Friday, 16 November 2012

Snow Crash - Neal Stephenson



Title: Snow Crash
Author: Neal Stephenson
Genre: Sci-Fi
Published: 1992
Formats: Hardback/Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
The Book Depository
Kobo
Amazon UK

Reading “Snow Crash” by Neal Stephenson was my first ever venture into the Science-Fiction sub-genre of Cyberpunk. I actually read it as part of the Sci-Fi Reader Challenge which has already helped introduce me to other types of Science Fiction novel. What I found was a book full of cyber-noir locations, eccentric but rather stereotypical personalities and a complex, roller coaster ride of a plot that brings together elements of science, technology and religious thought.

The story itself revolves around two main characters, a hacker known as Hiro Protagonist and a 15 year old skateboarding courier known as Y.T. The novel initially focuses on the accidental meeting between Hiro and Y.T. and uses this to highlight the dystopian United States, where everything has been privatised and communities are organised into their various franchised mini nations. However, the plot line soon develops into a mad cap and rather comic adventure as Hiro and Y.T. get pulled into fighting against a group conspiring to control humanity though a virus in both the real world and cyber world.

The first few chapters in the story really are quite superb, as they take the reader on an action packed, high octane narrative of a Pizza Deliverator who must deliver the pizza on time or he faces unknown punishment from the company that he works for which is owned by the Mafia. Stephenson did a great job with this early section of the novel as the quick pace and enjoyable thrills ensured that I was hooked right from the beginning.

Of course the pace doesn't stay that fast for ever but the plot itself continues to provide many enjoyable and varied elements that have probably helped to give the novel such a high place in geek culture. There are TRON style motorcycle races, sword-fights, supersonic attack dogs, nuclear powered Gatling guns and a rather intriguing if rather dry look at Sumerian myths and ancient viruses that help to create a fun and enjoyable read. The only issue that this vast menagerie of differing plot points is that it turns the book into a rather complicated and messy affair that is not easy to follow. However, due to the fact it was both entertaining and fascinating I was willing to put in the work so that I could understand it all.

Whilst the plot is quite original, the characters themselves seemed rather unimaginative. Yes, Hiro is quite likeable but there is very little development to his character and I felt that he was mainly used as both a way to infodump Sumerian history to the reader. Y.T. seemed a little bit more developed and I found myself being amused by her spunky attitude. However, at times I kept thinking that she just came across a rather stereotypical view of what many young teenage computer literate boys would fantasize over.

However, my biggest issue with the story was the ending; it was over rather suddenly and didn’t provide any real closure to the characters journey. I had thoroughly been enjoying the adventure so it was a bit disappointing to end the story thinking “Oh, is that it?” It would have nice to understand more about what happened to everyone after the various incidents that formed the finale to the novel.

Overall, I found this to be a really enjoyable foray into the cyberpunk genre and I am sure I will now sample other similar books. I am not sure how much someone who isn’t interested in the cyber world would get out of reading this book but it should be thoroughly entertaining for my fellow computer geeks, especially those who were around in the 90’s when virtual worlds and the internet really began their rapid growth.

Challenges Book Counts Towards:
Speculative Fiction Challenge
Sci-Fi Reader Challenge