Sunday, October 21, 2007

White Out

Title: Snow Crash
Author: Neal Stephenson
Bookmark: Southwest boarding pass to San Diego

Hiro continues, whipping the sword around sideways, cutting the businessman’s body in half just above the navel. Then he leans down so he’s looking right in the businessman’s face. “Didn’t anyone tell you,” he says, losing the dialect, “that I was a hacker?”

Then he hacks the guy’s head off.

~ Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash

Yeah, that’s cool, even if it only takes place in cyberspace.

Snow Crash, written by Neal Stephenson, defies description. I should’ve written it up ages ago, because now I’ve forgotten many of the details. But the plot involves computer viruses, Sumerian myth, religious fundamentalism, and one giant man who throws a wicked spear and is wired with a nuclear bomb. The action takes place half in reality and half in a cyberspace world called the Metaverse. Neither is a particularly appetizing locale.

It’s always dark in the Metaverse. The buildings cluster around a single road encircling the cyberspace globe, illuminated with fluorescent lights like a hyperactive Strip. People entering the Metaverse take the form of different avatars. You can look like anything: yourself, a movie star, or even a giant walking penis.

The real world isn’t much brighter. Capitalism has run amok. Citizenship is bought from local franchises, and actual United States territory has shrunk to the size of a shopping mall. Corporations control everything, and their hired security forces make Blackwater guards look like prudent paragons of propriety.

Hiro Protagonist (yeah, he’s the good guy) is a pizza delivery boy – a Deliverator – for CosaNostra Pizza while in the real world. But in cyberspace, he’s a famed hacker and master sword fighter. One night, he’s cruising the Metaverse social scene when an unfamiliar avatar offers him a hit of something called “snow crash.” Hiro refuses, but his friend Da5id accepts. The result is that Da5id’s brain crashes, leaving him a drooling human vegetable in the real world. Snow crash operates like a virus, one that can be downloaded from a computer to the hacker mind.

Frankly, I didn’t understand much of the computer theory behind Snow Crash, but it was one hell of a ride. Hiro goes on a quest to determine the origin of the snow crash virus and to prevent it from decimating the world’s technocratic elite (i.e., hackers). Somehow, it all goes back to Babel and speaking in tongues. Odd, and Stephenson sometimes writes like a pedantic smart ass, but it’s definitely worth the read.

And ladies, here’s something interesting: three different guys approached me about Snow Crash while I was reading it on the train. That’s definitely more than my Jane Austen anthology usually ropes in. The book must be a dude magnet.

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posted by Elizabeth at 11:12 PM


Blogger reyn said...

Guys were flocking to you because the book is AWESOME. Easily one of my all-time favorites. FINALLY someone posted about it so I can talk Snow Crash with someone... except you've apparently forgotten all about it since then in an Austen-induced stupor.

10/24/2007 6:49 AM  
Blogger Kat said...

Yeah, this is popular with guys. I think Paul has told me about it twice now. I think he also told me that some of the story got to be a bit much. But for the most part he liked it.

You and Reyn can happily discuss this book in all its gruesome details. If, that is, you haven't forgotten it completely "in an Austen-induced stupor". Personally, I prefer the Austen-induced stupor. I just finished Northanger Abbey and will blog it soon. :)

10/24/2007 8:33 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

Well, I haven't forgotten all the of my favorite scenes was Raven's proposal of marriage to Y.T., after they spent some time in each others company during a walking tour of the dales. Raven's concerns about Y.T.'s propriety notwithstanding, it was a most eligible match, joining families, fortunes, and character in a harmonious union of perfect bliss.

And Uncle Enzo as the slightly foolish country rector -- silly, yet kind -- was definitely a highlight.

10/24/2007 8:22 PM  
Blogger reyn said...

And don't forget the elegant Victorian wedding complete with swan boats and a twelve-tiered cake in the lovely country village of FULLOFCRAP

10/25/2007 6:01 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

10/25/2007 6:43 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

No, no, no. On that point, reyn, you're definitely mistaken. It was a Regency, not a Victorian wedding!

10/25/2007 6:44 AM  

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