Snow Crash: My Book Report (by Megan M.)

by Megan M. on January 9, 2009 · View Comments (Blog) |

Snow CrashPeople have been badgering me to read Snow Crash forever. I finally ordered a (really nice, big paperback) copy and finished it last week. It’s a great book. It’s the thrill of Transmetropolitan minus the awesome twisted illustration work but plus a lot more depth and detail of story. And… well, Neal’s head is just chock-full of bizarre. And long, winding trails of truth.

When I was twelve I daydreamed about unicorns and dragons and being able to fly. (Yes. I was that kid.) It was these twelve-year-old visions that later inspired me to ride the glass elevators at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta up and down and up and down, pressed forward into the curve of the window with my hands behind my back, relishing the unnerving sensation of rising (or falling) through the air. But these days I have other fantasies. Rather a lot of them seem to center around information accessibility. (Now that feels weird to say.)

It’s just that information is this amazing thing. You can learn with it. Or teach. You can make things happen. You can grow and change—yourself, or your monkeysphere, or the rest of the world. Information is at the root of so many things that make me fundamentally happy.

And so the thing that gives me shivers in this book is how easy it is to get information—if you have the right resources. Tons, tons of information. In this (unnervingly realistic) dystopia squillions of bytes can be exchanged in an instant, and anything can be rendered (if you have enough cash or talent). When I come back to reality to fiddle with the speed of my modem or hook up an ethernet to get my promised 22 kbps, it utterly fails to stack up. (I wonder if a newer Airport would give me closer to 22? I’m only getting 4 over the wireless.)

Tiny nifty thing: Neal referred to net video enthusiasts as “punters”—and Westerfield’s Extras referred to them, similarly, as “kickers”. Neat overlap.

Other notes: If you’re fascinated by ancient societies and religions, you’ll have lucked out here. Also, there’s a great sex scene. (And it’s not just the sex that makes it brilliant.) There are several places in Snow Crash where I nearly died, I laughed so hard. Fairly subtle example: “As Hiro crests the pass on his motorcycle at five in the morning, the town of Port Sherman, Oregon, is suddenly laid out before him: a flash of yellow loglo wrapped into a vast U-shaped valley that was ground out of the rock, a long time ago, by a big tongue of ice in an epochal period of geological cunnilingus.”

If that doesn’t get you to read it, I’m out of tricks!

A friend suggested that this isn’t even the best of Stephenson’s books. I’m having trouble imagining such a scenario, so I’d better get my hands on a few more and expand my horizons.

Man, am I glad I read that book. What a great trip.

  • Trish Lambert
    I read Diamond Age and loved loved loved it. Stephenson's meshing of history and sci fi future, along with the genius plot kept me riveted.

    After that, tried to read Snow Crash and couldn't get into it, don't know why. Later, I got halfway through Quicksilver and loved it...but couldn't get into the second half after the storyline shifts.

    No question--the man is a terrific writer.
  • Michael Vanderdonk
    I love Snow Crash for many reasons.

    I love Diamond Age even better. You will too - it's got princesses, Victorian costumes and more!
  • CoCreatr
    re: download speed, what are you testing it with? Every now and then I use to make sure we get what we pay for. Two 2 years ago with a copper DSL rated 12 Mbps (megabit per second), about 1/2 mile from the next station we got through about 8 Mbps, at most, that is about 800 kBps (kilobytes per second).

    These days, with fiber to the home I recently installed a WiFi access point rated 54 Mbps and get through about 22 Mbps. More details at the link above.
  • livingartist
    I love Snow Crash.

    My favorite Stephenson, though, is Cryptonomicon. It's even geekier and funnier than Snow Crash, if you can believe it. And The Diamond Age is just sweet.

    I had a lot of trouble with the Baroque Cycle. It's incredibly dense, and does to economics what Snow Crash does with virtual reality and linguistics - and I just don't grok economics.

    I've heard good things about his newest, Anathem, but haven't read it yet.
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