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on 15 November 2012
"Wait a minute, Juanita. Make up your mind. This Snow Crash thing--is it a virus, a drug, or a religion?"
Juanita shrugs. "What's the difference?"

Snow Crash has one of the most effective opening hooks in science fiction, a loving description of a high-tech armored driver and car. A man with a mission. A man with wonderful high-tech toys and samurai swords, who works for the Mafia doing one of the few things that the United States still does better than any other country in the world.
High-speed pizza delivery.

It's a beautiful setup, even if the pizza delivery job doesn't last far beyond the opening pages. It introduces the reader to Hiro Protagonist ("Stupid name." "But you'll never forget it."), the skateboard courier Y.T., and some of the major players and political structure of Stephenson's future Los Angeles. Even better, it effectively introduces Stephenson's off-beat world, in which things like Mafia-owned pizza chains and franchised private countries guarded by dogs with nuclear power packs not only prompt an amazed chuckle, they start to make a bizarre amount of sense.

Then there is the Metaverse, the cyberpunk on-line shared world that pretty much everyone spends some time in.It has the standard mix of avatars, private offices, elaborate shared spaces, constant advertising, dangerous computer viruses, elite hackers, and guarded corporate havens. It emerges that Snow Crash is both a drug and a virus: it destroyed ancient Sumeria by randomizing their language to create Babel; its modern victims speak in tongues, lose their critical faculties, and are easily brainwashed.

Cyberpunk's next generation pretty much began here.Snow Crash is to Books as The Matrix is to movies, It was written in 1991. Written by someone who -unlike William Gibson- actually knows computers, this anime in novel form is one of those rare SF books that is read by many non-SF readers.
Stephenson's characters approach an insane, satirical world with an sarcastic attitude, full of choice comments and well-timed skewering of idiots. I really liked Uncle Enzo's ( head of Cosa Nostra Pizza delivery) Mafia philosophy.
The stuff about neuro-linguistic viruses which he ties to Sumerian mythology and the Tower of Babel is a fascinating concept. You don't need to be a geek or into computers to enjoy this book. It got a quick pace,there a lot believable characters in a believable near future and it's a lot of fun.
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on 22 October 2010
Lets get this out of the way: I adore this book. It's cyberpunk with all the fun put back in, and there are scenes that are literally worth reading the entire book for.

However, the Kindle Edition lets the book down significantly. OCR errors abound in another Kindle Edition that has obviously been hurriedly thrown together without much care. There's no attempt to make the formatting Kindle-friendly either. Now these errors don't ruin the book, it's still a great yarn, but they drag you out of the story rather harshly when they line up several times in a single paragraph.

Bottom line: Read this book, but if you can do it in paper form. While I love my Kindle to bits, I simply can't recommend getting this particular book as an ebook.
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on 3 February 2000
A book with brilliant ideas and plenty of substance, but even more style. Every cariacature and cliche is here, but taken to the slickest, coolest, and baddest end.
It's not a complex plot, but it's a complicated one. With multiple story threads, that means that when the time for a re-read rolls around, you'll feel like you're reading a different story. I'd like to believe this was intentional on his part (the Diamond Age has a similar feel to it)
The scope of this book ranges from the bizarre to the absurd, from the civilised to the savage. The future Stephenson shares with us is hopefully not prophetic, but is realistic enough to come true, and is still near enough to the real world to see trends in society making it come true.
Inspiring, frightening, exciting and amusing all at once, I don't think I've read any book more times than Snow Crash.
Read 'The Diamond Age' (same author), 'Interface' by Stephen Bury (pseudonym). Also excellent books.
As another reviewer mentioned. For a similar style of read, read the also excellent 'Only Forward' by Michael Marshall-Smith.
Buy it, now.
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on 4 September 2010
I own the paperback version of Snow Crash so wouldn't hesitate in rating it five stars, but it would seem that for the Kindle edition the publishers lazily OCR-ed a paper copy without proofreading it.

Many words are misspelt (e.g. corner becomes comer, run becomes rum), punctuation is missing and the occasional word (mostly abbreviations) is replaced with blank spaces. There is at least one mistake every three or four pages (though often several on one page) which really rips you out of a very enjoyable read.

Definitely one to buy as a paperback.
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on 16 October 2010
OK, first up, this is a great book which every SF fan should read, but for heaven's sake buy the paperback!

The Kindle edition is the most atrocious piece of typesetting I've ever had the misfortune to read. It has clearly not even been spellchecked, let alone proofread. At one point chunks of words from one line were being randomly inserted into words in the line above, rendering the paragraph into complete gibberish. The first introduction of the crucial Babel/Infocalypse term is completely mispelled, despite it being in bold and a triple sized font.

I'm astonished that Amazon has the barefaced cheek to charge nearly five quid for this shoddy garbage, and I've half a mind to demand my money back.
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on 15 November 2012
Reading "Snow Crash" by Neal Stephenson was my first ever venture into the Science-Fiction sub-genre of Cyberpunk. I actually read it as part of a Sci-Fi Reader Challenge which has already helped introduce me to other types of Science Fiction novel. What I found was a book full of cyber-noir locations, eccentric but rather stereotypical personalities and a complex, roller coaster ride of a plot that brings together elements of science, technology and religious thought.

The story itself revolves around two main characters, a hacker known as Hiro Protagonist and a 15 year old skateboarding courier known as Y.T. The novel initially focuses on the accidental meeting between Hiro and Y.T. and uses this to highlight the dystopian United States, where everything has been privatised and communities are organised into their various franchised mini nations. However, the plot line soon develops into a mad cap and rather comic adventure as Hiro and Y.T. get pulled into fighting against a group conspiring to control humanity though a virus in both the real world and cyber world.

The first few chapters in the story really are quite superb, as they take the reader on an action packed, high octane narrative of a Pizza Deliverator who must deliver the pizza on time or he faces unknown punishment from the company that he works for which is owned by the Mafia. Stephenson did a great job with this early section of the novel as the quick pace and enjoyable thrills ensured that I was hooked right from the beginning.

Of course the pace doesn't stay that fast for ever but the plot itself continues to provide many enjoyable and varied elements that have probably helped to give the novel such a high place in geek culture. There are TRON style motorcycle races, swordfights, supersonic attack dogs, nuclear powered Gatling guns and a rather intriguing if rather dry look at Sumerian myths and ancient viruses that help to create a fun and enjoyable read. The only issue that this vast menagerie of differing plot points is that it turns the book into a rather complicated and messy affair that is not easy to follow. However, due to the fact it was both entertaining and fascinating I was willing to put in the work so that I could understand it all.

Whilst the plot is quite original, the characters themselves seemed rather unimaginative. Yes, Hiro is quite likeable but there is very little development to his character and I felt that he was mainly used as both a way to infodump Sumerian history to the reader. Y.T. seemed a little bit more developed and I found myself being amused by her spunky attitude. However, at times I kept thinking that she just came across a rather stereotypical view of what many young teenage computer literate boys would fantasize over.

However, my biggest issue with the story was the ending; it was over rather suddenly and didn't provide any real closure to the characters journey. I had thoroughly been enjoying the adventure so it was a bit disappointing to end the story thinking "Oh, is that it?" It would have nice to understand more about what happened to everyone after the various incidents that formed the finale to the novel.

Overall, I found this to be a really enjoyable foray into the cyberpunk genre and I am sure I will now sample other similar books. I am not sure how much someone who isn't interested in the cyber world would get out of reading this book but it should be thoroughly entertaining for my fellow computer geeks, especially those who were around in the 90's when virtual worlds and the internet really began their rapid growth.
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on 1 October 2003
Snow Crash was Neal Stephenson's breakthrough novel and is the one that saw him being labelled inaccurately as a cyberpunk novelist. Snow Crash is a brilliant witty science fiction adventure.
In the near future the nation state of America has broken down and people live in corporate owned mini city-states. The Mafia control pizza delivery and Hiro Protagonist a samurai sword wielding deadbeat hacker is a Deliverator of pizzas. Hiro is drawn into a complex plot to enslave people's minds when a computer virus/drug called Snow Crash is released onto the Metaverse. Trying to stop Hiro in his quest to save the world is Raven an Aleutian psychopath with razor thin glass knives and a Nuclear Weapon strapped to his motorcycle.
This book is responsible for bringing into public consciousness many cyberspace concepts that are now becoming commonplace. The concept of the Metaverse and Avatars is now mainstream in MMORPGs such as Everquest and The Sims Online. Also the idea that the human brain is programmable and is capable of crashing has become accepted by neuroscientists and can be seen in the science of Neuro-Linguistic Programming.
Stephenson demonstrates an ability here to dump a lot of information into your brain without you noticing, and although there are a few missteps along the way generally his science is sound unlike many SF writers.
The one failing of the book is that the over-arching threat posed by L. Bob Rife and his plan to take over the world never seems threatening enough and dwindles in comparison to the actual physical threat of Raven.
The world conceived of in the book is both a brilliant backdrop to the plot and a credible possible future that we may be facing. When governments lose the power to collect taxes then they cease to be of any use and citizens will seek the services of protection and education from corporations.
If the first 25 pages don't get you hooked then put the book down, step away carefully and go numb your mind by watching television game shows.
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on 20 December 1999
Not one I'd recommend for its complex, intricate plot with a clever twist at the end - because it doesn't have either - but the setting of the novel, where the Metaverse [cyberspace] exists alongside reality, is described in such detail, and sounds so plausible, that it is well worth a read. For a vision of the future of the internet, and one which could be here in a very few years, it's the best I've seen.
The novel is also about the rampant progress, if progress is the right word, of consumerism, and is rather more chilling if that aspect of it is to be taken as a vision of the future we're heading for. However, this element of the story seems to me to be something for the much more distant future at least.
In its description of the society of the future at least, "Snow Crash" is reminiscent of Michael Marshall Smith's "Only Forward" - another five-star candidate in my book.
Buy them both today.
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on 14 August 2003
If you only ever read one cyberpunk novel, read this one. The publishing of this book in 1993 was a defining moment in the evolution of cyberpunk with the book instantly becoming the genre’s paradigm. It was the ultimate in computers, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. It’s vision of cyberspace connected intimately with the expectations of the ‘Doom’ playing computer generation and made William Gibson’s cyberspace of raw date look as obsolete as the computers that had inspired it.
But Snow Crash is more than just a great cyberpunk story, it is a great novel. Here is a boisterous book that is endlessly inventive, with a fine cast of characters moving in lavishly described surroundings, with a plot that encompasses the world, with a great sense of humour and irony throughout. With its mix of technology and mythology, hard science and ‘X-Files’ fantasy, and humour and cynicism the novel was a great reflection of popular culture. In Neal Stephenson, cyberpunk and science fiction had found their Dickens.
However, to experience the real sensation that is Snow Crash, you shouldn’t try to read it too deeply. To do so is to risk becoming roadkill under the thundering wheels juggernaut that is this book. Instead, like it heroine, ‘poon a ride on the back of Stephenson’s speeding narrative and thrash your way through his cyber-cityscapes. It’s a trip worth taking.
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on 15 February 2013
Truly (near-)futuristic when it came out, for a new reader this might seem a bit old hat, but for me the pace of the plot and the vividness of the writing still seem fresh. This is one of those books that sticks with you if you read it at an early enough age, and I think I have my dad to thank for buying it as a present whilst I was in my late teens. The ideas of what a (near-)futuristic society looks like are crazy... but frighteningly believable even, or especially, now. The plot whizzes along like few other books would dare. The characters are larger than life, but are right for their environment.

If I read it now for the first time I'd probably dismiss it as delusional nonsense, but I've grown up into adulthood with this book always at the fringes of my conscience as the world becomes more and more inter-connected, so it has proved itself increasingly relevant over time.
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