Sunday, 25 January 2009

Snow Crash

While I love William Gibson's cyberpunk stories (well, all of his novels in fact, whether or not one would call them cyberpunk explicitly) it was really refreshing to read something a bit different in a cyberpunk novel as in Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. While Gibson's novels are always interesting and entertaining, I often feel like there is something in the way that he writes that separates the reader from the novel, from the story. I don't quite know how to put it, but if you have read any of his more recent works I hope that you know what I'm talking about.

Snow Crash is a thrilling, interesting, engaging and thought-provoking novel; the main character, the smartly named Hiro Protagonist, is a world class hacker, master swordsman and one never doubts for a second that he could be both of these two things together as incredible a combination as that might be. The world that he lives in shows a fractured future America, splintered into separate corporate entities and states; hyperinflation has people paying with quadrillion dollar bills, the police and emergency services are gone - people have to rely on private companies - and a pizza delivery guy not showing up within thirty minutes is prime time newsworthy.

As is the appearance of "Snow Crash" a strange new drug that can be administered both intravenously and through viewing files online (in the Metaverse, considering that the novel was written over fifteen years ago he got some of the internet developments spot on). The whys and wherefores of what the drug is form some of the really interesting moments in the novel, with chapter after chapter going in to discussions of Mesopotamian deities and neurolinguistic hacking - without being overly intellectual or distracting to the plot. The action is spot on as well, exhilirating sequences in the real and digital worlds, and plenty of genuine "how are they going to get out of this?" moments.

I've not read any Neal Stephenson before, although I have had a friend recommend his Baroque Cycle quite a few times now. I think that once I get a chance I might give it a go; you should go and give Snow Crash a read if you have any interest in science fiction. And even if you don't.

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