Snowcrash Review

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Surprise! I review books too!

What is a language? What is a religion? What is a virus? Are they all separate, or different ways of looking at, and saying, the same thing? A book is defined by the questions it forces readers to ask. These are a few I was forced to ask by the novel Snowcrash, by Neil Stephenson. The ridiculously entertaining book about Hiroaki Protagonist, (Hiro for short) hacker and pizza delivery boy for the mafia, is also one of the deepest, if not the deepest, novel of any genre I have so far read.

L. Bob Rife (Ron Hubbard on large amount of crack and meth) has basically taken over the world by buying on the fiber optics networks, basically monopolizing the internet, phone, and cable industries. Then he went into religion, spreading a type of Pentecostal Christianity defined by speaking in tongues, and developed what’s called the raft, a massive makeshift floating city tied to his yacht, to ferry refugees from the old world to the new.

When Hiro loses his job with the mafia thanks to a mail carrier on a skateboard named YT, he and she begin to look into Rife for the library of congress, which is basically now the repository of all human knowledge which anyone can contribute to. Along with Juanita, Hiro’s ex girlfriend, they embark. YT handles the real world, and Hiro handles the metaverse, a matrix-like cyber world which he helped create, and which basically predicted the VR goggles of today. Thanks to being an excellent swordsman and carrying two Japanese katana, he can be useful in both worlds.

On the other side, we have raven, an Aleutian wale hunter who wields glass knives sharp enough to cut Kevlar, and rides a Harley with a nuke in the side car. It’s every bit as awesome as it sounds. The story gets going when Hiro’s best friend and Juanita’s new lover ignores her advice, and takes a file from Raven which turns out to be a virus which affects the human nervous system by showing him a bitmap that looks like a snowcrashed computer screen. It renders him unable to speak in anything but incoherent babble. Hiro contacts a linguist named Lago, a madman who hands over his research shortly before raven guts him.

Through the research, and with the help of the computer generated librarian, hiro dives into Sumerian mythology and comes to realize that the entire world is in danger, hackers especially. The binary codes they use affect neural pathways and make them easier targets.

The stuff about language, religion, viruses, and Sumeria is truly interesting and fantastically done. The world building is like looking through a window in a time machine its so well done. The extraordinary level of detail is hard to oversell. Truly a book everyone should be reading.

I do not know that it is available anywhere to read free, but I’ve seen it at several libraries. That’s a good place to start. It needs a show or movie, but doesn’t have one as of yet. Mr. Stephenson’s other works are also great. I award snowcrash a well deserved 9 out of 10. See you next time, and don’t let the nam shub into your systems.

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