Cryptonomicon was the first book of Neal Stephenson’s that I ever read, and it got me started on a long road of fangirling. I was about ten years old. After that, I moved on to William Gibson’s Neuromancer, which really got me into the ‘cyberpunk’ genre. Shortly after that, I continued to raid my father’s collection of Stephenson books, and that is when I discovered Snow Crash.
Snow Crash is sort of like The Matrix meets Scott Pilgrim meets Neuromancer. It’s so much lighter, sillier, and amusing than Neuromancer, though. Diamond Age is pretty similar in terms of writing style.
Knowing that Stephenson writes all of his drafts by hand makes him an even more formidable writer when you take into account the amount of detail in his novels. The amount of research he did for all of his books is positively astounding. He also includes humorous tidbits, ranging from subtle to in-your-face funny. Stephenson, for example, named his main character Hiro Protagonist.
The near future is a libertarian paradise. The government intervention is pretty much non-existent; the law enforcement agencies are private and actively compete with one another. This is where Hiro Protagonist comes in. In the beginning of Snow Crash, Hiro almost failed to make a very important pizza delivery to the Mafia. Fortunately for him, a skateboard courier named Y.T. shows up to save him. Her super rad skateboard makes the famous (and ever-coveted) hover-board from Back to the Future look like a broken kid’s bike with sticky training wheels that refuse to turn.
This crazy beginning to the story drives the reader smack into a giant conspiracy. It just gets better. Sword-fights, virtual reality, mind-altering drugs, linguistics, religion, Shumer civilization, mutants, hit-men, atomic-powered Gatling handguns, hackers, and more – This novel has it all.
Snow Crash was written in 1992 and, since then, there have been a lot of books, movies, and television shows that have borrowed some aspect or another from it. All of them failed, however, to truly capture the lightheartedness of the narrative. This book just does not take itself seriously.
The only thing that really annoyed me was the fact that the book is written in present tense. I suppose I could overlook it if there was a reason, but I could not find one. Present tense comes across clumsy and awkward to me, but this may just be my own personal issue. It’s probably not a universal reaction, so I do not take off points for that.
Also, while the character development and progression was great, there wasn’t nearly enough of Raven. He ranks right under Hannibal Lector and the Assassin from Serenity. (Oh, god, the feels.) He is everything a good villain should be: Sexy, intelligent, tempting, and a formidable brute of a nuclear mutant who has a penchant for ripping people to pieces with glass knives. However, there was plenty of Y.T., the 15-year-old skater chick who saves the world. She is badass and a great role model. She was written with strong personality aspects, and was fun to read. Hiro was…okay. He could have used his Katana a bit more, in my opinion.
Regardless of this little issues, Snow Crash is the paradigmatic Neal Stephenson novel. It grabs the reader right away, thrusts you headlong into this crazy world like you’re going down the line of a Tequila Carshwash. You keep sliding along until you’re left startled, disoriented, and a buzzed when you land at a precipitous ending.
That may sound abrupt, but don’t let that fool you. It absolutely works. Snow Crash is probably (At least in my opinion), one of Stephenson’s most memorable works. It’s certainly a favorite of mine, and it’s definitely a lot of fun to read. Trust me on this – I’ve read it 13 times.
This book is definitely a 5 out of 5 star read!