Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

a review by TC, in the genre(s) Science Fiction, Post Cyberpunk . Book published by Penguin in June 1992

Snow crash is an acclaimed speculative fiction novel by the award winning author Neal Stephenson.

Never getting into the Cyberpunk thing and hating the much-hyped use of the word Cyber, I've stayed away from everything that fell within the Cyberpunk category, with William Gibson as the centre of my self-inflicted ignorance. I once tried reading Mona Lisa Overdrive, but there's a limit to how badly written a book can be and still deserve to be read. But once in a while one has to let go of ones prejudices and try something different, no matter how much one has come to love to hate a thing.

[The next paragraphs is unrelated to the contents of the books and just the reviewer ranting. You will miss nothing by skipping them]

But firstly, I have to say something about a promotional quote on the back of the book. Normally I don't read other people's reviews and I certainly don't comment on them here, but this time I've come across something so stupid, so shiningly pure in it's ignorance that silence would be a crime.

"A superb book which far exceeds the limiting definitions of either sci-fiction or cy-fi. A modern classic in every sense" – Martin James in Muzik.

Martin James normally reviews music for Muzik and Melody Make, which kind of excuses him from not knowing what he's talking about, even if he could have exercised his right to shut up. But there's certainly no excuse as to why the editor at RoC decided to use it on the back of the book. I'm not sure as to what is meant by "sci-fiction" (don't even get me started on "cy-fi") or what definition Mr. James is thinking of. Maybe he's thinking about SF, Science Fiction or SciFi, but that still leaves me with the problem of finding a definition that this book can exceed. It's a rather fine book with some interesting, if not exactly sparkling new, ideas, but it doesn't breach or exceed any definition of Science Fiction for the simple reason that there isn't any solid or right definition of Science Fiction. Just take a look at NCG's page on SF definitions by different authors and you'll see that defining SF is a lot harder and a lot less precise that one might think. You will also find thirty or forty definitions of SF that is totally unexceeded by this book. The scary thing is that you can't read any large number of science fiction with out running into a foreword dealing with this subject. Martin James may not know this and the sentence "far exceed the limiting definition of …" looks great in print even if it's totally drivel. But like I said, the editor at RoC should know this and the only excuse I can see for him is that greed and/or the marketing people got to him.

With that said, I'll exercise my right to review this book and try to do a better job than Mr. James.

[End of rant]

Hiro Protagonist is not only a pizza delivery boy for the CosaNostra, he's also a freelance hacker and liberator of information. He carries the twin swords of the samurai and is the best swordsman in both reality and the Metaverse. As his name may have led you to guess, he's the hero and main character of this story. Let me define Reality and Metaverse for you. Reality is the world people are born into, where the laws of nature is fixed and where death is permanent. In Snow Crash it is also a place in our future where the USA has fragmented in to thousands of small city-states, each with their own laws and borders. The cops take most major credit cards and everything is franchised - like the pizza store that employees Hiro, the Mafia ("you've got a friend in The Family") runs it. The Metaverse is virtual reality and the Internet run into one. You logon to it, it's laws can be broken (especially if you are an old hacker like Hiro) and you can't really die in it, at worst you get thrown off for a few minutes. That is until Show Crash starts to scramble the brains of people in the Metaverse.

Luckily this book is not only well written and funny it's also quite gripping, if it hadn't been I would probably have stopped reading after the first description of Snow Crash. The "people gets hurt in reality when they get hurt in virtual reality" is so stupid, that normally it's a Hollywood only thing and well avoided in written science fiction. But Stephenson manages to pull it off quite beautifully, even if the explanation is kind of far out it works in the story – I actually believed in the possibility of it while reading the story and that's what matters.

Snow Crash is funny, witty and highly intelligent reading. It is a bit dated already (it's from 1992), but that is the prize you pay when you try to be hip and try to describe the near future. And in this case it actually added something interesting to the story, namely a backward view into the possible future as Stephenson envisioned it a decade ago.

Written on Monday 1st May 2000 by .

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Snow Crash, a novel by Neal Stephenson

Book Details

  • Snow Crash
  • Publisher: Penguin
  • ISBN:
  • Published:
  • Pages: 448
  • Format reviewed: Paperback
  • Review date: May, 2000
  • Language: English
  • Age Range: N/A