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,
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?