Thanks to Gene Wolfe, I know by now that any book about a book might be the actual book. From a writer like Wolfe, that means some hardcore forehead knuckling and a few rereads. (And maybe some supplemental analysis, and maybe some research on Jungian archetypal symbolism, and maybe a look at biblical allegories—nope not gonna do that last one.) In those cases, The Book will likely invite inquiry, controversy, morphing interpretations. In those cases, the story is not the actual story.
With that kind of training in mind, one might approach a book called The Diamond Age: or, A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer (1995) expecting a similar kind of authorial shade, a narrative fogginess to prod the reader into dissonance and eventual interaction with commentary about women heroes and raising young girls. However, while the commentary is there, it’s neither veiled nor fogged, it’s hardly interactive, and from a writer like Stephenson, it means you’ll get it in the time it takes to make a sandwich, though it takes 500 pages for Stephenson to articulate it amidst some tech exposition. While there is some intertextual feedback, including a kind of mirrored moral guidance that oversees the main characters, it’s really just a long book of stitched-together narratives contrived to belong between the covers of the same book, in order to further the author’s argument, and whatever else interests him at that very moment.