Hiro Protagonist, a sword-wielding hacker, and Y.T., a 15-year-old skateboarding courier, struggle to stop the spread of Snow Crash, a digitally and visually transmitted…ancient herpes…from space.
This book is a staple in geek culture. People just love it, and in a way I can see why. The technology described in Snow Crash was way ahead of its time. It was published before the first graphical web browser was even invented and managed to describe what would eventually become Google Earth. It also features an internationally networked virtual environment accessed through the use of a headset, a trope that is still very prevalent in modern science-fiction (such as Caprica and Ready Player One), and something we’ll likely have in a decade or two. Stephenson apparently also popularized the term ‘avatar’ in this book. It’s impressively forward-looking.
But OH MY GOD EXPOSITION IN MY FACE. I’ve never read this much info-dumping in my life. This puts Dan Brown to shame. At least he only takes a couple of pages to explain something. If you need a third of a book of pure exposition to explain the main conflict, it’s maybe a sign that it’s a bit too convoluted.
I did enjoy some of his writing style, though. Combined with Jonathon Davis’ narration, it moved along brilliantly at times. The opening scene is one of my favourite opening scenes this year. The reader doesn’t know what’s happening at first, but gradually pieces it together throughout the first chapter. It’s hilariously absurd and fast-paced, but still manages to do a great job of introducing the world.
Unfortunately, the rest of the book doesn’t live up to that opening scene. It’s peppered throughout with some fun moments, but as a whole the plot is a bit of a mess and everything to do with the virus is handled so clumsily that it comes off as silly.
Snow Crash has a lot of problems, but overall I still found it entertaining. I’m tempted to read some of Neal Stephenson’s later work, with the hope that his story-telling has gotten better over the years. I’m certainly interested in what his vision of our future might be these days.