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Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson (1992)

  1. 222
    Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson (moonstormer)
  2. 140
    Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (davesmind, jbgryphon, Anonymous user)
    davesmind: Although Snow Crash is a classic of cyberpunk, I think Ready Player One has a more captivating story - especially if you played video games in the 80's
    jbgryphon: RPO's OASIS owes it's existence as much to Neil Stephenson's Metaverse as to the miriad of geek universes that are included in it.
  3. 90
    Neuromancer by William Gibson (thebookpile)
  4. 50
    Count Zero by William Gibson (thebookpile)
  5. 61
    Little Brother by Cory Doctorow (JFDR)
  6. 40
    Halting State by Charles Stross (infiniteletters)
  7. 41
    Daemon by Daniel Suarez (thehoodedone)
  8. 30
    The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson (atrautz)
  9. 20
    The Star Fraction by Ken MacLeod (Noisy)
    Noisy: Anarchy viewed from both sides of the fence. 'Snow Crash' offers the capitalist view and 'The Star Fraction' offers the socialist counterpart.
  10. 20
    Omnitopia Dawn: Omnitopia #1 by Diane Duane (pammab)
    pammab: To explore the possibilities of virtual reality in the near future. Duane's is much more traditional and pro-corporate fantasy; Stephenson's is more humor-based anti-corporate cyberpunk.
  11. 10
    The Stone Canal by Ken MacLeod (bsackerman)
  12. 00
    Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick (ecureuil)
  13. 22
    Virtual Light by William Gibson (Moehrendorf)
  14. 11
    City of Golden Shadow by Tad Williams (romula)
  15. 11
    This Gaming Life: Travels in Three Cities by Jim Rossignol (infiniteletters)
  16. 00
    Trouble and Her Friends by Melissa Scott (vwinsloe)
    vwinsloe: Cyberpunk
  17. 26
    The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon (Torikton)
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Showing 1-5 of 246 (next | show all)
Review Originally Posted At: FictionForesight

Let’s start off easy…Snow Crash is full of awesome concepts: Badass mixed-race sword fighter and hacker Hiro Protagonist? Check. Plucky sidekick girl who skateboards for a living? Check. An ominous antagonist who carries a nuke in the sidecar of his motorcycle? Uh – CHECK. The future US is ran not by the government but by franchises and corporate mafias? Obviously. Fast-paced action inside a shared computer universe called the Metaverse? Yes please. A mysterious computer virus incapacitating the top hackers around the world? You know it.

Stephenson’s third full-length novel brought him to the forefront of science fiction, and it’s easy to see why. In Snow Crash, he showed an uncanny ability to extrapolate actual technologies into very robust, believable, real-world applications. The Metaverse is an interconnected virtual social space, which we see an echo of in today’s social media and MMO gaming. Stephenson also popularized the use of the word “avatar” to describe a virtual body or character. In addition, we see several technologies in the novel that are still coming into popular usage – the skateboarders use something eerily similar to the “Hovding Cyclist Airbag”. Our main character acquires a digital library and a program that is basically Google Earth. And the Snow Crash virus – our main plot point – is, in its most basic form, an internet meme.

The ugly side of all these fantastic things is that there hardly seems room in the book for anything else. Snow Crash is so jam-packed full of amazing ideas that the universe feels somehow incomplete, the characters are two-dimensional at best, and the ending – whew, don’t even get me started. We’ll come back to that in a bit.

The story takes place in a future United States, where the government has become irrelevant and the country marches to the beat of a type of “anarcho-capitalism.” People live in suburban enclaves, run by franchises such as “Mr. Lee’s Greater Hong Kong,” and the American Mafia, who now makes a large profit from delivering pizza. The Los Angeles highways are still lined with lights, but they are patrolled by a private security with easily greased palms, and unless you are sponsored by one of the big businesses you have to fend for yourself.

Life outside the sovereignty of these megacorps is the niche that our protagonists occupy – living in storage containers, hosting underground rock shows, collecting information to sell to any interested parties. Hiro’s life in L.A. is gritty, bright, and feels a little dangerous. However, when he follows the Snow Crash trail to a massive floating raft-city off the coast of Oregon, we suddenly lose all sense of place. It’s understandable that Stephenson doesn't want to bog down the narrative, especially just before the height of the action; but there’s so much he fails to mention that would give our story a setting inside a larger, complete universe. The West Coast doesn't just exist in a cell. I grew up there, and they’d like to think that the rest of the country doesn't exist, but that’s just not true. So where is it? For that matter, how does the rest of the world react to the way Mr. Lee and the Mafiosos are running the U.S.? Couldn't tell you. As it stands, the novel provides just enough explanation to get away with it, but we still feel like our characters are just moving through a space without their feet hitting the ground.

Ah, yes, the characters. Like much of the rest of this work, they sound awesome in concept. But when it comes to creating a fully formed, three-dimensional human being, Stephenson falls short. Hiro Protagonist has little to no back-story, and his motivations for pursuing information regarding the Snow Crash virus are about as imaginative as his name. He wants to sell information about it. Oh, I guess his friend and ex-girlfriend get swept up in the plot and I think maybe Hiro goes to save them, but I don’t remember him seeming to care too much about them. The girl, Y.T., has a mother that the government captured to provide “motivation” for her, but midway through the book she gets swept up in a pointless “romance” with our nuke-toting bad guy, and becomes another damsel for Hiro to rescue. Said bad guy seems to have no real reason to be working for the evil masterminds behind the virus, other than the fact that America wronged his ancestors and his family’s lands, so…obviously America has to go. In theory, these characters have complete back-stories and complex reasons for doing the things they do, but Stephenson fails to deliver – I believe again out of the fear of getting in the way of the story (and the science behind it) itself. So instead of characters we have cardboard cutouts that move through this world simply to get us to the end of the book.

And so, we arrive at the ending. Once we've revealed who is behind Snow Crash and why it is proving so dangerous to hackers around the world, we get to have a happy ending, right? Not particularly. Everyone who can be saved is saved, there’s a sort-of shootout where early benefactors come into play again – and then everyone just goes home. Hiro and Y.T. both remain exactly the same as they have been throughout the story, no learning, or character growth, or any sense of forward progression in their lives. Snow Crash happened to them, and now they presumably just go back to things as they were before. It’s like if the Lord of the Rings had ended with Frodo throwing the ring into the mountain and then just going home. Problem solved, right? Who cares what happened at Minas Tirith?

For all its many shortcomings, Snow Crash is still a novel with a clear vision and where it does excel, it shines. The science behind the Snow Crash virus is interesting and well-researched, and the tech in the world is so well thought out that even 23 years later, it is still relevant and hardly shows its age. However, the novel as whole reads like it was written by a twenty-something grad student who had a bunch of “wouldn't it be cool if…” ideas and then threw them together into something resembling a story. I think Stephenson had yet to come into his style with this book, so I look forward to reading some of his later works, like Cryptonomicon and Anathem. In my opinion, Snow Crash might be slightly overrated, but has reached a wide audience and has clearly influence today’s technology – I’d say it’s worth your time.

Fun fact: Joe Cornish, director of 2011 feature film Attack the Block, has been signed on by Paramount Studios to write and direct a film adaptation of Snow Crash. Stephenson has warned fans that there’s no guarantee the film will ever be made.

(www.FictionForesight.com) ( )
  FictionForesight | Apr 26, 2016 |
Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash is science fiction at its best. The tale follows the adventures of teen skateboard courier Y.T. (Yours Truly) and pizza deliveryman Hiro Protagonist, who coincidentally, bills himself as the world's finest swordsman. Working together they discover someone is attempting to loose a deadly computer virus that might bring about the destruction of humankind as we know it.

This one has it all. Suitcase nukes, a sociopathic killer who specializes in killing with weapons of plate glass, a nuclear submarine, the Mafia, Japanese rappers, Biblical references and a virtual world (very much like Second Life and other mmorpgs) called the Metaverse.

But don't take my word for it. Check out this nifty book trailer featuring Legos and the voicework of high school English students.

http://youtube.googleapis.com/v/rBilcEhMktY&fs=1&source=uds ( )
  Steve_Coate | Apr 2, 2016 |
Wow. ( )
  ndpmcIntosh | Mar 21, 2016 |
This is a weird book. I will talk about it later. My brain is still full of weird. ( )
  thebookmagpie | Mar 13, 2016 |
At the end of The Subtle Knife, Marisa Coulter kidnapped her daughter, Lyra. She has now relocated her to a remote cave to hide her from the Magisterium, who are determined to kill Lyra before she yields to original sin. In order to keep her hidden, Marisa forces Lyra to drink drugged tea. While passed out, Lyra dreams that she is in a wasteland (later realized as the land of the dead) talking to her deceased friend Roger Parslow, whom she promises to help.

In Cittàgazze, two angels, Balthamos and Baruch, tell Will, the bearer of the Subtle Knife, that they are taking him to Lord Asriel. Will refuses to go until Lyra is rescued, to which the two assent. However, they are attacked by a soldier of the archangel Metatron, and Will uses the knife to cut a window into another world to escape. Baruch flies to Lord Asriel to tell him what has happened and to get help.

Lord Asriel sends a small army to Lyra's cave to counteract the zeppelins from the Consistorial Court. He also sends two Gallivespian spies, the Chevalier Tialys and the Lady Salmakia, to protect Lyra. Gallivespians resemble humans, but are approximately four inches tall.

Meanwhile, an assassin is dispatched from the Magisterium, as they have determined that Dr. Mary Malone is the "Tempter" (see Fall of Man). Mary, whom has stepped through a window from her own world (assumed to be the readers' world/Will's world) into Cittàgazze, eventually enters another window into a stranger world. There she meets elephantine creatures who call themselves mulefa and use large seedpods attached to their feet as wheels. These creatures have a complex culture, intricate language, and an infectious laugh. Although from completely different worlds, Mary and the Mulefa establish a rapport which results in Mary's acceptance into Mulefa community, where she learns that the trees from which the seedpods are gathered have gradually been going extinct for about 300 years. Mary uses the tree sap lacquer and accidentally constructs a telescope (the 'amber spyglass' of the title) that allows her to see the elementary particles known as Dust. Dust adheres to all life-forms that have attained a level of intelligence associated with building civilizations. She sees that Dust is flying away in large streams rather than falling on and nourishing the trees on which the mulefa mutually depend.

In his quest to rescue Lyra, Will meets Iorek Byrnison, the bear king of the armoured Panserbjørne, who are migrating south to avoid the Arctic melt caused by the effects of Lord Asriel's bridge (created at the end of Northern Lights). After challenging the bear to single combat to stop a raid on a nearby village, Will demonstrates the Knife on Iorek's armor; Iorek, seeing his helmet reduced to slivers in moments, accepts defeat. Iorek agrees to help rescue his beloved Lyra. Here, global warming is associated with similar disasters taking place throughout many worlds as a result of the upheavals regarding Dust.

Three forces — Will, Iorek, and Balthamos; Lord Asriel's army; and the army of the Magisterium — converge on Mrs. Coulter's cave, where Will is able to wake Lyra. He is cutting a window into another world when Mrs. Coulter turns and looks directly at him. For a moment, Will is reminded of his own mother; as a result, his concentration falters, and the knife shatters, having been unable to sever his affection. Because the window he has cut is open, Will, Lyra, and the Gallivespian spies manage to escape to another world.

Although reluctant, Iorek Byrnison repairs the Subtle Knife. Because Lyra promised Roger that she would help him, Will, Lyra, Tialys, and Salmakia travel and enter the world of the dead. They are forced to leave their dæmons behind, which is painful and akin to death. Although Will, Salmakia, and Tialys do not have corporal dæmons like Lyra, they possess something similar. Their entry into the world of the dead reflects Greek mythology when an aged boatman (not named in the novel, but presumably representing Charon) ferries souls across a river to a dark, joyless realm where the many worlds' dead are tormented by harpies. Lyra finds Roger's ghost among the other ghosts. Will, Lyra, and the Gallivespians decide to free all the ghosts, and strike a deal with the harpies; with their help, they travel to the highest land point where Will cuts a door into another world. The ghosts step through and dissolve: they are freed and their atoms reunite with nature, their daemons' atoms, and the world.

Lord Asriel's forces capture Mrs. Coulter, but she escapes and flies off to warn the Consistorial Court. The Consistorial Court of Discipline arrests Mrs. Coulter; therefore, she allies herself with Asriel. She is also realizing the strength and depth of a mother's love for her child. Lord Asriel and Marisa talk, revealing that Asriel believes "sin" is simply enjoying life, which would be quelled by the Magisterium's desire for purity. Asriel has formed an army from all the worlds to conquer the Authority, who is the first angel created and thinks himself as god of the multiverse, and represents, in Asriel's mind, all the oppression that the Magisterium has caused.

The final battle begins. Will and Lyra must return to this realm (Asriel's) to retrieve their daemons. John Parry/Stanislaus Grumman/Will's father and Lee Scoresby go with them; instead of dissolving with the other ghosts, they and other ghosts decide to temporarily remain intact in order to join Lord Asriel's army to fight the Spectres, wraith-like creatures that devour adult souls in various worlds.

Mrs. Coulter enters the Clouded Mountain, citadel of the Authority, where she meets Regent Metatron. She offers to betray Asriel, letting Metatron think he will be able to kill him and get Lyra; but her ultimate hope is that he will destroy himself in the process. When she leads Metatron to Asriel, Mrs. Coulter is able to confess her scheme to him, and they unite to save Lyra and attack Metatron. All three fall into an Abyss and cease to exist. Ironically, the Authority dies of his own frailty when Will and Lyra unknowingly free him from the crystal prison where Metatron trapped him.

Lyra and Will, with the help of Gallivespians, Iorek's bear army, and the ghosts, find their daemons and escape the battle, entering into the mulefa world. Here they encounter Mary, whom Lyra had met earlier in Will's world. They all exchange stories of what has happened, and Mary's story of why she decided not to be a nun anymore plants a seed in Lyra's mind. One day, while Will and Lyra are picnicking in the wood near their camp, they share their first kiss and admit their true love. The flow of Dust escaping is considerably slowed, and the new couple is enveloped in it. However, both the witch, Serafina Pekkala, and the female angel, Xaphania, pay them visits, each revealing news they do not want to hear. To their dismay, Xaphania reveals that all the openings between worlds - with the sole exception of the one leading out of the world of the dead to that of the mulefa's - must be closed because each opening allows Dust to escape into oblivion, and each creation of a new opening generates a new Specter. Lyra and Will must return to their own home worlds, as they are unable to survive more than ten years in any world but their own. The two protagonists make an emotional farewell, promising to come each year to a place in each world that corresponds to one in the other, to be together in this way.

Lyra returns to Jordan College. Having suddenly lost the subconscious grace that enabled her to read the alethiometer by instinct, she decides to study alethiometry at a special school. Hereinafter, she and dæmon Pantalaimon (who has taken the permanent form of a pine marten) will follow John Parry's (and Will's) suggestion to build the idealised Republic of Heaven at home. Will, too, returns to his world, accompanied by Mary Malone, who remains his friend and ally. During the return, Mary learns how to see her own daemon, who takes the form of a black Alpine chough.

  bostonwendym | Mar 3, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 246 (next | show all)
Hiro Protagonist (who has chosen his own name, of course) turns out to be entertaining company, and Mr. Stephenson turns out to be an engaging guide to an onrushing tomorrow that is as farcical as it is horrific.
 
Stephenson has not stepped, he has vaulted onto the literary stage with this novel.
added by GYKM | editLos Angeles Reader
 
A cross between Neuromancer and Thomas Pynchon's Vineland. This is no mere hyperbole.
added by GYKM | editSan Francisco Bay Guardian
 

» Add other authors (8 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Stephenson, Nealprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Davis, JonathanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jensen, BruceCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
snow n. . . . 2.a. Anything resembling snow. b. The white specks on a television screen resulting from weak reception.

crash v....--intr. . . . 5. To fail suddenly, as a business or an economy.
---The American Heritage Dictionary

virus. . . . [L. virus slimy liquid, poison, offensive odor or taste.] 1. Venom, such as is emitted by a poisonous animal. 2. Path a. A morbid principle or poisonous substance produced in the body as the result of some disease, esp. one capable of being introduced into other persons or animals by inoculations or otherwise and of developing the same disease in them. . . . 3. fig. A moral or intellectual poison, or poisonous influence.
--The Oxford English Dictionary
Dedication
First words
The Deliverator belongs to an elite order, a hallowed subcategory. He's got esprit up to here.
Quotations
HIRO PROTAGONIST
Last of the freelance hackers
Greatest sword fighter in the world
Stringer, Central Intelligence Corporation
Specializing in software-related intel
(music, movies & microcode)
When you are wrestling for possession of a sword, the man with the handle always wins.
"Did you win your sword fight?"
"Of course I won the fucking sword fight," Hiro says. "I'm the greatest sword fighter in the world."
"And you wrote the software."
"Yeah. That, too," Hiro says.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0553380958, Paperback)

From the opening line of his breakthrough cyberpunk novel Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson plunges the reader into a not-too-distant future. It is a world where the Mafia controls pizza delivery, the United States exists as a patchwork of corporate-franchise city-states, and the Internet--incarnate as the Metaverse--looks something like last year's hype would lead you to believe it should. Enter Hiro Protagonist--hacker, samurai swordsman, and pizza-delivery driver. When his best friend fries his brain on a new designer drug called Snow Crash and his beautiful, brainy ex-girlfriend asks for his help, what's a guy with a name like that to do? He rushes to the rescue. A breakneck-paced 21st-century novel, Snow Crash interweaves everything from Sumerian myth to visions of a postmodern civilization on the brink of collapse. Faster than the speed of television and a whole lot more fun, Snow Crash is the portrayal of a future that is bizarre enough to be plausible.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:09 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

In the future the only relief from the sea of logos is the computer-generated universe of virtual reality? But now a strange computer virus, called Snow Crash, is striking down hackers, leaving an unlikely young man as humankind's last hope.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 7 descriptions

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