Friday, 8 June 2007

Snow Crash – A (Very Brief) Review

by Pritchard Buckminster

I have just finished re-reading an all time favourite of mine, Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash a book recommended to me by Edwin when I complained about the slightly unlikely juxtaposition of page after page of complex equations and Nazis in some of Stephenson’s other works.

Snow Crash is a wonderfully schizophrenic book, careering wildly between hardcore technology based sci-fi, surrealist humour and Sumerian mythology. That Stephenson manages to tie such disparate elements together in to such a cohesive and entertaining story speaks of a rare mind, and probably not a person you would want to be stuck in a lift with.

Snow Crash follows the adventure of Samurai pizza deliveryman ‘Hiro Protagonist’ (Freelance hacker, Greatest swordsman in the World) as he finds himself in debt to the mafia (who are now a huge multi-national corporation due to the abolition of all laws), on the run from a crazed glass knife wielding homicidal Aleut (think the harpoonist from Moby Dick) and trying to solve a incredibly complex problem involving magic, VR and a real world drug all at once. Now I’m sorry but if all that doesn’t get your fingers tingling in anticipation then…well it should, that’s all I’m saying.

While this book is sometimes a slightly chaotic mix of styles, it’s main characters, Hiro, Y T and Uncle Enzo the Mafia Don to name just a few, carry it past these clashes beautifully. Neal Stephenson is obviously an ideas man and this shows in his rendering of the virtual world and how it might have existed in a pseudo-biological form thousands of years before. His backup explanations concerning Babel and Sumerian legend are possibly the only flaw in the book, like the aforementioned equations in The Cryptonomicon the extent of the historical data seems excessive, particularly as it is deployed as by a dry academic in the form of a librarian construct. However as he draws all the elements together I defy anyone not to gasp in wonder at the magnitude of the under-pinning idea.

If you like action, sci-fi, silliness, grandiose ideas or just an interesting well crafted tale, the like of which you probably will never have read before, then I heartily recommend this book.

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2 comments:

Charles Pooter said...

I like the skateboard and motorbike with "smart wheels" that can glide over rough serfaces.

Edwin Hesselthwite said...

Hmm, Just to pass the buck on this one. This book was recommended to me by Charles. So we have an on-site bookpassing tree going on here.

I love it, but have to admit I love The Baroque Cycle and The Cryptonomicon far more. This is very much a cyberpunk novel, and you can see very clearly that it was originally intended as a graphic novel from the style he chooses to use. This just makes the whole thing more exciting and immediate, but where Stephenson really takes flight for me is the "hurt your brain then swashbuckling" of Crypto and Baroque.

Great review tho. May he write a hundred such novels (that man writes way too slow for my appreciation).