For whatever reason, Stephenson’s Snowcrash has found itself firmly tucked away against Gibson’s Neuromancer in my memory, to the point that while writing these reviews, I needed to go back and look at each to determine where one ended and the other began.
Snowcrash is perhaps less revolutionary and prophetic than Neuromancer, partially by virtue of being written several years after (still, 1992!). With that said, I freely admit that if I needed to re-read one or the other, I would choose Snowcrash without a second thought. Both books combine hacking intrigue with larger questions about artificial intelligence, the nature of reality, and the degree to which drugs can affect our perception, but for my money, Snowcrash is just a more fun ride. From the opening sequence, in which we find our hero protagonist, Hiro Protagonist (seriously) speeding madly in order to deliver a pizza on time, this book offers a lot to like.
While Snowcrash might not have been quite the act of imagination that Neuromancer was (at least for its time), there’s an argument to be made that Stephenson’s vision of the internet as a mix of “private walled gardens” set opposite what is essentially the wild wild west, is only becoming more accurate by the year. (Indeed, if net neutrality ends up going the way of the dinosaurs, those walled gardens likely to proliferate quickly.)
Towards the end of the book, things really start going off the rails, and while the plot may not always been easily digestible, there’s a lot of enjoyment (and some humor) to be had here. In particular, the shadowy and dangerous figure of Raven stands tall in my memory, cutting his way across the waves on his kayak. If you like sci-fi, and have any appetite at all for slightly more complex material, I highly recommend you give this one a try (there’s a fair amount of reference to ancient Sumerian text, but don’t worry, no Sumerian is required to enjoy the book!).
Rating: 3- Highly Recommended