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on March 10, 2006
By turns frustratingly brilliant and wildly disappointing, this book seems to taunt its readers. It can't make up its mind what it is. The first chapter is possibly the most madcap action scene I've ever read. After that the novel just veers off in all directions at once. The hell of it is, many of these directions are interesting. You just get to wishing Stephenson would spend more time somewhere, anywhere. And then, wonder of wonders, everything gets tied up together in the end.
I'm a small minority on here, it appears: I REALLY liked the historical lectures. They actually made a good deal of sense to me and made me think of the world in a new way.
I'm more than intrigued enough to read some more of this author.
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on September 30, 2009
This was my first plunge into the world of Stephenson (I have Cryptonomicon sitting ominously on my shelf), and now I know why people make such a big fuss over him. This book is funny, wildly inventive, action-packed, futuristic, dystopian, philsophical, historical, etc... I was totally sucked into the world and loved the descriptions of the franchised universe in which the characters live, consume, and die in. It was interesting even further when the full mystery began to unravel and Stephenson injected the book with mythology and religious history, which was fascinating and unexpected.

I've been told this is a 'cyberpunk' novel, and I can see why, as the name seems to fit the tone of the book. Punk music, skateboarding, violence, and swords all combined with technology, cars, virtual reality, and computer viruses. Makes for quite an interesting mash of topics.

There were a few times when the characters fell flat for me. I didn't really buy into or care about the romance between Hiro and Juanita; it seemed as though it was thrown in there to make the characters more dynamic, the story more involving, but didn't work for me. Stephenson is a great writer and could be so much better if he created characters that were as three dimensional as his worlds.

What really sold me on the novel was Stephenson's narrative voice: it was so casual and conversational that it was difficult to remember that the novel was written in third person at all. The narrator had such a presence in the book, which was really cool. It was kind of like how David Foster Wallace has his own presence in his books as a narrator, just lurking in the background but constantly there, popping in every once in a while with asides and footnoted information.

I look forward to reading more of Neil Stephenson's work. His futuristic writings, but also his historical writing in the Baroque Trilogy.
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on June 26, 2004
Reading this book is like watching an Imax film of Calvin and Hobbes riding their sled. Stephenson manages to combine something old, sonething new, lots of things borrowed, and a few blue, in an intelligent and well-thought-out book that does not discard all the old literary virtues, even as it is uproariously original. And, it's so nice to see ancient cultures, computer programming, and swordsmanship all treated with intelligence and respect and some regard for the facts.
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Given all the rave reviews Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash has received over the years, it's a wonder that the book has been sitting there on my shelf for well over a decade now. I was getting more and more concerned with each passing year, for this work kept receiving such accolades that it raised my expectations to what I felt was an impossible level. I mean, a science fiction novel being selected as one of the 100 books to read in English by Time Magazine? It reached the point where Snow Crash had to be one of the very best books I had ever read, if not the very best, if it had any chance of meeting those lofty expectations.

Understandably, although it is an ambitious, intelligent, and entertaining novel, Snow Crash couldn't possibly live up to my expectations. It is a fun and thrilling read, no question. And yet, as much as I enjoyed it, I don't feel that it's the sort of literary work that lingers within your mind long after you have finished it.

Here's the blurb:

One of Time magazine's 100 all-time best English-language novels.

Only once in a great while does a writer come along who defies comparison—a writer so original he redefines the way we look at the world. Neal Stephenson is such a writer and Snow Crash is such a novel, weaving virtual reality, Sumerian myth, and just about everything in between with a cool, hip cybersensibility to bring us the gigathriller of the information age.

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.

The worldbuilding is simply awesome. In a not-so-distant future, the USA has become a fragmented ensembles of smaller Burbclaves and city-states. As is usually the author's wont, the witty narrative is full of satiric social and political commentary. What's even more brilliant is the fact that Snow Crash was written between 1988 and 1991. To realize just how on the money Stephenson turned out to be regarding the information age and virtual reality, it's simply astonishing. The same thing goes for the technology now in use, both in terms of software and hardware. Truly, Neal Stephenson was a visionary.

The characterization is well-done, especially considering that having teenagers as your principal protagonists can sometimes be quite tricky. Yet both Hiro Protagonist, the Deliverator and katana-wielding hacker, and Y.T., a pesky Kourier, are well-defined characters you just have to root for. When Hiro is involved in an accident and is about to be late delivering a pizza, Y.T. delivers the pie on time, thus earning a favor from the Mafia and joining her fate to Hiro's, though none of them are quite aware of that fact just yet. Although the narrative follows the POVs of these two protagonists for the better part of the book, they are joined by a colorful cast of secondary characters that give Snow Crash its unforgettable flavor. Chief among those include Uncle Enzo, the Librarian, and Raven.

The pace is fluid and the chapters relatively short, making this novel a real page-turner. Indeed, there is never a dull moment. The early portions about the Sumerian myths and their importance are a bit more nebulous and hard to understand, but everything is explained later on in the book. Hence, for a while at least, you are sort of left in the dark as to what this new computer virus is all about. Be that as it may, you just need to buckle up and enjoy the ride. From beginning to end, Snow Crash remains a dense and surreal work of fiction full of humor that will make you think as much as it makes you laugh.

As I mentioned, what is even more impressive is the fact that this novel was initially published two decades ago. Discovering just how right Stephenson was concerning everything that has to do with the information age and virtual reality will have you shaking your head in bewilderment.

Snow Crash is a smart, cool, funny, witty, and action-packed adventure featuring a pair of unlikely heroes who must save the world from infocalypse. If you enjoy roller-coaster rides, Snow Crash is definitely for you! You will never again look at toilet paper quite the same way afterwards. . .

If, like me, you haven't read it yet, Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash could be perfect vacation reading material for you.

Check out Pat's Fantasy Hotlist!
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on April 29, 2004
This has to be the most mentally uplifting, humorous, and yet deeply serious book I've ever read. Stephenson approaches the entire plot completely seriously, but the actually subject matter is a joke.
It's rather hard to explain, especially since the book somehow takes things that make no sense and makes them work. The main character (for example) is a half-black, half-Korean pizza delivery salesman, who is also one of the few freelance hackers left in the world, he has a huge amount of influence in the metaverse, he's excellent at driving, he is a master at using a Katana, his room-mate is an ultra-famous rockstar, oh and did I mention that the Mafia runs his pizza company? The entire book is like this, and at certain points, the normal things make you laugh because everything seems so surreal.
Yet it deals with the issue of memes (units of cultural information, in the same way a gene is a unit of genetic information), Sumerian Myths, and what happens when America goes Anarcho-Capitalist, not to mention skateboarders. It's a mix of things that should not ever go together.
My only real gripe was one of the love scenes, infact, it was the only love scene, has a situation that I found slightly disturbing, only lessened by the fact it was a book.
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on April 29, 2004
For many years people have been telling me to read this book. Many people told me it was the best book in the cyberpunk genre ever written. So I dove in and I was surprised how this is not really a cyberpunk book at all.
It is a deep book but very scattered. One gets the feeling that the whole of the story is not as important as the tiny vignettes of the story. In other books this can work but the structure of this book feels a little scattered. Many times I found myself wondering when the story would advance again and not sidetrack. It does pay off in the end when all is said and done. I do not think this is the best cyberpunk book ever written as Necromancer is far beyond it in many ways. What Gibson has that Stevenson does not is a love of English and it's fluidity. As in all cyberpunk books what we miss is any sort of character depth. All players are very much like avatars. One is the hero, one is the skater girl with no growth or depth to any of them. At the end, they are the same as when the started. This could be a commentary of all books in the cyberpunk genre but it could also be a commentary of all Sci-fi books as it deals with ideas and not people. It is a good book with some fun ideas but it's not some great tome or anything.
I noticed some people were offended buy the religion in the book but I think this is a case of not being able to see the trees thru the forest. The religion is a story point, nothing more. There is no message in the end. Or they may be one and my brain is just immune to it.
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on April 28, 2004
I truly love the way Stephenson describes details in the world he has created. A main theme running through the book is an idea of colors, and his use of incredible descriptions blew my mind at times, and I just had to go, "Wow, that is a powerful metaphor."
I also really dig the little break-ups he has between every few chapters, when it switches days, with a good device of delivering info in the form of a magazine that comes out in the universe we are reading about. This is wonderful, because you don't have characters explaining things to people where they would OBVIOUSLY understand what they are talking about, because it is such a pertinant part of their culture.
Alas, the only part I didn't enjoy was there should have been more description and understanding of what makes up certain parts of the world. Understandably this is a made-up place (hopefully) and rules aren't really in practice as we know them, but at times I felt like I was struggling to understand what EXACTLY was going on. So I had to make up several rules to make situations fit in my brain. This is the only reason it didn't get 5 stars.
Incest, a wonderful ending, and kickin' adjectives make this a very amazing read.
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on February 27, 2004
This is a very imaginative book, full of details about a highly digital future Earth, complete with an Internet-based simulated world called the Metaverse. A mysterious menace by the name of "Snow Crash" is unleashed upon the Earth and the Metaverse. It seemingly turns people into stupid herd creatures that speak in tongues. It can also make smart hackers totally lose their minds and turn into vegetables. Our hero and heroine set out to fight this evil not really knowing what it is: is it a computer virus, a disease, or a drug? How are an unbelievably macho thug, the President of the United States, and the world's greatest monopolist connected to "Snow Crash"? And why are some 4000-year-old clay tablets from Sumer the key to the whole mystery?
The book is set up really well. The initial premises make a lot of sense, unlike a certain other famous cyberpunk book. This initial phase lasts for about 100 of the 470 pages. The rest of the book is full of either uninspired Hollywood-esque action (chases and violence) or else outrageous conjectures about Sumerian mythology and their connection to the Three Great Religions (excuse me, Mr Stephenson, ever heard of a part of the world that lay to the east of Sumer?). Stephenson clearly took pains to research his material. I know this, having read one of his sources about Sumerian civilisation. But all research is useless if you are going to use it for PSEUDOINTELLECTUALISM and alas, that is exactly what you get from this book.
Eventually, this religion/mythology thing gets so irritating that one is glad to return to the straightforward fights and flights. Our hero and heroine eventually save the day and kill the badguys, so all ends well. (Or does it? There's that unfinished business with the nuclear bomb.)
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on January 28, 2004
Around half-way through this book, I needed to put it down for a bit. It all seemed a bit too much. Neal Stephenson writes in a way that is shocking. The subject matter is so over the top that it shouldn't make any type of sense. Why would skateboards use harpoons on cars? Who goes to Pizza college? Why does the main character carry a Katana?
But it really all does make sense. That's why the book seems overwhelming. The future he paints is so bizzare that it's easy to understand. Unlike Neuromancer with it's "plausible" 1980's view of the future, this book takes the future, puts in everything random and ties it together in a way it all makes sense.
Even further, the language in the book is great as well. It's not filled with cursing, like many a cyberpunk book, and it feels upbeat despite the fact it's dystopian. A line that stood out to me in it is where they talk about Rastarfarian gunslingers in Compton. They never went into detail when you read it, but it makes sense.
This book is a reccomend for either fans of Cyberpunk, or fans of the obscure, and slightly strange.
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on January 20, 2004
Snow crash is an avalache of a novel, which picks you up and overwhelm s you with it's mix of cool gadgets, summerian mythology, fast action and names like Hiro Protagonist or Vitaly Chernobyl.
In my opinion this is the best book by Stephenson, 'cause here he doesn't let his interest in the detailes of the world get into the way of the actual story (as he sadly did in Diamond Age, for example). The story defies description in a few words, and moreover, you don't want to read what it's about.
But it starts with a pizza delivery man who works for mafia (and mafia here is official), but who is also an uber hacker.
And for his antagonist - how about a guy, with an a-bomb strapped to his bike, and a chip in his head - if he dies, the bomb goes off.
Mixing "Matrix"-style action (allthough it was written years before "Matrix") and "Da Vinci Code"-like revelations about history and religion this book will delight fans of cyber punk and other readers alike.
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