Snow Crash

ISBN: 0553380958
ISBN 13: 9780553380958
By: Neal Stephenson

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About this book

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.

Reader's Thoughts


Crazy, strange, exciting, visionary, action-packed, sexy. Reading this book is like watching the Matrix for the first time. Though it may lack pretense of more complex literature, it asks vague and interesting enough questions to match The Bard's sophistry. Beyond that it is just a great read. It shows a vision of the future that seems eminently likely, but unlike 1984 or Brave New World, has not started to feel stilted. It also lack the long-winded philosophical diatribes and allegories that stagnate that breed of classics. Gibson may have invented Cyberpunk, but Stephenson takes the genre out for a joyride and loses a hubcap on a bootstrap turn.It was originally planned as a graphic novel, but when that got scrapped, Stephenson filled it out and got it published. Perhaps this is why his other works never match Snowcrash's frenetic teenage energy and sensuality. I wish there were more books this interesting and enjoyable.


Snow Crash is a tough book to evaluate, because, at its best it's tremendously visionary and often intentionally funny. At it's worst (unfortunately, the entire second half of the book and the monstrously clumsy and ridiculous exposition sequence in the middle), it's pedestrian, superficial, and wholly predictable. Neal Stephenson cares about making a quasi-believable world, but here has yet to populate it with real characters. The lead is a katana-swinging hacker named "Hiro Protagonist." The sidekick is a 15 year old thrasher skateboarder girl named "Y.T." (supposedly 'Yours Truly,' but I have to believe it's just 'Young Thing') who surfs California's highway system by using an electromagnetic harpoon the way Spiderman web-swings through Manhattan.The villain is a corporate cipher named L. Bob Rife (sort of a cross between L. Ron Hubbard and Rupert Murdoch) who has a vague plan to take over the world by infecting America with a deadly linguistic virus capable of crashing people and computers alike. The book could likely have been vastly improved had Stephenson not wasted so much effort trying to rationalize his mcguffin (the virus). There's only so much silliness about ancient Sumer, Chomsky, and the Tower of Babel one can take (especially contrived as dialogue with a virtual librarian avatar) before one's patience is strained. Even if one takes as premise that binary coders' brains can be made susceptible to a computer virus (thanks to the effects of language on the brain's structural development), it's never clear how this metaphor successfully makes the leap to the reality of a hematological contagion and so less clear why it's worth the hundred or so pages worth of attempted explanation. All of this leads to a tremendously campy series of escalating action sequences between the good guys and bad guys in which I had about zero emotional investment.But give Stephenson his due. This book may well be the source for the word 'avatar' in its present online context, nicely anticipates augmented reality (see virtual reality (see World of Warcraft), and beautifully satirizes and sociologically explains the US's commercial strip mall homogeneity. How's "loglo" for a great neologism to describe commercial billboards so bright they collectively light up the night sky? My favorite passage that encapsulates this part of the book appears on pp. 178-9, and I'll leave it as the postscript of this review:The franchise and the virus work on the same principle: what thrives in one place will thrive in another. You just have to find a sufficiently virulent business plan, condense it into a three-ring binder -- its DNA -- xerox it, and embed it in the fertile lining of a well-traveled highway, preferably one with a left-turn lane. Then the growth will expand until it runs up against its property lines....[W]hen a businessman from New Jersey goes to Dubuque, he knows he can walk into a McDonald's and no one will stare at him. He can order without having to look at the menu, and the food will always taste the same. McDonald's is Home, condensed into a three-ring binder and xeroxed. "No surprises" is the motto of the franchise ghetto, its Good Housekeeping seal, subliminally blazoned on every sign and logo that make up the curves and grids of light that outline the Basin.The people of America, who live in the world's most surprising and terrible country, take comfort in that motto. Follow the loglo outward, to where the growth is enfolded into the valleys and the canyons, and you find the land of the refugees. They have fled from the true America, the America of atomic bombs,... gridlock, motorcycle gangs, and bungee jumping. They have parallel-parked their bimbo boxes in identical computer-designed Burbclave street patterns and secreted themselves in symmetrical sheetrock s***holes with vinyl floors and ill-fitting woodwork and no sidewalks, vast house farms out in the loglo wilderness, a culture medium for a medium culture.


Written in the present tense, which is awkward and unengaging, brimfuls of technological deus ex machina remove all tension from an already slow plot-line. The characters are interesting, hence the two stars, but even they felt lacking and emotionally disengaged from their own story, which had the futile makings of something original.The ending is atrocious, preceded by wastelands of chapter-length explanation, and a fairy-tale misinterpretation of Neurolinguistics that seems to have been written solely to remind us that not everyone is cut out to be a scientist, as some people must invariably grow up to write pop-fiction.If you're looking for cyberpunk, read Altered Carbon

Otis Chandler

A really interesting novel that takes place in the future in a world where some people live in the metaverse (aka digital universe/internet) more than the real world. I don't remember it so well now but I do remember there being some really interesting tie-ins to ancient sumarian computers.That plus any book with a protagonist named Hiro Protagonist who wields badass japanese swords is just badass.Note: the MetaVerse is current being built now here:


** spoiler alert ** I've decided to review this book as I read it. Sort of like live-blogging but not as pretentious or douchey sounding.First and I guess foremost you have to understand that I read slowly. Like if people knew how slowly I read they would be like "that guy's retarded, and I don't mean in the offensive way that my friends are retarded." So I've been reading it for a week now and I'm not quite a hundred pages in and this is what I've learned so far.The main character's name is Hiro Protagonist, which is either inexcusably lazy or unimaginably genius. He's a shiftless lay-about with no steady work despite being pretty damn smart. The feeling I get is that he doesn't like working for The Man. All of that changes when he enters The Matrix. Except it's called The Metaverse in this book, but it's the same thing. A digital world where people appear as they want rather than as they are. Hiro's avatar wears a black leather kimono and samurai swords.His friends thus far are Da5id (that's not a misspelling, I've been pronouncing it duh-five-id), Juanita (whom he used to date and clearly still harbors feeling for, as evidenced by the fact that instead of going to her and Da5id's wedding he got drunk and arrested [in that order] instead) and a the mysterious Kourier (also not a misspelling) Y.T., which stands for Your Truly but everyone thinks she is saying Whitey.In this future/present that Stephenson has crafted Corporations rule the world and the dollar has been hyper-inflated to the point that people conduct small transactions with Quadrillion dollar notes. Facts he continually reiterates by mentioning things like the Central Intelligence Corporation of Langley, Virginia; MetaCops Unlimited (phone number: 1-800-THE-COPS); Mr. Lee's Greater Hong Kong; Admiral Bob's National Security; General Jim's Defense System and so on. I've mentioned my dislike for that kind of repetitive insinuation before, in my review for The Last Templar. You only have to tell me once or twice, but dedicating an entire chapter to Uncle Enzo's CosaNostra Pizza and the 4-year university you have to attend to be a Deliverator for them is what I call overkill. It's humorous to an extent, but I get it. It's like when you're reading a Star Wars book and they use a reference in the book along the lines of "a vibro-blade cutting through ferrocrete" - I KNOW I'm reading a Star Wars book, you don't have to keep pounding it into my head.That's my only complaint so far, but it's a big one for me. I almost switched to something else on my list, but we're finally getting to the plot of the book. Which I guess I should talk about. Keep in mind that I just barely got there, but this is what I know so far: Someone or some group has developed a digital drug called Snow Crash.That's it, that's all I know. Well, that and Juanita came back to warn Hiro not to fuck around with it, but she was pretty vague.I'll update in a few days with my next installment.--UPDATE:Welcome back, friends. I have crested 200 pages and the story has become more interesting.New Characters (That matter):Raven (drug dealing, nuclear psychopath)Uncle Enzo (seemingly good-hearted Leader of The American Mafia)L. Bob Rife (Fiber-Optics Monopolist and Cult Leader, Stephenson is openly mocking L. Ron Hubbard with this character)Finally, after about 115 pages, Stephenson finishes the setup for the action of the book. 90% of the major players have been introduced and expanded upon. Most of these individulas have met and/or interacted in some way. If this book was a stew of some sort then the characters are the mirepoix and the inevitable collision of their individual worlds is the roux. The plot then thickens.Culinary metaphors aside, the book has become very intense. There are some serious religious overtones in the text. There are portions that are very clearly anti-religion and others that make a strong argument regarding the importance of faith and religion. Maybe I'm reading to much into it, but Stephenson seems to be airing his personal doubts and internal struggle regarding religion. He clearly hates cults and cult-like organizations trying to pass themselves off as the righteous, but feels very strongly about the roots of Christianity. He never preaches to the reader though.The Mafia seems to be the only organization in the book that cares about the quality of life of the American people that can't afford to live in privately funded and secure neighborhoods. Normal people. The government is too busy watching its own people to be effective, the local governments of the Burbclaves only care about their residents, the cops are basically for hire by anyone and the Enforcers are Agents of Order. They will protect anyone to maintain order, there is no good or evil there is only chaos and order. So the Mafia watches over mostly everyone else. They clean up the streets and keep the criminals and derelicts in the periphery. But make no mistake, they will use any means necessary to accomplish their goals. In that, they are similar to the mafia we know from watching DeNiro/Pacino movies, however the Mafia in this book is a corporation. Sure it started as a "family business", but in Stephenson's world anyone, regardless of race, creed or religion, can be in the Mafia. They even recruit at university job fairs. They still search for people with a certain moral ambiguity that allows them to rationalize doing what needs to be done without questioning whether or not it's just. And in a society where it seems the moral compass of most people has been skewed in one way or another there is an abundance of applicants.Raven is a cyber-drug dealer and a nuclear sovereign. He's his own country and he has nuclear first strike capabilities, so nobody really fucks with him. The Enforcers protect him from all the people that want him dead because he has a neural detonator for his nukes. If he dies, so does everyone else basically. Raven is the catalyst that brings the characters together. He is enabling the epidemic of Snow Crash and the Mafia has discovered a connection between his drugs and one of the larger church conglomerates in America, Reverend Wayne's Pearly Gates. Mob Boss Uncle Enzo enlists the help of his new friend* Y.T. to intercept shipments of the drug, so that they can test it and, I assume, find a way to counteract its heinous effects. Hiro and Juanita are investigating the ties between L. Bob Rife's raft cult (which is exactly what it sounds like. A bunch of Raft's lashed to his aircraft carrier. Oh yeah, he bought an aircraft carrier to use as his personal mobile headquarters) and Snow Crash. As of yet, Hiro and Juanita's quest haven't intersected with The Mafia's, but it's only a matter of time, I'm sure.(* In the very first chapter of the book Hiro is working as a Deliverator for an Uncle Enzo's CosaNostra Pizza franchise and deliverator's who fail to deliver a pizza in 30 minutes or less don't live to tell the tale. You see, this society is hyper sue-happy and if one's pizza is late it opens Uncle Enzo's [and subsequently, The Mafia] to an unknowable amount of litigation and they take out that frustration on the deliverator. Anyway, Hiro crashes into a swimming pool during a delivery and Y.T. saves his and the mafia's asses by completing the pizza delivery. The reason she decided to help everyone is that Hiro's crash was partly her fault and she felt guilty, but also because the Mafia would owe her a favor. This is how Y.T.'s relationship with the mafia began)**UPDATE**Page 262Every page since I last left you has been about the history of Sumer and its gods. They keep equating Enki's semen to water and how he made rivers by masturbating furiously. It's all very confusing and I don't really know what this has to do with drugs and computer viruses.Somehow, I'm powering through.Please stay tuned.UPDATEI finally finished reading this god forsaken book. I found it to contain moments of sheer awesomeness surrounded by bigger moments of tedium. The whole end part was bad ass though. High speed motorcycle chase/knife fight/bombing/robotic-dog mauling. High quality. People who are smarter than me and have more patience (mostly everyone) would probably enjoy this more than me.


While this book is over twenty years old now, it still seems fresh to me. The outpouring of novel ideas, concepts, and zany action combine to make this story into a hysterical experience. I've read a number of Stephenson's later works, but this early one is the craziest, the most outlandish, action-packed, and fun.The story is crazy on a number of levels. It pokes fun at our institutions, such as commercialism gone amok. Atop of a commercial jail, a sign reads: THE HOOSEGOWPremium incarcerations and restraint servicesWe welcome busloads! It pokes fun at the rigidity and flooding of regulations at federal institutions. For example, in the federal office building where one of the characters works, there are prohibitions against all types of "pool" activities, but a single, onetime exception has now been made for any office that wishes to pursue a joint bathroom-tissue strategy. Americans seem to like "oversized" things, so one character " ... tried prostheses for a while--some of them are very good. But nothing is as good as a motorized wheelchair. And then I got to thinking, why do motorized wheelchairs always have to be tiny pathetic things that strain to go up a little teeny ramp? So I bought this--it is an airport firetruck from Germany--and converted it into my new motorized wheelchair." And, talking about BIG, "What is this, a quadrillion dollars?""One-and-a-half quadrillion. Inflation, you know." On one level, the book is about Hiro, an African-American, a pizza-delivery/hacker/swordsman guy. Hiro teams up with Y.T., a 15-year-old girl who is a courier. Hiro must deliver every pizza within 30 minutes of an order, or the president of the company will give the customer an all-expense-paid trip to Italy. His super-charged car ends up in a swimming pool, and the girl decides to take the pizza and deliver it on time. She rides a truly space-age skateboard, catching rides by "harpooning" vehicles.Hiro discovers a "virus" called Snow Crash, that converts ordinary people into babbling religious converts. "Basically, anyone who reads the National Enquirer or watches pro wrestling on TV is easy to convert." But, since the virus is digital/binary, it can kill hackers. Hence, Hiro takes on a mission to discover the source of the virus. Hiro asks, "Wait a minute, Juanita. Make up your mind. This Snow Crash thing--is it a virus, a drug, or a religion?"Juanita shrugs. "What's the difference?" Indeed, there is a brilliant segue into the development of Sumerian mythology, linguistics, and religion. What is a virus, actually? Hiro speculates, "The Torah is like a virus. It uses the human brain as a host. The host--the human--makes copies of it. And more humans come to synagogue and read it." This is a wild story. If you like satirical science fiction--read this book. If you like action stories--definitely read it. If you like intellectual discussions about linguistics, history, religion, and computer hacking--this book is for you. If you like romance--well, you can find romance elsewhere.

Lisa Vegan

I don’t feel like rehashing the plot. For the curious, it, or parts of it, can be found in the book’s description field, at Wikipedia, in other Goodreads members’ reviews.This was my first cyberpunk novel, and while I liked much of it, I don’t think this subgenre is my favorite. Unusually for me, I’ll start with the negatives.I didn’t feel satisfied by the ending. There was such a build up to it, but I thought it fizzled a bit, and I ended up being disappointed. Also, the story dragged at times; I think it was too long. I don’t often say that about books.Overall, the story felt like a comic book, and only a part of a comic book. What’s funny is at the end there’s a note that this was meant to be a graphic novel and that made perfect sense because that’s how it read.There was too much action, frenetic action, way too much for my taste.I do believe that at times I got confused about whether the events were taking place in the Metaverse (internet) or Reality.I felt too sad about Fido’s situation.But, I did enjoy this book, So, I have some positive things to say also.Given that is was first published in 1992, it’s rather creative and forward thinking.At times it is very, very, very funny.I love the play with words and what the author does regarding linguistics. I enjoyed the jibes at religion, capitalism, government, bureaucracy, hackers & programmers, adolescence, so many facets of our culture, of civilization itself.Y.T. is such a fun character; I enjoyed her immensely.And, Hiro Protagonist must be one of the best fictional names ever created!If there had been just a reasonable amount of editing and a better ending I might have given it one more star.I read this for one of my Goodreads groups and I’m really glad that I did; it’s been on my to-read shelf for a while.


In a time in the not so distance future where the federal government of the United States has yielded most of its power to private organizations and entrepreneurs, franchising individual sovereignty reigns supreme. Merchant armies complete national defence, highway companies compete for drivers and the mafia own the pizza delivery game. Hiro Protagonist, “Last of the freelance hackers and greatest swordfighter in the world”, finds himself without his pizza delivery job when a young skateboard “Kourier” named Y.T. tries to hitch a ride on his vehicle. Leading them on a grand scale adventure trying to uncover just what exactly Snow Crash is.Like all of Neal Stephenson books, you can expect this one to cover subjects like history, linguistics, anthropology, archaeology, religion, computer science, politics, cryptography, and philosophy, all while keeping to his cyberpunk thriller style. He says this book was named after the early mac software failure mode:“When the computer crashed and wrote gibberish into the bitmap, the result was something that looked vaguely like static on a broken television set—a ‘snow crash’”His goal, was to take the reader on a “full tour of Sumerian culture, a fully instantiated anarcho-capitalist society, and a virtual meta-society patronized by financial, social, and intellectual elites.” Snow Crash is a pseudo-narcotic or is it something far worse; Hiro and Y.T (short for Yours Truly) slowly discover that it is in fact a computer virus capable of infecting the brains of careless hackers in the Metaverse (the successor to the internet) and a mind altering virus in reality.One of the things I liked most about Snow Crash was the fact that Neal Stephenson showed us how to write a kick ass teenage girl protagonist. Young Adult novels like to use a strong teenaged girl as a main character but few of them really know how to make her great; most are just Katniss clones. While Y.T’s narrative wasn’t as focused as that of Hiro, it was more of a pleasure to read, she seemed to accomplish the most in the entire book and she did it her own way without compromising her character. Sure, she did manage to get into some trouble and make some bad choices but she’s human, I expect them to struggle and fall and recover from their mistakes.While this was a fun and exciting novel there are some things that I just didn’t like; firstly each ethical group portrayed the stereotypical extreme. The mafia, the rednecks from New South Africa, the Pentecostals, Mr. Lee’s Greater Hong Kong and so on, all felt very much like the cliché versions of these cultures and Stephenson played on the stereotypes a little too heavily. I know they were only minor plot arcs but it still felt like it was overdone. The most interesting people in the book are the ones living outside their cultural and ethnic groups; Hiro, Y.T and Raven.Then there is my biggest problem with the book, which is a similar problem I had with Reamde and that is I feel like Neal Stephenson turns some chapters into a Wikipedia articles just to give us all the interesting information he has on a subject he is exploring. In this book it is every time the librarian talks, there is heaps and heaps of interesting, and sometimes irrelevant, information and the way Stephenson tried to stops it become and wall of text is the awkward attempt to make it sound like a conversation. Hiro keeps interrupting the librarian’s information with very simplified reiteration, agreements and metaphors, I found it incredible annoying.Overall this was a fast paced cyber thriller with some weird and unusual tangents and twists. Stephenson has some interesting ideas about the future of the world but for some reason I never feel a strong connection to his books. I think I prefer William Gibson’s style and take on the future cyber world but can’t fault Stephenson for what he does. Not that I’ve read many books from this author and there are plenty more I want to read, maybe I just feel like he over simplifies and draws his novels out a little too much.This review originally appeared on my blog;


I read “Snow Crash” when it first came out in paperback nearly 15 years ago. Then, I had a really hard time getting through it. But, I kept thinking about different concepts in it over and over again. I never forgot the bimbo boxes—slang for minivans driven by suburban housewives. Talk about a book telling the future! Upon re-reading the book, I now understand why it was so difficult. First, there’s that tricky slang problem. Stephenson invented a lot of slang for the book and that made reading it like trying to follow a teenager’s text-messaging conversation. Second, the Metaverse, while undeniable fascinating, was a totally foreign concept to a person who was using a computer with DOS-6, a CGA monitor and no mouse. Third, and probably most importantly, the book is just way too full of exposition. There’s a whole “character” devoted to exposition; a computer construct called “Librarian.” Librarian has a tendency to ramble on and is constantly changing the course of his conversations with the protagonist, aptly named “Hiro Protagonist.”“Snow Crash” is usually placed in the cyberpunk subgenre of science fiction. I think that’s a bit simplistic. It’s so much more than cyberpunk. It’s an action thriller. It’s full of information about linguistics, brain function, religion, corporate greed, government employees, rock & roll, and the Mafia. Overall, I found “Snow Crash” to be a more enjoyable read in 2008 than I did in the mid-Nineties. I recommend it to anyone who doesn’t mind being bombarded with a gazillion disparate ideas.

Jonathan Cullen

I am struggling with how to describe this book and how to assign it a fair rating. I am amazed at how fresh Snow Crash feels, even 20 years after Neal Stephenson took a stroll down the Street. Many of the ideas in here a simply today's reality. The crystal balling is fairly impressive. I loved the first quarter of the book. I ate up the pizza delivery and avatar scenes. Raven has easily made it to my top Literary Badass List.But I have to admit I got bogged down in the Sumerian myth. Even though it was core to the story I felt we could have done without it somehow. Snow Crash also gets buried under its own style. There is not a single sentence which is not seeking flaming glory. Many of them succeed but it's a lot to swallow so many flourishes.I enjoyed it and was impressed by it. We'll leave it at that. I will give it a 3.5 so I can round it up.


I have a little SAT analogy to help you understand how awesome this book is: Snow Crash is to Books as The Matrix is to movies (with only the absolute BEST parts of Tron and Da Vinci Code thrown in). I'm not talking about all the commercialized Matrix-saga and the weird hype... I'm talking about the first time you sat in the movie theater and saw that chick in the Matrix spin around in suspended animation and kick the crap out of a bunch of cops and thought, "What the #@*%??? COOL!" That's pretty much how this entire book reads. I actually had to add it to my "favorites" list. Can't believe I'd never heard of it before?! (my thanks for suggesting it, Erich)I guarantee there is not a sentient male breathing who won't count this among their top 20 at least. As for you fellow females, if you enjoy a great action romp like I do... and I don't mean the stupid, dime-a-dozen shoot-em-ups, we're talking Die Hard I/Aliens/Terminator 2 (and aforementioned Matrix) caliber here... then you'll love it, too. It has everything: Mafia pizza delivery tycoons, robot dogs, samurai fights, brainwashing hackers, ancient Sumerian gods, hydrogen bombs, hallucinogenic drugs, punk skateboarders... SWEET, as J.T. would say.My favorite parts: Stephenson's out-of-this-world unique writing style, the analogy of hacking into a persons brain using language in the same way people hack into computers using code, the amazing action sequences, use of the second person (you/we) to directly connect to the reader, the sections written from the robot dog's perspective, the use of binary code-type language in terms like "hacker" and "harpooning" (for example, the hero can both "hack" into a computer AND "hack" your body to pieces with a katana). BRILLIANT! A couple tiny complaints: There wasn't nearly enough of Raven, the villain. He ranks right under Hannibal Lector and that guy from the movie Serenity to me... everything a villain should be: a sexy, terrifying brute of a nuclear mutant who rips people to pieces with glass knives. Also, Hiro Protagonist wasn't much of a... well, hero protagonist. He did a little too much research and not quite enough slashing people with his katana for my taste. Raven's foil, Y.T., stole the show--TOTALLY. Not like I minded. I'm all for a 15-year-old skater chick saving the world. SWEET!(Rated R for an isolated sex scene, medium violence, and consistent swearing.)FAVORITE QUOTES:Until a man is twenty-five, he still thinks, every so often, that under the right circumstances he could be the baddest mother****** in the world. If I moved to a martial-arts monastery in China and studied real hard for ten years. If my family was wiped out by Colombian drug dealers and I swore myself to revenge. If I got a fatal disease, had one year to live, devoted it to wiping out street crime... Hiro used to feel that way, too, but then he ran into Raven. In a way, this is liberating. He no longer had to worry about trying to be the baddest mother****** in the world. The position is taken.He turns off the techno-**** in his goggles. All it does is confuse him; he stands there reading statistics about his own death even as it's happening to him. Very post-modern.BMW drivers take evasive action at the drop of a hat, emulating the drivers in the BMW advertisements--this is how they convince themselves they didn't get ripped off.Interesting things happen along borders--transitions--not in the middle where everything is the same.[We've:] got millions of those Young Mafia types. All destined to wear blazers and shuffle papers in suburbia. You don't respect those people very much, Y.T., because you're young and arrogant. But I don't respect them much either, because I'm old and wise.The world is full of power and energy and a person can go far by just skimming off a tiny bit of it.


Narrated by Jonathan DavisI really enjoyed the quality of the narration; Mr. Davis does an excellent job rendering the voices of the various characters within the story.This was a fun read for the most part ... although the heavy exploitation of various stereo-types might be offensive to some, it really is the key to most of the humor in the story; at least Mr. Stephenson is an equal opportunity satirist in creating his dystopian society. The story pokes fun at corporate franchises, Christians (Orthodox Russians, Catholics and evangelists), the feds, the mafia, Columbian drug cartels, pizza delivery drivers, skateboard couriers, gated communities (burbclaves), apartheid, Alaskan red-necks, and a host of others. The characters themselves are very shallow and underdeveloped, though most are still memorable none the less. This central plot merges ancient Sumerian mythology as alternate history with computer technology to construct an idea that humans have a basic or innate language ability that was 'hard coded' into our brain. This direct neural wiring left humans vulnerable to a memetic or 'meta virus' that basically turns humans into automatons. Stephenson uses a series of interactions (info-dumps) with a database AI (The Librarian) to introduce reader to the concepts needed to fully appreciate the plot climax. Unfortunately this is where Stephenson starts to lose his way (and a star) while the satire becomes less skillful and the story displays more violence (needlessly so in some cases). The strange introduction of teenage sex with a much older and very violent male antagonist toward the end of the book really detracted from the story as a whole. Finally, the conclusion seemed confused and somewhat aimless and unsatisfying by the end (Where was Raven's kaboom!).


This book has style and furious energy, like all Neal Stephenson, but it doesn't really make sense. Well... if you casually invent the Metaverse while telling a rattling good story, who cares about a logical hole or nine? And the incidental details are terrific. My favourite was the biker who is a nuclear power in his own right, but there were many others.__________________________________I happened to look at the Wikipedia article, and was immediately entranced by the plot summary. The anonymous author's deadpan delivery is perfect. For your amusement:(view spoiler)[The protagonist is the aptly named Hiro Protagonist (Hiro being a homophone of hero), whose business card reads "Last of the freelance hackers and Greatest swordfighter in the world." When Hiro loses his job as a pizza delivery driver for the Mafia, he meets a streetwise young girl nicknamed Y.T. (short for Yours Truly), who works as a skateboard "Kourier", and they decide to become partners in the intelligence business (selling data to the CIC, the for-profit organization that evolved from the CIA after the U.S. government's loss of power).The pair soon learn of a dangerous new drug called "Snow Crash" that is both a computer virus capable of infecting the brains of unwary hackers in the Metaverse and a mind-altering virus in Reality. It is distributed by a network of Pentecostal churches via its infrastructure and belief system. As Hiro and Y.T. dig deeper (or are drawn in) they discover more about Snow Crash and its connection to ancient Sumerian culture, the fiber-optics monopolist L. Bob Rife, and his enormous Raft of refugee boat people who speak in tongues. Also, both in the Metaverse and in Reality, they confront one of Rife's minions, an Aleut harpoon master named Raven whose motorcycle's sidecar packs a nuke wired to go off should Raven ever be killed. Raven has never forgiven the U.S. for the way they handled the Japanese invasion of the Aleutian Islands (see Aleutian Islands Campaign in World War II) or for the nuclear testing on Amchitka.Hiro, at the prompting of his Catholic and linguist ex-girlfriend Juanita Marquez, begins to unravel the nature of this crisis. It relates back to the mythology of ancient Sumer, which Stephenson describes as speaking a very powerful ur-language. Sumerian is to modern "acquired languages" as binary is to programming languages: it affects the entity (be it human or computer) at a far lower and more basic level than does acquired/programming language. Sumerian is rooted in the brain stem and related to glossolalia, or "speaking in tongues"—a trait displayed by most of L. Bob Rife's convertees. Furthermore, Sumerian culture was ruled and controlled via "me," the human-readable equivalent of software which contains the rules and procedures for various activity (harvests, the baking of bread, etc.). The keepers of these important documents were priests referred to as en; some of them, like the god/semi-historical-figure Enki, could write new me, making them the equivalent of programmers or hackers.As Stephenson describes it, one goddess/semi-historical figure, Asherah, took it upon herself to create a dangerous biolinguistic virus and infect all peoples with it; this virus was stopped by Enki, who used his skills as a "neurolinguistic hacker" to create an inoculating "nam-shub" that would protect humanity by destroying its ability to use and respond to the Sumerian tongue. This forced the creation of "acquired languages" and gave rise to the Biblical story of the Tower of Babel. Unfortunately, Asherah's meta-virus did not disappear entirely, as the "Cult of Asherah" continued to spread it by means of cult prostitutes and infected women breast feeding orphaned infants; this weakened form of the virus is compared to herpes simplex. Furthermore, Rife has been sponsoring archaeological expeditions to the Sumerian city of Eridu, and has found enough information on the Sumerian tongue to reconstruct it and use it to work his will on humanity. He has also found the nam-shub of Enki, which he is protecting at all costs.Hiro makes his way to Rife's Raft, a massive refugee flotilla centered around Rife's personal yacht, the former USS Enterprise aircraft carrier. Juanita has already infiltrated this floating caravan for the express purpose of helping overthrow Rife. Y.T. has been captured by Rife's followers and is taken to the Raft, where she becomes romantically involved with Raven for a short time and is eventually taken hostage by Rife personally. While hostage, Y.T. delivers the nam-shub of Enki to Hiro, who together with Juanita uses it to save the virus-afflicted. Hiro then accesses the Metaverse and foils Raven's attempt to widely disseminate the Snow Crash virus to a grouping of the hacker elite. Meanwhile, Y.T. is brought to the mainland by Rife, but she escapes. Rife and Raven proceed to an airport, where they are confronted by Uncle Enzo (the Mafia kingpin). A critically wounded Enzo disarms Raven, while Rife is killed and his virus destroyed when Fido, a cyborg "rat-thing" who had previously been rescued by Y.T., propels himself through the engine of L. Bob Rife's plane at beyond Mach 1, incinerating Rife and his plane. The novel ends with Y.T. driving home with her mother, and with hints of a future rekindled relationship between Hiro and Juanita. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>


My Neal Stephenson reading has been all backwards. The first one I read was Cryptonomicon, then the Baroque Cycle and then Anathem. So going back to one of his earlier and 'simpler' novels seemed like it'd be a breeze after having to practically learn a fictional language to finish Anathem.While Snow Crash may have some more familiar sci-fi tropes (hackers, skateboarders and virtual reality are now almost stereotypes although I'm sure it seemed fresh in '92 when this was written), it still has the brain-bustin' Stephenson style theories in it. In this case, his whole premise of ancient Sumerian languages as an audio virus was definately something that took a lot of explanation, and it's those types of intricate ideas that make Stephenson one of my favorites.But the other thing I love about Stephenson is that he can explain this crazy theory for page after page until you forget about everything else in the book, and then the next chapter will have an epic action scene with swords, gatling guns, and a variety of other near-future weapons.Terrific book. And I think there's probably a lot of material written or filmed since '92 that should probably cut Stephenson a royalty check. I'm looking at you, Matrix!


I'm just updating this review I posted in 2011.Since reading this book I have read two more Neal Stephenson novels namely The Diamond Age and Anathem. Of the three I think Snow Crash is the most fun book. It is not as deep or thought provoking as the other two (Anathem especially) but the most wildly entertaining. I can still remember the "the greatest pizza delivery scene in world literature" and YT's "harpooning" cars as if I was there. The experience is like reading about being in VR while being in a sort of VR myself. To me a good book (novels specifically) is like virtual reality, being immersed in a book takes me away from wherever I am. The people or the environment I am in does not register, if I had anything cooking on the stove it would get burned, telephones and door bells go unanswered.Snow Crash is one such book and I heartily recommend it to anyone who want to take a quick leave of their current reality.

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