Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

The Deliverator belongs to an elite order, a hallowed subcategory.

– Opening sentence

Snow Crash was recommended to me by my boyfriend, after we both read and loved Ready Player One.

Published in 1992, Snow Crash is a highly complex novel, covering an array of themes including history, religion, linguists, computer science and philosophy. It wasn’t a particularly easy read in places, but the picture it paints in your mind is full of vivid character and energy.

Snow Crash is set in a not-too-distant-future of America, one where the no governing laws exist (because the government holds no more power) and the land is owned and ruled by franchises, corporations and the Mafia.

Technology has advanced, and the Metaverse has been created; a life-like online simulation where people can use avatars to escape from reality. Teenagers use if for partying and dates, businessman use it for long-distance meetings, and Hiro Protagonist (pun obviously intended) – freelance hacker and pizza delivery driver for the Mafia – uses it to showcase his sword fighting and computer hacking skills.

The Metaverse is designed to be as realistic as possible, but it is just a simulation. At worst, if you get into a fight and your avatar dies – you just get kicked off the system and have to log back in. But when one of Hiro’s notable hacker friends Da5id gets given a drug called Snow Crash, not only does his avatar malfunction – but in reality, Da5id winds up in the hospital with life-threatening seizures. Snow Crash is actually a virus – that can infect a user physically via a computer simulation – something that should be impossible.

Hiro, with the help of a spunky 15-year-old skateboard courier, Y.T, his intelligent (yet boring) ex-girlfriend Juanita, and Mafia boss Uncle Enzo – makes it his mission to unearth this drug/virus known as Snow Crash and stop it from infecting thousands of innocent people.

Why?

Erm… I’m not entirely sure. Because it’s bad to go around infecting people with a virus?

Snow Crash likens religion and language to a virus – a virus that  can be traced through history to our very origin. The Snow Crash drug is this old virus, resurfaced. And bad-guy L. Bob Rife (a nod to L. Ron Hubbard?) is using it to brainwash and control his workers – hackers who helped him create his fibre-optic global communications empire, which runs the Metaverse.

I think I got that right.

I’m not going to lie, it’s heavy reading – and I’m not entirely sure I understood all of it. The choppy chapter style didn’t help – jumping from person to person and plot to plot – there seemed to be a few loose ends and plot holes that never really got cleared up.

Like, what ever happened to Da5id? Why did Uncle Enzo like Y.T so much – just because she delivered a pizza on-time? Why did Juanita suddenly get back with Hiro – just because he read all the information in the library she gave him?

I think it’ll take a couple of re-reads for me to fill in some of the blanks.

In the acknowledgements, Stephenson admits that Snow Crash was originally supposed to be a graphic novel. With hints of The Matrix and Tron this totally makes sense, and it’s a shame it didn’t make it into that format.

However, it appears that Snow Crash is now coming to the big screen (of course). I can only imagine it will be like The Matrix meets The Da Vinci Code – which could be good or bad, depending on your preference.

I’d recommend Snow Crash to any lover of science-fiction, but be prepared for some heavy reading!

“Yeah, home seems about right.”

– Final sentence

3 Stars (3 / 5)

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