Snow Crash Paperback – 27 Oct 1994
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From the opening line of his breakthrough cyberpunk novel Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson plunges the reader into a not-too-distant future. It is a world where the Mafia controls pizza delivery, the United States exists as a patchwork of corporate-franchise city states, and the Internet--incarnate as the Metaverse--looks something like last year's hype would lead you to believe it should. Enter Hiro Protagonist--hacker, samurai swordsman and pizza-delivery driver. When his best friend fries his brain on a new designer drug called Snow Crash and his beautiful, brainy ex-girlfriend asks for his help, what's a guy with a name like that to do? He rushes to the rescue. A breakneck-paced 21st-century novel, Snow Crash interweaves everything from Sumerian myth to visions of a postmodern civilization on the brink of collapse. Faster than the speed of television and a whole lot more fun, Snow Crash is the portrayal of a future that is bizarre enough to be plausible. --Acton Lane
In the future the only relief from the sea of logos is the computer-generated universe of virtual reality? But now a strange computer virus, called Snow Crash, is striking down hackers, leaving an unlikely young man as humankind's last hope. This book is shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke Award.See all Product description
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It is probably responsible for putting the term avatar into common usage.
As with Neuromancer there are only a couple of elements (references to cathode ray tubes) to signal that it was written some time ago, otherwise it still seems as prescient now as when it was written.
This is epic story telling in the old fashioned style, in the manner of Dickens and Trollope it has big story and it is in no hurry about telling it. Although the story certainly does not drag, it may require some determination to stick with it till conclusion, but it is worth the effort.
[There is quite a lot of stuff in the middle of the book about language and programming, those with an interest might want to read some Wittgenstein and research the Sapir Worf hypothesis, neither of which were mentioned, as I recall, but are potentially of interest.]
There are is still plenty here to enjoy, and many of Stephenson's obsessions are readily apparent - but ultimately, though this may have been groundbreaking at the time, I feel that some of Stephenson's later books ('Cryptonomicon' and 'The Baroque Trilogy') are simply better written.
It's very long and draws a lot of spurious analogies between biological and computer viruses that don't really fly, mixed in with clumsy pages of information about Sumeria or somewhere which turns out later to be relevant, but only as flimsy justification for a fairly boring plot device.
There's some good action, but it sure does go on a bit. The whole novel does. It should have been 100 pages shorter at least, and not as accomplished as people seem to make out - I'm really not sure why this didn't sink into the slush of post-Neuromancer 90s sci-fi and disappear forever. Its vision of virtual reality isn't just poor in retrospect, it's poor even for its time, unimaginative and filled with convenient rules that serve the plot but not the world-building.
Bizarrely, regular coders employed by corporations to do their jobs are referred to as 'hackers'. That's not what a hacker is, Neal.
Points for: Strong female lead, even if there's constant partial-nudity and sex references; fantastic opening chapter or two; consistent writing and plenty of action, if that's what floats your boat; diversity.
I can't say I recommend it, unless you mainly read sci-fi, in which case it's definitely not the worst of 90s sci-fi.
Author of 'The Gun of Our Maker'
Box 1 - Engaging Style. Snow Crash is written in a wonderful cyberpunk patois with inventive use of turn and phrase.Tick
Box 2 - Technically Accurate. Its universe is very well developed and consistent, its knowledge of semantics and the computer world top notch. Tick.
Box 3 - Rip Roaring. The story belts along and you want to read the next chapter, no matter how late it is or how close that deadline is approaching. Tick.
Box 4 - Great Characters. All of them are independent and believable with distinct personalities. Tick!
Box 5 - A hoot. Made me laugh quite a few times. I don't mean in a 'this is a comedy' book but in a very English dry sense of humour. Its observations and self-deprecation along with a congenital dislike of authority is refreshing.
I bought this book on a whim and, like Iain M Banks, with whom he shares many characteristics, I will be buying many more.
Buy this book if you enjoy challenging, imaginative, and heart-racing tales with deep back-stories and a dash of the upstart. You won't be disappointed.