Snow Crash (3/5) – ★★★☆☆
By: Neal Stephenson
Length: 470 pages
Published: June 1992
Genre: Science Fiction, Cyberpunk, Dystopian
My book club has started a new initiative to read a book each month from a different sub-genre of Science Fiction or Fantasy. The theme for March was Cyberpunk and we all chose Snow Crash to read and discuss. The only other Cyberpunk book I am aware of having read is Ready Player One, so I was excited to learn more about this interesting off-shoot of Science Fiction.
A subgenre of science fiction in a future setting, noted for its focus on “high tech and low life” aspects of society. It features advanced technology and science, such as information technology and cybernetics, coupled with a degree of breakdown or radical change in the social order.
Cyberpunk plots often center on a conflict among artificial intelligences, and megacorporations, and tend to be set in a future Earth, rather than the far-future settings or galactic vistas found in novels such as Isaac Asimov’s Foundation or Frank Herbert’s Dune. The settings are usually post-industrial dystopias but tend to be marked by extraordinary cultural ferment and the use of technology in ways never anticipated by its creators (“the street finds its own uses for things”). Much of the genre’s atmosphere echoes film noir, and written works in the genre often use techniques from detective fiction. [Wikipedia]
Snow Crash is not the kind of book written for people looking for a quick escape into an alternate world. While I read a good portion of Snow Crash in bed before going to sleep at night, it is definitely not your typical nightly reading! (At least not if you’re me and prefer to read lighter books that may or may not influence part of your overly detailed dreaming)
The plot of Snow Crash is a lot more about the greater ideas of philosophy, technology and religion than it is about the adventure. As I worked my way through the story, I came to the conclusion that the characters and plot only serve as a vehicle to deliver Stephenson’s message. While I found a lot of the ideas interesting, it was hard to overlook the plot holes and flat characters. The story alternates between the “real” world and the virtual reality of Metaverse and I found myself disjointedly jarred between each setting. It is not always clear when the characters are in the physical or virtual world and the story only becomes more confusing when the characters find a way to operate in both simultaneously.
Snow Crash was written for philosophers and technocrats – thinkers who enjoy the underlying nuances of a book written to engage the mind far beyond the surface message of the plot. There are quite a few data dumps that take place through out the story that will thoroughly engage some readers while losing the rest of us. While Snow Crash is a well thought out book, it is written to appeal to a specific type of reader. If you like intellicetual adventures that explore the dystopian future and the consequences of human excess and the pseudo-historical consequences of early technology, this book is for you! I prefer to read stories that are character driven and focused on the traditional hero archetype, but I am glad I stepped out of my comfort zone to read Snow Crash!