esteem, I cannot earnestly wish you good fortune in your current endeavour."
  • Since the departure of King Coyote, Princess Nell had supposed herself entirely alone in the world. But now she saw cities of light beneath the waves and knew that she was alone only by her own choice.
  • all of Nell's intellect, her vast knowledge and skills, accumulated over a lifetime of intensive training, meant nothing at all when she was confronted with a handful of organized peasants.
  • After exchanging some more self-consciously dry humor about whether they should settle their bills before departure, and how much you were supposed to tip a bellboy who came after you with a carving knife,
  • he saw several young toughs scattering down the alley, dodging among several dozen refugees, loiterers, and street people who pointed helpfully at their receding backsides, making sure it was understood that their only reason for being in this alley at this time was to act as a sort of block watch on behalf of the gwailo visitors.