Monday, June 11, 2012

Snow Crash



by Neal Stephenson (1992) .

Snow Crash is a book of superbly written and unprecedented cyberpunkian-near future tech-geek set action pieces book-ended, often akwardly, by juvenile linguistic theory intertwined with Sumerian mythology and history, and various descriptions of the Raft, a floating slum-refugee-city in the Pacific Ocean powered by a private-owned nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.  Also included is a vision of a franchised corporate America of sometimes-former criminal organizations, heavily dependent, like the main characters Hiro Protaganist and Y.T., on jokey tongue-in-cheek humor and/or names (the mafia now runs a national pizza chain, etc etc).

The opening chapters are adequate and things get somewhat interesting with the introduction of a computer virus called Snow Crash and Hiro's subsequent investigation of the same, which leads him to Sumerian mythology and linguistics. However, the book hits its first big speedbump right there, as the Sumerian diatribe ambles for too long. I'm a fast reader but I found this shit repetitious and boring. I plowed on and the plot moved, or at least the locations changed. The ultimate purpose of the Snow Crash virus is revealed to be pathetically boring (crazy rich guy wants to rule world). The virus is defeated by Hiro writing a program. Full stop.

There's some tech/gear-porn stuff to look at while on your way this book of let-downs - a super-motorcycle, a super-gun, a super-hoverboard thing. Oh, and in case you didn't catch it the first time around, you can read the whole Sumerian thing a second time when Hiro has this big pow-wow with Uncle Enzo and some other people and explains it to them. There's an awful section where YT makes a delivery that's an ambush by federal agents which basically solely exists so you can read the exciting action set-piece of her escape. You could tear that whole chapter out of the book and not miss a beat.

And speaking of set-pieces, the best one's at the end but features a character you don't even meet until the last 100 pages or so (Uncle Enzo, who owns aforementioned pizza chain), who kills Raven (super-eskimo who can throw super-harpoons, has a nuclear warhead attached to motorcycle) on an airport tarmac.

The whole thing feels like a series of essays and excerpts strung together (poorly), all the while oozing gear- and tech-porn coolness. Hiro is cool - he's the best hacker in the world and plays with samurai swords and lives in a storage unit. Y.T. is cool - she's a teenage smart-skateboard courier. The world is cool - its all ironic juxaposition of crass commericalism and collapse of functioning civil government. Cool cool cool but I don't give a shit. Hiro and Y.T and Raven are action figures battling it out on the world's coolest playset. When they talk I want them to shut up, and the rest is like watching some other kid play with his toys - boring and no fun at all. The worst book I have had the pleasure of finishing.

-d.d.

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1 Comments + Unabashed Criticism:

Blogger d.d. tinzeroes said...

Like many, my introduction to Neal Stephenson was 1999's Cryptonomicon, a book, which, to my then fresh-out-of-college reading-fiction-for-leisure eyes, was quite possibly the Best Book Ever Written. I was enthuastic enough to follow it up by reading 1995's Diamond Age, and read a surprisingly large portion of In the Beginning Was the Command Line (1999) online, but never got around to anything else by Stephenson, becoming diverted, as I recall, by my introduction to John Shirley's novels via City Come A'Walking. This remained the state of affairs until 2003, when Stephenson's Baroque-cycle started rolling out. I somehow finished Quicksilver (2003), although, in a bit of things to come, I skipped/skimmed perhaps 100 pages or so towards the end (Eliza's letters) because they were boring. I started reading The Confusion (2004), and actually just walked away from it entirely after about 100-150 pages or so. A year or two later someone gave me a copy of Snow Crash, which I started (maybe 25 pages) then got distracted

12:24 PM  

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