Snow Crash

A review written by Jon Lebkowsky in 1992

by Plutopia News Network
Image of the book "Snow Crash."

I’ve been looking through various writings from decades ago, and I turned up this review of Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash. More info about the novel at Wikipedia:

At the core of Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash is the metaverse, a multiuser object-oriented graphical VR network where Hiro Protagonist hangs out. The metaverse has been compared with Gibson’s matrix, but it’s different in that it doesn’t require a neural interface, and it’s a virtual space that was specifically created for human interaction.

Stephenson has taken ‘cyberpunk’ closer to home, in that this environment is not terribly different from today’s conferencing systems or MOOs; what’s added is audio and graphics. It’s no accident that the interface is so close to today’s reality; the book grew in part from research into computer-human graphical interface, specifically Apple Macintosh guidelines.

Hiro is a world-class hacker and an intentional underachiever; at the beginning of the story he’s delivering pizzas for the mafia, a line of work that’s accelerated in this future where, true to the cyberpunk meme, the power is in the hands of corporate power junkies and the real villain is sleazeball preacher L. Bob Rife, originally from Odessa, Texas. Part Ross Perot, part Billy Graham, part J.R. Ewing, Rife is rich, self-made, and eager to rule the world by coopting the linguistic code that governs the perception of reality, essentially lobotomizing a small but growing army of third world expatriates using the nam-shub of Enki, source code for the ‘confusion of tongues’ at the Tower of Babel.

Rife is opposed by a strange coalition…the disaffected Hiro; his ex-girlfriend, the neurolinguistic hacker Juanita; skateboard kourier Y.T., a 15-year-old riot grrrl whose composure is never quite shaken; and Uncle Enzo’s old-school mafioso gang, not crooks, just businessmen, if ya know what I mean (“to live outside the law you must be honest”).

One other great character is the mercenary Raven. A giant Aleut with real attitude, meaner-than-Hell Raven is a source of surprises, especially in his response to Y.T.

Though slow at times, especially in building the historical perspective with references to obscure Biblical texts, Snow Crash is overall a hot summer read and a swell tutorial for techno-millenialists.

— Jon Lebkowsky

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