web site hit counter The Diamond Lens: A Classic Science Fiction Short Story - Ebooks PDF Online
Hot Best Seller

The Diamond Lens: A Classic Science Fiction Short Story

Availability: Ready to download

•Reformatted •Edited with linked table of contents •Unique illustrations added This story, published in the Atlantic Monthly in 1858, was the first of the great weird-scientific stories. It won immediate popularity for the author—a popularity which continued unbroken until his death in the Civil War.


Compare

•Reformatted •Edited with linked table of contents •Unique illustrations added This story, published in the Atlantic Monthly in 1858, was the first of the great weird-scientific stories. It won immediate popularity for the author—a popularity which continued unbroken until his death in the Civil War.

30 review for The Diamond Lens: A Classic Science Fiction Short Story

  1. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    I went into reading this with genuine interest in the premise, and I felt pretty hopeful. To say this was a letdown is a bit of an understatement honestly. I hated this. The premise is incredibly interesting. I was interested in the idea of a mid-nineteenth century microscopist looking for the perfect microscope. I didn't even dislike it right away. The first few pages seemed to have a fairly standard writing style for the time, and I was still interested in seeing where it went. When he visited I went into reading this with genuine interest in the premise, and I felt pretty hopeful. To say this was a letdown is a bit of an understatement honestly. I hated this. The premise is incredibly interesting. I was interested in the idea of a mid-nineteenth century microscopist looking for the perfect microscope. I didn't even dislike it right away. The first few pages seemed to have a fairly standard writing style for the time, and I was still interested in seeing where it went. When he visited a medium to communicate with a long dead scientist, I was still interested in where it went. Where it went is... he kills his Jewish roommate (because science, because he's Jewish, because he just knows his roommate is a murderer for no reason other than his being a thief and Jewish). After he makes the murder look like a suicide, he creates the perfect microscope. He looks at a water droplet. He spends a million years describing what he sees, but terribly so you can't picture it at all. Then he sees this little microscopic lady that he spends just as long describing, to the same effect. Then he falls in love with the little microscopic being for no real reason, which leads to an incredibly unsatisfying ending. Bad ending. Anti-Semitic. Awful descriptions (I can live with lengthy descriptions if I can at least picture what you're describing). I recommend this for no one.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Júlia

    1 star meaning: it really isn't worth it That was a pretty random story that constantly got me confused (not because my first language isn't English, but because of the nonsense it mostly was for me) and unintentionelly skipping paragraphes. I wasn't even able to properly finish it; There is, however, this one quote that I really liked. it goes: "Every great genius is mad upon tha subject in wich he is greatest. The unsuccessful madman is disgraced and called lunatic" 1 star meaning: it really isn't worth it That was a pretty random story that constantly got me confused (not because my first language isn't English, but because of the nonsense it mostly was for me) and unintentionelly skipping paragraphes. I wasn't even able to properly finish it; There is, however, this one quote that I really liked. it goes: "Every great genius is mad upon tha subject in wich he is greatest. The unsuccessful madman is disgraced and called lunatic"

  3. 5 out of 5

    Siobhan

    The Diamond Lens is a story that had an interesting idea, but it failed to wow me in the way I had hoped. I couldn’t help but compare this story with the work of Poe. Not only did this come from the same era, but there were many elements in this one that reminded me of Poe’s work. A bit of obsession with a single goal, a bit of murder, and a strange twist of science. Due to comparing the two, this one felt lacking. As much as I would like to blame my comparison with Poe for my inability to connec The Diamond Lens is a story that had an interesting idea, but it failed to wow me in the way I had hoped. I couldn’t help but compare this story with the work of Poe. Not only did this come from the same era, but there were many elements in this one that reminded me of Poe’s work. A bit of obsession with a single goal, a bit of murder, and a strange twist of science. Due to comparing the two, this one felt lacking. As much as I would like to blame my comparison with Poe for my inability to connect with this one, there was more to it than that. Although there were many interesting elements in this one, it was bogged down by lengthy details that were far from clear and there were details included that some might consider okay (even explain it away by the time when this was written) but for me I could not ignore them. All in all, I can see why some would enjoy this, but it didn’t work for me.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Johnston

    Brilliantly written short story about achieving ones ambition at any cost. 'What care I if I waded to the portal to this wonder through another's blood' Brilliantly written short story about achieving ones ambition at any cost. 'What care I if I waded to the portal to this wonder through another's blood'

  5. 4 out of 5

    Amy Sturgis

    Rereading this for my class, I am struck again by the balance of the Gothic and the scientific in O'Brien's story. This is the first known published tale in which another world is perceived through a microscope, and O'Brien does great justice to the sense of wonder and longing this sight evokes. It's a powerfully dark and haunting story despite its brevity. Rereading this for my class, I am struck again by the balance of the Gothic and the scientific in O'Brien's story. This is the first known published tale in which another world is perceived through a microscope, and O'Brien does great justice to the sense of wonder and longing this sight evokes. It's a powerfully dark and haunting story despite its brevity.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Eli LoCicero

    Found this to be a nice short read. Useful context for the potential reader - this is right at the beginning of science fiction as a genre, and there are some weird little artifacts in the work as a result. For some readers this probably diminishes the work, but I found it sort of fun. The book sort of fizzles awkwardly at the end for me, but for a 90-minute read, no great loss! I found the first chapter in particular really charming, even as a stand-alone work. I think everyone who works in the Found this to be a nice short read. Useful context for the potential reader - this is right at the beginning of science fiction as a genre, and there are some weird little artifacts in the work as a result. For some readers this probably diminishes the work, but I found it sort of fun. The book sort of fizzles awkwardly at the end for me, but for a 90-minute read, no great loss! I found the first chapter in particular really charming, even as a stand-alone work. I think everyone who works in the sciences (or is even just an enthusiast) has some version of this story - falling in love with some novel analytical model and just reveling in this cascade of new information about a hidden side of the world. Found this chapter very sweet and nostalgic, but at the same time, there is a little bit of setup for the darker themes in the book. Was reminded of the prologue in Hogben's "Mathematics for the Million" Mathematics for the Million: How to Master the Magic of Numbers (which is super good and should be required reading for all academia folks). Hogben warns of the vanity and even perniciousness of academic pursuit in isolation from the rest of humanity - a theme that would go on to figure centrally in lots of sci-fi for the next 150 years. The rest of the book explores some interesting stuff, but does feel scattered at times. The narrative moves along briskly, but does feel like it changes direction sharply a few times, and then wraps up very quickly. The narrative is executed well in an episodic sense, but its pieces don't really work together and build something bigger than the sum of their parts. Thematically, I was pleased that we got the darkness foreshadowed in the first chapter, but again, the book's ability to make a big thematic statement suffered due to the disconnected, episodic nature of the narrative. All that said, I did find the prose interesting. It was ornate in a way that was still very readable, and the spectacle of the narrative kept it from feeling cumbersome or overly dense. In a few places it gets very conspicuously indulgent, but this feels like a real part of the narrative - the protagonist is unraveling, and we start wondering about the reliability of the narrator. And then the book ends pretty abruptly. Overall, a nice quick read from the very beginning of sci-fi. Some enjoyable little treats in the prose, and a very charming first chapter. I don't really recommend this for anyone who is not interested in the development of science fiction, as the book does feel scattered thematically and narratively, but the story is lively and doesn't ever really drag at any point.

  7. 4 out of 5

    JoeK

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. The Diamond Lens This review is a bit of a ramble, partly because the story generates so many questions in my mind. As other reviewers have noted, the maid discovering the body through a keyhole seems a major faux pas since a lot of the story revolves around a perfect crime being committed. I also agree that Linley, a seemingly moral man determines to kill Simon far to easily. I read a lot of racism into this. Even though Simon was pretty much Linley's only friend, his being a Jew seemed to make The Diamond Lens This review is a bit of a ramble, partly because the story generates so many questions in my mind. As other reviewers have noted, the maid discovering the body through a keyhole seems a major faux pas since a lot of the story revolves around a perfect crime being committed. I also agree that Linley, a seemingly moral man determines to kill Simon far to easily. I read a lot of racism into this. Even though Simon was pretty much Linley's only friend, his being a Jew seemed to make the murder okay. When Linley assumes that Simon was a crook and "probably" a murderer too, I was gobsmacked. I was put off by Linley's stupidity. My first reaction when he sees the water droplet is drying out was "add more water" while his reaction was to "go back to the microscope and watch Animula die" (What kind of name is Animula anyway?) I also have to question what was the public perception of scientists "back in the day"? Obsessive Linley goes nuts and destroys his equipment, which enhances his "mad scientist" creds since he can't prove his work was valid (although why couldn't he rebuild it? I'm sure the diamond lens must have survived). This reminds me of the famous Dr. Frankenstein who worked obsessively for months with decaying body parts and when his creation wakens he runs off and crys like a baby. (What????). Why would the public, much less fellow scientists believe any word from such a person, much less let them lecture after their disgrace? (In his little dissertation, Linley confesses to murder. How is he even free to roam?) Finally, why is Linley destitute at the end of the story? The events related take approximately two years and he was yet to come into his inheritance. Likewise, he may have destroyed his equipment, but what happened to the diamond? It was worth a fortune.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Gregory Kerkman

    This is one of the earliest of science fiction stories, about a man who builds a powerful microscope and peers into another world, seeing a beautiful woman. On the surface it is juvenile for this idea to be raised just to have the character fall in love with a microscopic woman. He has nothing better to do than lust after some tiny creature? He just discovered another world! But I think you have to look beyond that and see this story in another light. It is really about how our ideals are more pr This is one of the earliest of science fiction stories, about a man who builds a powerful microscope and peers into another world, seeing a beautiful woman. On the surface it is juvenile for this idea to be raised just to have the character fall in love with a microscopic woman. He has nothing better to do than lust after some tiny creature? He just discovered another world! But I think you have to look beyond that and see this story in another light. It is really about how our ideals are more precious to us than reality, but that our ideals are fragile, wispy things that can quickly die. We neglect our real lives by pining after things which we can never have, failing to appreciate what we do have, seeing our reality as ugly by comparison. Fantasy is a good thing to help us escape from the stress of the real world, but we need to stay grounded enough to appreciate what we have in our lives. We can’t allow the pursuit of fantasy to destroy our lives and cloud our judgement to the good of the people in our lives. This is a pretty good story.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Nicola Hawkes

    These 3 short stories were quite frustrating, because they had the potential to be much better than they were. The style reminded me of Conan-Doyle a little, the descriptions were great in any ways (although I agree with one reviewer here that the forest within the water droplet was hard to imagine - the best I could do was visualise something akin to a kelp forest!), and the ideas intriguing, but then the story just ended abruptly, or could have been more fleshed out. The preface/introduction m These 3 short stories were quite frustrating, because they had the potential to be much better than they were. The style reminded me of Conan-Doyle a little, the descriptions were great in any ways (although I agree with one reviewer here that the forest within the water droplet was hard to imagine - the best I could do was visualise something akin to a kelp forest!), and the ideas intriguing, but then the story just ended abruptly, or could have been more fleshed out. The preface/introduction made the point that this was an author who worked to live, not lived to work, and was often trying to meet deadlines, and I think that is very clear. For me the most intriguing story of the 3 was The Wondersmith. So very uneven, but still enjoyable early science-fiction/horror tales.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Honesty

    One of the prototypical mad-scientist stories, The Diamond Lens is a tale of insanity and science overstepping its ethical bounds. It's interesting to note how often science and the occult are linked in early speculative fiction. Was it a symbol of society's fear, or a comment on how science and the occult attempt to utilize forces mankind does not fully understand? Or is it both? While not the best early science fiction I've read, The Diamond Lens is a well-written enough morality tale. One of the prototypical mad-scientist stories, The Diamond Lens is a tale of insanity and science overstepping its ethical bounds. It's interesting to note how often science and the occult are linked in early speculative fiction. Was it a symbol of society's fear, or a comment on how science and the occult attempt to utilize forces mankind does not fully understand? Or is it both? While not the best early science fiction I've read, The Diamond Lens is a well-written enough morality tale.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    It's really hard to get past the anti-Semitism and the tangent with the murder goes on too long. I get it's meant to show that he's obsessive but it's still a tangent - the core of the story is about how obsession with the woman. Hard to judge this one but the blending of science fiction and fantasy and a hint of pre-Lovecraft otherworldly obsession is oddly compelling especially in such an old story. It's really hard to get past the anti-Semitism and the tangent with the murder goes on too long. I get it's meant to show that he's obsessive but it's still a tangent - the core of the story is about how obsession with the woman. Hard to judge this one but the blending of science fiction and fantasy and a hint of pre-Lovecraft otherworldly obsession is oddly compelling especially in such an old story.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Keith Hendricks

    When the narrator finally meets Animula, the way that is is presented makes me think of this as the earliest example (1858) of Toonophilia. The microscopic being of light he falls in love with may as well be Jessica Rabbit or Sailor Moon. The other side of the microscope lens is as an incalculable gulf as falling in love with an animated fiction.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Conrad

    Don't read if you're easily offended. The diamond lense is a great book for anyone who loves reading classic novels. The book reminds me of Frankenstein, the main character who becomes obsessed with microscopy to the point of stealing a large diamond from his neibor in order to make the perfect lense for his microscope. Don't read if you're easily offended. The diamond lense is a great book for anyone who loves reading classic novels. The book reminds me of Frankenstein, the main character who becomes obsessed with microscopy to the point of stealing a large diamond from his neibor in order to make the perfect lense for his microscope.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jay Wakefield

    Quite a well formulated story with each section in proportion to its overall size, and despite the length there was a lot going on in the story. The author did quite well I think to bring you in to the world he has created, rather like a microscopist may want to be brought into a world he is observing through his eyepiece...

  15. 4 out of 5

    LucianTaylor

    Very original stories, the Diamond lens, the one with a creatures of another parallel universe that is invisible and the one with the toy maker are the ones I remember most. I enjoyed them, recommendable

  16. 4 out of 5

    Saskia

    A very exciting read at the beginning, personally enjoyable use of language. I wish it could have stayed at presenting all things wonderful about science. Science does not need sex and beauty to be rewarding and enticing.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    I'm not a science fiction fan, so I really didn't care for this story. It was written very early--around 1850 or 1860, I think--and from the point of view of a madman who is obsessed with peering through microscopes and the worlds he sees therein. I'm not a science fiction fan, so I really didn't care for this story. It was written very early--around 1850 or 1860, I think--and from the point of view of a madman who is obsessed with peering through microscopes and the worlds he sees therein.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    2.5 stars

  19. 4 out of 5

    Chris Jason

    Great super quick science fiction read. Interesting premise.

  20. 5 out of 5

    George

    Has all the flaws you'd expect from its time, but it does what it aims at about as well as possible. I read it in The Road to Science Fiction 1. Has all the flaws you'd expect from its time, but it does what it aims at about as well as possible. I read it in The Road to Science Fiction 1.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Nate

    decent mad scientist archetype that escalates pretty quickly into madness

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy

    Boring

  23. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    Quick read A quick read with clear imagination and well crafted sentence structure. The author constructs a vivid reality and makes a short end of his work.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jessica (JT)

    A strange short story about a man who would do anything to get what he wants. There are several twists to this story. It's an odd combination of a thriller and fantasy. A strange short story about a man who would do anything to get what he wants. There are several twists to this story. It's an odd combination of a thriller and fantasy.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Rareș

    "Could she but see me once! Could I for one moment pierce the mystical walls that so inexorably rose to separate us, and whisper all that filled my soul, I might consent to be satisfied for the rest of my life with the knowledge of her remote sympathy. It would be something to have established even the faintest personal link to bind us together—to know that at times, when roaming through those enchanted glades, she might think of the wonderful stranger, who had broken the monotony of her life wi "Could she but see me once! Could I for one moment pierce the mystical walls that so inexorably rose to separate us, and whisper all that filled my soul, I might consent to be satisfied for the rest of my life with the knowledge of her remote sympathy. It would be something to have established even the faintest personal link to bind us together—to know that at times, when roaming through those enchanted glades, she might think of the wonderful stranger, who had broken the monotony of her life with his presence, and left a gentle memory in her heart! But it could not be. No invention of which human intellect was capable could break down the barriers that nature had erected. I might feast my soul upon her wondrous beauty, yet she must always remain ignorant of the adoring eyes that day and night gazed upon her, and, even when closed, beheld her in dreams. With a bitter cry of anguish I fled from the room, and, flinging myself on my bed, sobbed myself to sleep like a child." Fellas, I think I have managed to find the first waifu-loving proto-weeaboo in all of literature! (Besides Pygmalion, but he doesn't count, as Galatea eventually came to life.) This makes this story hilarious, and a must-read.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Артём Багинский

    As far as I can make out this is a story of mankind looking at nature with destructive admiration, with a moral along the lines of The Little Prince - we're responsible for who we discover and observe, due to some quantum mechanical effects, anticipated by O'Brien all the way in 1858. Another trope that seems to be at the basis of the story is the blood and madness trail that is routinely left by especially large jewels. One bit - and if you're spoiler-averse then close your eyes - reminded me of As far as I can make out this is a story of mankind looking at nature with destructive admiration, with a moral along the lines of The Little Prince - we're responsible for who we discover and observe, due to some quantum mechanical effects, anticipated by O'Brien all the way in 1858. Another trope that seems to be at the basis of the story is the blood and madness trail that is routinely left by especially large jewels. One bit - and if you're spoiler-averse then close your eyes - reminded me of Raskolnikov: I did not for an instant contemplate so foolish an act as a common theft, which would of course be discovered, or at least necessitate flight and concealment, all of which must interfere with my scientific plans. There was but one step to be taken—to kill Simon. After all, what was the life of a little peddling Jew in comparison with the interests of science? Human beings are taken every day from the condemned prisons to be experimented on by surgeons. This man, Simon, was by his own confession a criminal, a robber, and I believed on my soul a murderer. He deserved death quite as much as any felon condemned by the laws: why should I not, like government, contrive that his punishment should contribute to the progress of human knowledge? ...except as a mad scientist the microscopist was thorough enough to avoid being caught. His method of faking the suicide and his attention to detail made me expect some Pinkerton figure it all out by the end, but no, this murder goes unpunished, except maybe for some karmic debt. And as a bonus: some diamond lenses from Russia. (Their process descriptions reminded me of the Microscopist's)

  27. 4 out of 5

    Scott Harris

    Considering the era in which this short story was written, O'Brien was impressive in his capacity to imagine a world within the world. Even more impressive though was his capacity to demonstrate the humility that was lacking in many other pieces of science fiction, wherein although the human capacity could discover but only to reveal a better reality than the one lived. Some very interesting theological reflections can be borne out reading this piece Considering the era in which this short story was written, O'Brien was impressive in his capacity to imagine a world within the world. Even more impressive though was his capacity to demonstrate the humility that was lacking in many other pieces of science fiction, wherein although the human capacity could discover but only to reveal a better reality than the one lived. Some very interesting theological reflections can be borne out reading this piece

  28. 5 out of 5

    Arun

    I failed to see any potential output from this story. I don't even understand if it did beheld any symbolism. It's just me. The language is exquisite and was extremely poetic. Unexpected twist of events. How extreme passion can drive one to do immoral things, if there be, just to satisfy the thirst is very clearly shown. I failed to see any potential output from this story. I don't even understand if it did beheld any symbolism. It's just me. The language is exquisite and was extremely poetic. Unexpected twist of events. How extreme passion can drive one to do immoral things, if there be, just to satisfy the thirst is very clearly shown.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    This short story was written by Irish-American author Fitz James (Michael) O’Brien, who was also a soldier and poet, and very importantly, he is known as an early writer of science fiction. “The Diamond Lens†was published in 1858, and tell

  30. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    Short story, and an iconic one. Always fun to read these stories that are the deep roots of science-fiction/fantasy.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.