Book: Snow Crash
Writer(s): Neal Stephenson
The mammoth Cryptonomicon inspired me to purchase all of Neal Stephenson's other books. I started with his earlier novel, Snow Crash, what seems to be a "typical" virtual reality about a new software "drug" that kills computer programmers. The plot doesn't know whether it wants to be an action story (swordfights and armed assaults and chases play roles) or a detective story (researching the who, what, when, why of the killing gets overly technical and wearisome), but the world Neal creates is fascinating. Not the virtual reality world: there's little innovation there (at least to me), but the real world. It's a futuristic mesh of Bladerunner, 1984, and Something Else. For instance, all governments have been privatized -- so much so that one bandit rides around with a nuclear bomb on his motorcycle (in effect he's his own country). This new world is divided by franchises -- everything is a franchise (including religions and jails) -- a hilarious extreme. The characters are wild and different: YT as the 15-year-old skateboarder is particularly entrancing. The plot? Well, it was interesting, but it takes so long to get there it really feels like the payoff isn't worth it. (It basically takes the absurd assumption that Asherah, the pagan god of the Hebrews, created a mental virus that scrambles a person's ability to comprehend language, and the release of that virus is what caused Babel. Snow Crash, as the drug in the novel is called, is a resurrection of this virus, spread in modern day via a Protestant minister as "speaking in tongues" and a computer virus which has the mind virus embedded into an image of computer screen "snow" -- ones and zeros -- which only computer programmers can understand. Neal takes a hundred pages to explain this in a much more believable manner, but it's still stilly and a bit offensive if you're a Protestant.) Overall, entertaining, but take it lightly -- it isn't as deep as it purports to be.