BY NICO VREELAND
This book has been chosen as a Great Read.
Author: Neal Stephenson
Best ebook deal: The Burgomeister
This is more of a heads-up about one of my all-time favorite books than it is a proper review, but here we go.
Snow Crash is a quintessential cyberpunk novel: an action-packed ride through a dystopian future, which in this case is threatened by an informational disease. This novel is funny, cool, and massively entertaining, and on top of all that, it has an intricate plot that includes Sumerian mythology, linguistics, computer hacking, and an insidious religious cult. The world Stephenson builds includes swordfights, hardcore skateboarding messengers, nuclear weapons as personal self-defense, a hyperinflated super-capitalistic economy, plenty of futurist lingo, and a vision of a virtual reality Internet-like place called the Metaverse.
If you like this kind of book, you probably know who you are. If you’re on the fence, take the plunge. Snow Crash is head and shoulders above the vast majority of cyberpunk sci-fi, and indeed above the vast majority of science fiction in general. Snow Crash was Neal Stephenson’s third novel. Of the others, his second (Zodiac) and especially his fifth (Cryptonomicon) are also worth reading. None of them, however, has as successful and funny a style as Snow Crash. For example, this section follows one of the main characters, 15-year-old skateboarder Y.T.:
Y.T. is maxing at a Mom’s Truck Stop on 405, waiting for her ride. Not that she would ever be caught dead at a Mom’s Truck Stop. If, like, a semi ran her over with all eighteen of its wheels in front of a Mom’s Truck Stop, she would drag herself down the shoulder of the highway using her eyelid muscles until she reached a Snooze ‘n’ Cruise full of horny derelicts rather than go into a Mom’s Truck Stop. But sometimes when you’re a professional, they give you a job that you don’t like, and just have to be very cool and put up with it.
If you found that entertaining, read this book. Even though it clocks in at almost 500 pages, Stephenson packs just about every page of Snow Crash with stylish, effortful writing that makes the pages fly by.
There are, however, some legitimate flaws in this novel. Y.T. does not act 15, and the main character (cutesily named Hiro Protagonist) is exaggeratedly badass. However, he’s a badass with a human side, and his problems are every bit as emotional and interpersonal as they are epic and world-shattering. Also, as Stephenson dives into the details of his complex plot, the stylish writing occasionally takes a back seat and the narrative can get a little dry.
However, that’s because Snow Crash is science fiction of the highest order: it uses a speculative future to examine deep-seated theoretical and philosophical issues, and to comment on modern-day culture. In this case, the philosophical issues are largely linguistic, about the power of language and the nature of communication. He also has a lot to say about capitalism, the relationship between computers and people, skateboarding, religion, samurais, the
Mafia, and a lot of other stuff. The results are definitely worth a few dense passages.
So if you want another good, funny, dystopian, badass, epic, world-saving action sci-fi novel with a heart, like The Gone-Away World, this is the one for you.