Snow Crash

Never let it be said that Marzaat is unresponsive to the interests and needs of its readers.

Sarah over at the Critiquing Chemist asked if I’ve ever read any Neal Stephenson.

Not much, but I have reviewed The Diamond Age, and one other novel.

So that’s why today’s post is …

Raw Feed (1992): Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson, 1992.Snow Crash

An excellent book.

As Ed Bryant said in a review, cyberpunk with a sense of humor. Not only cyberpunk with it’s well worked out vision of the virtual reality of the Metaverse with its conventions, and combination of play and business and constant developing states, but also a fast moving, very funny thriller.

(Stephenson is very hazy how one actually moves your avatar in the Metaverse and how you control it. I didn’t even catch a hint of a device that reads brain waves.)

I’m not sure if the novel absolutely qualifies as cyberpunk.

It’s a grungy enough world, and there’s a large element of crime here but there are middle class people (Y.T’s mom), and so much of what we consider crime — like the Mafia — is here de facto legitimized.

In fact, the Mafia is heroic in this story — sort of. Hiro Protagonist doesn’t have any illusions about them. Still, there’s the political and physical and social decay that marks cyberpunk. It’s manifested in a United States of America that just about exists in name only. Hiro’s mom works for them, and it’s an inefficient, tyrannical, hellish, and boring place to work. Weird franchises spread like viruses. There are self-contained Burbclaves and pirate fleets.

There’s also cool tech like smart skateboards and Ng’s rat things (kind of sad with their dog brains) and sonic blasters on skateboards.

The social satire is great on the franchises. This is a very funny book with Stephenson’s style vigorous, fast, cool.

All the characters — particularly Hiro Protagonist (great name for, well, a protagonist), Y.T. (ordinarily I don’t like young characters but I liked her spunk and resourcefulness and ultimate vulnerability), and I liked the whole Kourier concept of armed pizza delivery), and villain Raven with the personal nuke, lots of glass knives, and a big grudge against America.

I thought the whole Asherah virus theme (which thematically linked nicely to franchise as virus), and the idea was clever. Ideas as viruses is not new (“memes” being the word for this idea) [yes, these notes are that old], but Stephenson did a nice link from a physical virus that makes the brain more susceptible to a “deep-structure” language that programs and subverts control away from our usual “higher-level” languages.

Tied up with all this are all sorts of interesting speculations on ancient Babylonian myths (particularly the Tower of Babel) showing up in the Bible, the history of Christianity, and the neuro-linguistic programming ability of the oral Sumerian tongue.

I did think that Stephenson’s logic faltered a little when he tried to combine a physical virus to an informational one, but the final chunks of exposition that Hiro puts together towards novel’s end recovered the logic.

I originally picked up this book because I wrote a story once about armed pizza deliverymen of the future and wanted to see Stephenson’s treatment. His treatment has so much more interest, so much more detail, so much more verve with the same idea it’s like comparing a golf cart to a Ferrari.


More reviews of fantastic fiction are indexed by title and author/editor.

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