Posted by: Matt | July 31, 2007

Review of Snow Crash

Snow CrashSnow Crash
Neal Stephenson
1992

Reason for reading: I am a science fiction fan and this book is supposed to be very good. It was included in Time Magazines All-Time 100 Novels list.

Quote: “Then Hiro cut off his head.”

*******

Hiro Protagonist (the author’s tongue is firmly planted in cheek) is a half-Black/half-Japanese hacker who carries a samurai sword. This is a world where North America has been split into city states run by corporations and people “goggle-in” to the Metaverse (basically a more advanced version of Second Life). A drug called Snow Crash is destroying the minds of hackers and Hiro is on a mission to stop it from taking over.

The author Neal Stephenson has been called a polymath, Merriam-Webster Online defines this as, “a person of encyclopedic learning”. This certainly seems to be the case as Stephenson displays an in-depth knowledge of Sumerian mythology, Christian history and computer programming theory. Some have said that his books are short on plot and long on discourse, but Snow Crash has plenty of plot and it’s fantastic.

Hiro, the hero, effortlessly switches between programming, lecturing on Sumerian myth and sword fighting all within the same chapter. If you enjoy philosophy this book has it covered. If you thirst for action, this book satiates. If you’re a tech-junkie, you’ll get your fix.

The story moves at a break-neck pace. It keeps the pages turning but unfortunately it runs too quickly for its own good. The ending is somewhat abrupt, it feels as though Stephenson got too deep and didn’t have enough left to flesh out the end.

However, despite the quick ending, Snow Crash is a fun, fast-paced and thoughtful read. There’s nothing quite like it and not many sci-fi authors write quite as confidently. Stephenson’s head is full of knowledge and that includes how to write a slick novel.

Rating: 4.5

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Responses

  1. Would you recommend this to people who don’t really enjoy most sci-fi? Or is there too much technology?

  2. Eva – This is some pretty hard sci-fi. I might recommend it if you enjoy the other aspects I talked about, the Sumerian myth and philosophy. Otherwise it might be too much for someone who isn’t a fan of sci-fi.

  3. Thanks for letting me know-it’s the philosophy and mythology that really sounded appealing. 🙂 Maybe I’ll just look for a different book that doesn’t deal as much w/ technology; my eyes tend to glaze over at anything more complicated than html.

  4. Although, if I might intercede, while I felt this book is about as hard as sci-fi can get (think William Gibson), I also think that the fundamental ideas of how the human mind is really just a computer are pretty fascinating. Speech, communication, morals, etc. are all pieces of software installed on our wetware PCs. I don’t know if this sounds like your kind of book, but it was a really fun read.
    Also, I just thought I’d mention that those of you who read this book might check out the book Cell by Stephen King. It’s not one of his best novels, but at the same time it directly uses the ideas found in Snow Crash and applies them to a horror novel. It’s a light read (finished in about 4 days), but fun to see the Stephenson idea extended a bit more.

  5. Kevin – That stuff about viruses and brains as computers was fascinating. A couple of times while reading it I made an audible, “huh”, you know, the type you do when you’ve just found something that makes you think.


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