392 of 448 people found the following review helpful
4 1/2 stars, really
, April 29, 2001
This review is from: Snow Crash (Paperback)
I came to _Snow Crash_ on the recommendation of a few people who had read it (they called it "great!" and "hilarious!," and knowing that Neal Stephenson is sometimes listed as a "cyberpunk" writer along with William Gibson et al.
I had liked William Gibson's books, so I gave _Snow Crash_ a try.
_Snow Crash_ is primarily about Hiro, a young man who delivers pizzas and collects information for the Central Intelligence Corporation (freelance), for a living. He lives in a storage unit with a cult-hero rockstar named Vitaly Chernobyl. He owns a futon, two awesome Japanese swords, and a laptop computer, where he stays "jacked in" to the "Metaverse" a lot of the time, where he is the world's greatest swordfighter.
Hiro witnesses a crime while interacting with others in the Metaverse. One of his friends is deliberately exposed to a dangerous block of text, which fries his brain (in the real world), and renders him a vegetable. Hiro and his friend Y.T. (15-year old skateboarding female, and knee-slappingly funny smartaleck) set off to find out why, and save the world in the process.
From the getgo this is a funny book. Sure, the vision of the near-future is dark, a little alarming, and at times depressing (there are NO general laws in _Snow Crash_, for example, and private corporations run everything, even the police, just as an example). That's what cyberpunk is like. But the HUMOR is one thing that sets Neal Stephenson aside. Hiro Protagonist? Come on, that's FUNNY, PEOPLE! One reviewer called it an 'odd' name. Yes, it's odd, and it's absurd, and it's funny! Did this author mean it is an unusual choice for a character name? I don't know. I hope not. It would be an odd choice for a character's name in a Jane Austen novel, sure. But this is cyberpunk, or something like it. Among this genre's leading inspirations are the works of Thomas Pynchon, and "Hiro Protagonist," as a character name, would fit in perfectly among his merry bands of misfits, especially in _V._ or _Gravity's Rainbow_.
Repeatedly reviewers are slamming Stephenson for his use of Sumerian myth, exploration of Sumerian culture, etc. in the book... calling it inaccurate, poorly connected to the rest of the story, and, (my personal least favorite), BORING. I tell you, besides the great sense of humor, the Sumerian-myth link is what sets this novel heads above so much other cyberpunk. I don't care if it's inaccurate (this is FICTION, see?). Stephenson "traces" computer/textual viruses and biological viruses quite nicely back to Sumerian times, and he links them to one another, biological virus to digital/informational virus (a debt to another pre-cyberpunk luminary, William Burroughs, who said "Word is Virus?")-- it's all very well connected to the metaverse/here-and-now portion of _Snow Crash_'s plot.
This is a funny, riproaring tale. I raced through this nearly 500-page paperback in half the time I read most books of this length. I enjoyed it beginning-to-end. My only complaint with the book was that, at times, it too much resembled a Hollywood action movie, what with all sorts of incredible stunts being performed, by boat drivers, skateboarders, swordsmen, etc.
I say, if you like William Gibson or Thomas Pynchon, or if any of this review makes _Snow Crash_ seem a bit appealing to you, give it a chance. I enjoyed it 10 times as much as I thought I would.
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