Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
If you set out to find the ‘must-reads’ of sci-fi, there are certain books that are going to come up people’s lists over and over again. Neuromancer, Ender, Foundation, Dune, Ringworld (I could keep going on, but you’re probably sick of this already) and, since the mid-90s, Snow Crash.
My Rating: 3.5/5
“In reality, Hiro Protagonist delivers pizza for Uncle Enzo’s CosoNostra Pizza Inc., but in the Metaverse he’s a warrior prince. Plunging headlong into the enigma of a new computer virus that’s striking down hackers everywhere, he races along the neon-lit streets on a search-and-destroy mission for the shadowy virtual villain threatening to bring about infocalypse. Snow Crash is a mind-altering romp through a future America so bizarre, so outrageous…you’ll recognize it immediately.”
Just the fact that the main character is named Hiro Protagonist was enough to make me want to read this book. Warning: The rest of it is not as tongue-in-cheek as our MC’s name.
Essentially, Snow Crash is about a computer virus. There’s a guy who wants the virus to infect everyone. There are a few people that want to virus stopped. And then there’s a dude who doesn’t really care and he’s just going to do whatever he’s paid for. The plot is not an overly complicated one, but what makes Snow Crash special is the world that all of this takes place in.
The world is strange and foreign, but somehow also quite familiar at the same time. It’s the future, though how far into the future is hard to tell.
For example: pizza delivery is such serious business that there’s a university to go to and the guarantees for on-time delivery have gone way beyond a free pizza. Strange and foreign. But the delivery is still made using a car. Familiar.
The internet is still the biggest thing on the planet, though it’s called the Metaverse. It’s closer to virtual reality, with all the fixings and information available on the internet as we know it.
Snow Crash refers to a computer virus that is delivered via the metaverse, but affects the user’s brain in the real world. We’re talking full out coma and potential death. From a computer. Somewhere a smugly smiling parent who always said sitting in front of a computer all day would rot your brain. Settle down. This is still fiction.
Stephenson goes on to give some background to this virus and how it could affect a person’s brain. There were references to an ancient language and its similarities to a kind of programming language for the brain stem. It started to make sense. It starting seeming plausible, even.
It’s an interesting concept, and it drew several interesting similarities. However, this stemmed my only real problem with this book. He went on and on and on and on and on and on and on about ancient languages and how they were like programming languages. For chapters. As in more than one.
Hiro was talking to an A.I. about the whole topic. And it was slow. Then the chapter ended and we followed another character around for a few pages. Then we went back to Hiro and he was still talking ancient languages with this A.I. Zzzzzzzzzzz…
It was interesting for a page or two. It gets to be way too much. Just when you think they’ve finally moved on, a few chapters later Hiro logs onto the metaverse, boots up his A.I. buddy and says, “So, were we with that ancient language convo?”
You weren’t at the end? Geez. Can’t we skip this? You’re only talking to an A.I. He won’t care if you fast-forward. Just because you can’t find a human being who’s willing to have the most boring discussion in the universe doesn’t mean you have to put this poor A.I. through the entire thing.
I’m making a big deal out of it, but I assure you, it’s not a big thing.
For anyone who likes sci-fi, I agree that this is a must-read. Even if you only read it to experience the world Stephenson built and all its little idiosyncrasies, it’s well worth the time.