Many of you have probably heard of Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age for its prevalent use of Neo-Victorianism, and for it being an wonderful novel. However, you may not have heard of his earlier work Snow Crash. Where The Diamond Age was a bildungsroman set in a nano-technologically influenced future, Snow Crash is a cyberpunk novel to its core, up there with William Gibson's Neuromancer.
The book focuses mainly on Hiroaki "Hiro" Protagonist, a free-lance hacker and, until the start of the book, pizza delivery-man for the mafia. You start with Hiro losing his job, and end with a mind blowing adventure involving ancient Sumerian linguistics and mythology, national super powers, pseudo-neurological techno-plots to take over the world, and skateboarding punks. On the way you also get a look at the future of the internet and virtual reality, the workings of a fully instantiated laissez-fair economy, the inner dialog of a burb muscle-head and a massive dose of Neal Stephenson's side splitting dark humor. Also starring are Y.T (standing for Yours Truly), a 'Kourier' who becomes Hiro's partner in the adventure, Juanita Marquez, a techno-mystic obsessed with the hijacking of Christianity, and Fido, a cyborg 'rat-thing' used as attack dogs by the franchise, 'Mr. Lee's Greater Hong Kong'.
If that all sounds intimidating to you, don't be afraid. Stephenson has the ability to pull you through both the book and the plot in a ride akin, not to a roller-coaster, but an escaped prototype rocket car. It also has the re-read value of the bible, providing a exiting, fun to read novel to begin with, and then a intensive and mind blowing social commentary underneath that.
Stephenson's writing style is intuitive as well. You don't read the book so much as have it appear in your head. His understanding of his cast's minds is flawless, leading to characters who you not only care about, but truly like (or hate, as the case may be). Most importantly though, his sense of humor is all pervading, a dark and satirical flavor that turns it from a just another gritty cyberpunk novel into a fantastically enjoyable story.
If there is one complaint I could put forward, it is that the book is almost too dense. It takes several reads to really get a handle on it and several more to comprehend not just the plot, but the message behind the whole thing. In this humble writers opinion, however, this is more of a selling point then a flaw.
All in all, Snow Crash is a fast paced read that will keep you engaged, make you think, and most of all, make you want to come back for another read.
About the Reviewer:
Sigmund A. Werndorf is a Los Angeles born student residing in San Francisco California, where he can be found hunting down antiquities and curiosities, passionately pushing the boundaries of radical culinary experimentation, exploring the dangerous world of modern music, and writing reams upon reams of papers that no one actually reads.
He is also curator for the correspondences of Johan B. Hackworth.