Snow Crash

September 3, 2017
Snow Crash Book Cover Snow Crash
Neal Stephenson
Science Fiction
Bantam Books
August 2nd, 2000
Paperback
470
Library
June 1992

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.

(via Goodreads)

 

I am both in love and completely over Snow Crash at the same time. Talk about confusing. Snow Crash reads like watching The Matrix for the first time– it’s mind blowing, action-packed, brilliant, and annoying all simultaneously. That said, I couldn’t put it down. Stephenson rebooted the cyberpunk genre with this novel, and for good reason.  But it runs you over a bit like a steamroller. So, instead of my traditional review, I am giving you a loves/hates list. Because… my brain cannot really comprehend this whole this:

All information looks like noise until you break the code.

Love: Hiro Protagonist – One of our protagonists has self-titled himself Hiro Protagonist. And he is amazing. He is highly intelligent, fast thinking, half-black, half-Japanese expert hacker and shewed businessman, who taught himself how to use a katana and wakizashi– and is still somehow a complete idiot. Hiro is certainly the most realistic character in the whole novel. Flawed, interesting, realistic. I wanted more, even if he survived all sorts of things he shouldn’t have.

Hate: YT – Yes, she is also a super intelligent badass. But she is obviously Stephenson’s wet dream of a Manic Pixie Dream Girl. I wanted to love everything she was. I really enjoyed many of the scenes she was in. But everything about her was unrealistic. She’s 15 for goodness sake! Why is she making ANY of these decisions?! Also, she is obviously Uncle Enzo’s daughter. Seriously, this whole story only happened because of that connection. It provides a tenuous hold on the plot for something never explained.

When you’re wresting for posession of a sword, the man with the handle always wins.

Love: The Metaverse — This virtual reality world is so ahead of its time. Yes, people look at Ready Player One‘s OASIS and immediately assume Cline hacked off Stephenson’s Metaverse. Possible? Yes. Probable? Certainly. But these two worlds couldn’t be more different. I adore Stephenson’s empty universe. You either have the cash to buy things or you have the computer skills to build it. Everything in the Metaverse was AMAZING. I loved Hiro explaining how he made everything happen and how it all seemed like it really could happen. Want more please.

Hate: The Libertarian “Real” World – I’m sure Stephenson has a great idea in his head of what the heck is going on in America. The government is vestigial. Mercenary armies run “franchises” of gated housing developments all over, run by the equivalent of the mafia. It is probably really interesting, but never clearly enough explained for me to understand what the heck was going on.

See, the world is full of things more powerful than us. But if you know how to catch a ride, you can go places.

Love: Fido Oh, Fido. The whole concept of Rat Things (aka semi-autonomous guard units) as cybernetic pit bulls really touches me. I am upset about what they went through but inspired by the emotional connection these pups retain. This is the most intriguing real-world sci-fi element of the story to me. I love how Fido remembers his previous life through his fragmented memories. I didn’t really care about the technology, but I care about the philosophy and ethics behind it.

Hate: Everything having to do with Sumeria – I know, I know. This is the CORE of the novel! But, seriously, people. Stephenson gets lost in his historical, metaphysical, and philosophical diatribe. This reeked of the portions of 1984 and Fahrenheit 451 I was bored with. It was too complicated and moved too quickly. Plus, I found I was going back and re-reading sections all over the place to try and understand it. Annoyed. In the end, I just skimmed everything related to Sumeria. And when it was summarized near the end, (like there was some mystery Hiro had to understand? And he just magically understood it? And so did everyone else? What?) I was even MORE frustrated. WHY did I read all that?! Ugh. In fact, this should read “hate with the fires of a thousand suns”. Not just hate. It was awful.

“This Snow Crash thing — is it a virus, a drug, or a religion?”
Juanita shrugs. “What’s the difference?”

Love: The Librarian – While The Librarian is totally just a device, I want one. Badly. He’s a dude in the Metaverse who is just a database which can have a conversation with you. As someone who is an interpersonal learner to the extreme (I need to talk through something to understand it), I want one. I’d be so much smarter now! Can you imagine talking through something with the content of an actual library? Like Data, but with emotional understanding.

Hate: This isn’t a graphic novel! – Okay, this one isn’t fair at all. In the Afterward, Stephenson explains that Snow Crash was originally intended to be a graphic novel. IT MAKES SO MUCH MORE SENSE NOW. There are so many details described in this world which doesn’t need explanation in a graphic novel. If Snow Crash had been a graphic novel, it might be one of my most favoritest books of all time. I kid you not. I get why it didn’t work, but I wish it had. I soooo wish it had.

Shit, if I took time out to have an opinion about everything, I wouldn’t get any work done.

There are so many many many more things to discuss. Raven (complicated), his relationship with Hiro (trope, but awesome), the craziness about delivering pizzas (bloody brilliant),  L. Bob Rife (worst), the series of improbable events leading Hiro YT on their adventure (ridiculous to the point of eventually becoming boring), and the amazing action scenes (I love every moment Hiro uses his swords)— But we don’t have the time here, and I’m sure you’re bored. I would be if I hadn’t read Snow Crash.

In the end, I think the best way to describe Snow Crash is a train wreck. A beautiful, beautiful train wreck. It’s a chaotic blend of great and terrible, beautiful and ugly, clean and messy. But I couldn’t look away. And even now that it’s done, I know I’ll never read it again… but I REALLY want to. Drat. I might be addicted.


What do you think?

  • Have you read Snow Crash? What do you think of it?
  • What books have you read which left you this polarized after reading?
  • Have you read other works by Neal Stephenson? What do you think I should read next?
  • Do you like the idea of virtual reality worlds like the Metaverse and OASIS? Do you see this becoming something we can experience in our lifetimes?

28 Comments

  • LizScanlon September 4, 2017 at 11:09 am

    This sounds wonderful… When I read the blurb I was just: “What the what?” 😀 But … I love your love/hate list and the quotes because it all makes me want to read the book!

    • Jackie B September 5, 2017 at 5:56 pm

      I’m so glad! I think you would really enjoy this book, too. I hope that you pick it up someday.

      Have you read any Stephenson? …In fact, do you read much science fiction?

  • ichabod2014ic September 4, 2017 at 11:50 am

    Yay!
    Yes, I read and loved ‘Snow Crash’ and many of his other works: The sweetness of the ‘rat thing’ was one of my favorite parts also.
    -‘Zodiac’ Contemporary thriller.
    -‘Snow Crash’ Near future Sci-fi techno thriller.
    -The Diamond Age’ Further along in history sci-fi thriller featuring nano tech.
    -‘Cryptonomicon’ Contemporary/WWII history flashback thriller featuring early computer development with teeny-tiny amount of supernatural element… This is a slight lead in for…
    -‘The Baroque Cycle’ Historical sci-fi with teeny tiny supernatural element furthered. This is a trilogy: “Quicksilver’, ‘The Confusion’, and ‘The System of the World’.
    -‘Anathem’ Dystopian sci-fi thriller.
    -‘Reamde’ Not sure what this book is, as I dnf’d it…

    I am a huge fan! I really enjoyed all of these books except for ‘Reamde’. If I had to recommend one, I would say the trilogy. It has pirates in it!
    Happy reading!
    Your pal,
    ~Icky. 🙂

    • Jackie B September 9, 2017 at 2:26 pm

      Wow! You have read quite a few of Stephenson’s works! I have definitely found that his writing style intrigues me, but I have been warned that his endings are often something left to be desired…

      Either way, I’ll certainly add The Baroque Cycle to my TBR. I appreciate the recommendation– plus, historical sci-fi?! Yes please!!!

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Icky! I really appreciate it.

  • KrystiYAandWine September 4, 2017 at 5:12 pm

    That is so interesting that this was originally planned to be a graphic novel. Did the author explain why they didn’t go the graphic novel route? I’m really curious now, especially since you said you would have enjoyed it so much more that way.

    This was a really fun review to read. Your inner conflict over it was definitely apparent, and it’s really hard to write reviews like that sometimes. I have a hard time sorting out all my thoughts when I’m in that situation. Also, I’ve never seen The Matrix, so I couldn’t quite relate to that comparison, but you’re review has me wanting to watch that now. 🙂

    • Jackie B September 9, 2017 at 2:39 pm

      Stephenson explained why they changed from a graphic novel to a novel a little bit in the Afterward. Stephenson and his friend wanted this to be a “computer-generated graphic novel”. Based on his description, it sounds like they were trying to just create Pottermore in more detail, but in 1996. When they realized the technology didn’t exist to develop the vision they wanted, the graphic novel script turned into a novel. Personally– I’d love to see the computer-generated graphic novel version developed today. I think it would be a much better story device.

      I’m glad you liked the format I chose! It’s SO HARD to write a review when you are so internally conflicted. This will definitely be a book I re-read someday. Can you think of the last book which conflicted you like this?

      I haven’t seen The Matrix in years. But I remember being a bit stunned after watching it. Like… “What did I just watch?”

      • KrystiYAandWine September 11, 2017 at 12:44 am

        Ooh, very interesting. At least they have the potential to create a computer-generated graphic novel out of it in the future. That would be really neat. I actually loved the old Pottermore when it had all the silly games and stuff. ☺️

        I actually just read a book called SPARKED that I was really conflicted about after reading, because I really liked it up until the ending. I hated the ending, but had a great experience with the rest of the book, so that was tough.

        I really do need to watch that. I’m so curious now.

        • Jackie B September 14, 2017 at 4:53 pm

          I’ve been talking to other people who read Stephenson’s works– they say that his writing is always amazing until the end. Apparently he has a habit of blowing the entire book on the ending? How sad. C’est la vie, I guess. I will keep an eye out for your Sparked review to check out your more nuanced thoughts. 😀

          And YES! I totally miss the old Pottermore. This is fine, but I liked all the silly little interactive things.

          • KrystiYAandWine September 14, 2017 at 10:04 pm

            Interesting. You would think an editor somewhere might mention something. IDK. I don’t really know anything about publishing.

            It’ll be a while still. My tour stop isn’t until mid-October.

            I LOVED the interactive things. I don’t understand why we couldn’t have both. But I also know nothing about running a website that large either. LOL.

            • Jackie B September 17, 2017 at 3:28 pm

              You think they would– but I also feel like classic Science Fiction isn’t really my jam. You’ll know what I mean when you see my review for I Robot I’ll be publishing soon… I bet the editor didn’t touch it because his writing sells so well and is geared for those sorts of readers.

              • KrystiYAandWine September 17, 2017 at 6:16 pm

                I’ve noticed that a lot lately actually. Sometimes the books coming out for really big authors don’t feel like they’ve had as much editing, and I do wonder if it’s because they know they’ll sell well and get a lot of great reviews regardless. Interesting…

  • Books, Vertigo and Tea September 4, 2017 at 6:19 pm

    I am harboring a strong love for this review and now an incredible interest in this book. I had not heard of the author or title until now?! Your description and comparison to the Matrix is awesome. I think you probably managed to paint the best understanding possible. I will have to pick this up to see.

    I am interested in knowing more about the graphic novel as well? Why they chose a different direction? This actually sounds like it could make an incredible GN series!

    My heart is full reading your reviews again <3

    • Jackie B September 5, 2017 at 5:54 pm

      Yay! I’m so glad. This was a new format for me, but I was so conflicted when I sat down to write it that this seemed like the best choice. I’m super happy it worked for you and I hope that you pick it up someday. I’d love to see what you think of it.

      Well. It was originally intended to be a “computer-generated graphic novel”. Based on his description, it sounded like either Pottermore or a proper graphic novel developed using computers. Unclear. But Stephenson and his graphic design buddy tried this long before the technology existed for it to be possible. So, they wrote it as a graphic novel, learned it wouldn’t work as they intended, and Stephenson just published the novel instead. That worked well for him! Snow Crash is the book which really laughed Stephenson’s career. But yes– I think this would be MUCH better as graphic novel.

      My heart is full seeing you around the blogs again. <3 <3 <3

      • Books, Vertigo and Tea September 5, 2017 at 8:34 pm

        Thanks Jackie! I have already added this one to my Amazon list I will make a point of ordering it soon so we can hopefully compare thoughts

  • Laila@BigReadingLife September 5, 2017 at 12:28 pm

    This sounds pretty crazy!

    A book I read in the past few months that left me similarly mixed-up was Ozeki’s A Tale For The Time Being. I am okay with mixed feelings – it’s better than absolutely hating something! 🙂

    • Jackie B September 5, 2017 at 5:48 pm

      A Tale for the Time Being didn’t polarize me as much as Snow Crash did, but I completely understand where you are coming from. Mixed feelings is actually one of my re-read triggers. Now I know one day I will certainly re-read Snow Crash. There is so much to still get out of it!

  • Grab the Lapels September 5, 2017 at 8:45 pm

    What was it that made you pick this book up? I guess I don’t automatically associate your reading tastes with sci-fi!

    • Jackie B September 6, 2017 at 5:52 pm

      One of my book clubs is a Science Fiction-Fantasy focused book club. I don’t often write/post reviews for my sci-fi reads for some reason. But recent posts have been for Sleeping Giants, Morning Star, and a great DNF (UGH) for The Fortress at the End of Time. So, I do read it– just not a ton.

      As far as why I don’t write reviews… I think I struggle more with understanding my thoughts and feelings on them. Right now I’m reading I, Robot for the book club. I am both filled with rage at how women are treated, but also forgiving since this book is obviously a product of it’s time. I’m in awe of Asimov’s thoughts and projections, but also really embarrassed at the complete lack of foresight. I can’t stand the flat, interchangable characters, but I appreciate the theory and philosophy which led to exploring these ideas…
      and this is more-or-less how I feel about all classic sci-fi. 😉

      • Grab the Lapels September 6, 2017 at 7:50 pm

        Your complex is show you are a more nuanced reader, which is good! You can break your reviews down into criteria and then have evidence that points different ways. This is creeping more into analysis than review, which I’m aware I do often myself.

        • Jackie B September 14, 2017 at 4:50 pm

          Hey, I adore your reviews (analyses?), so I’ll take that as a compliment! I just don’t think in that sort of broken down style, so it would take a lot of effort on my part to put it together– but I’ll definitely look into it. Expect more stalking of your blog as a result. 😀

  • theorangutanlibrarian September 8, 2017 at 8:11 am

    I love how you described this as being like watching the Matrix the first time! Hiro sounds amazing (reminds me of Hiro in Heroes). I adore the sound of the metaverse and have to say I can’t quite make sense of the real world here. Sounds like there’s a lot to like and dislike in this- great review!

    • Jackie B September 10, 2017 at 8:27 am

      Yeah– watching The Matrix for the first time I was both blown away and super confused. It wasn’t until the 2nd or 3rd watching that I think I really got it.

      There is definitely a lot going on! I hope to re-read this book someday and figure out how I REALLY feel about this. Have you ever been conflicted like this when reading?

      • theorangutanlibrarian September 10, 2017 at 4:12 pm

        hehehe yeah I get that!! The funny thing about watching the Matrix for the first time for me was that it was a challenge in primary school to watch it and then we’d all pretend we understood what had happened. I was about 10, of course I didn’t get it and I was mostly focused on not getting caught watching a 15 anyway.

        haha I’m sure I have!!

        • Jackie B September 10, 2017 at 4:59 pm

          Oh man. That makes me feel so old. I was in college when The Matrix came out… O_o

          • theorangutanlibrarian September 11, 2017 at 10:33 am

            hahaha well I didn’t mean to do that lol! Don’t worry you’re only as old as you feel!

  • Dani @ Perspective of a Writer September 11, 2017 at 4:20 pm

    LOVE THIS REVIEW… Jackie I totally understand how you felt reading in this format!! <3 Train wreck! lol… it does sound like a great graphic novel premise… I also WANT A LIBRARIAN! How cool is that?!

    • Jackie B September 11, 2017 at 5:34 pm

      Thank you! It’s just soooo hard to pick how I feel here! There are some other books I haven’t written reviews for yet which might benefit from this format. Maybe you’ll see more in the future? 😉

      Have you read Snow Crash before? Yes– I totally want a librarian. They would be AMAZING. I just want to talk through things with all the resources of the world at my fingertips. Typing gets in the way. 😉

      • Dani @ Perspective of a Writer September 12, 2017 at 12:29 am

        I totally have NOT read it but I felt like I did! I do really LOVE the review format… especially if you feel split on the book!

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