Wow. This is a great book. It’s set in the not too distant future, and has some interesting ideas about how society may respond in the face of our increasing technological advances. It's an incredibly layered book, and I'm still trying to decide exactly how I feel about it.
The main character in this book is a girl named Nell, an under-privileged girl in Shangai who is given a copy of A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer, a technological teaching tool disguised as a book. This book will ultimately teach Nell how to change the world.
I can’t say this was always an easy book to read. You’re immediately thrust into the action of a world much more technologically advanced than our own, with a very different social structure. It take a little while to figure out what’s going on, and even then, the story is constantly advancing, and things you thought you knew change. The layers of detail and plot are fascinating, and really kept me going. I was actually a little irritated by the end. While I think that a little distance will make it more satisfactory, it was a bit abrupt after all of the layers of detail I had waded through to get there.
Ultimately, I think this book is a great example of why I read science fiction. I like being challenged to think about what’s making out society tick, and what that might lead to in the future.